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UPDATED: Corporate America speaks out against Prop 8, plus marriage equality updates from the Midwest

Marriage equality Prop 8 trial Supreme Court

AllThingsD
A portion of a statement released by several tech companies in 2008 opposing Prop 8.

By Jacob Combs

Updated at 11:20 a.m. Eastern to include New York Times article on President Obama and Prop 8 and at 12:00 p.m. Eastern to include Minnesota announcement

On the heel’s of yesterday’s news that more than 80 prominent Republicans had signed a brief opposing Prop 8 to be filed with the Supreme Court, Bloomberg reports that several major corporations are planning to follow suit before tomorrow’s deadline regarding friend of the court briefs in the case.

“No matter how welcoming the corporate culture, it cannot overcome the societal stigma institutionalized by Proposition 8 and similar laws,” the corporations will argue in their brief, calling for nationwide marriage equality.  Among the companies that plan to join the filing are Apple, Facebook, Intel, Morgan Stanley, AIG, eBay, Nike, Xerox and Alcoa.

Several of the companies on the Prop 8 filing, including Apple and Facebook, opposed the law in 2008 when it was on the ballot in California.  Apple, for instance, contributed $100,000 to the No on 8 campaign and issued a statement that read, “Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8.”

Another larger group of corporations plan to file a brief with the Supreme Court opposing the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples’ valid state-based marriages.

News of the corporations’ brief in support of marriage equality on top of yesterday’s big story about Republican support puts added pressure on President Obama to speak out on the case before tomorrow’s deadline to file briefs in support of the plaintiffs argument that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.  At this point, if the president chooses not to weigh in on the law, it could open him up to the charge that he is falling behind on his advocacy for marriage equality, especially after the historic words of support included in his second inaugural address.

This morning, the New York Times cited reporting by the Wall Street Journal that the Obama administration is still considering how it will approach the Prop 8 case and is exploring a compromise position that would stop short of calling for a constitutional right to marriage equality.  “[A]dministration lawyers worry that taking such an expansive view in legal briefs could unnerve some justices in the Supreme Court’s conservative wing, the people familiar with the matter said,” the Journal reported, according to Business Insider.

In addition, the New York Times wrote in an editorial today titled ‘Beyond Selma-to-Stonewall’ that Obama “should have his solicitor general file a brief in the Proposition 8 case being argued before the Supreme Courtin March, saying that California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.”  From the editorial:

For the administration to be missing in action in this showdown risks conveying a message to the justices that it lacks confidence in the constitutional claims for ending gay people’s exclusion from marriage or that it believes Americans are not ready for a high court ruling making marriage equality the law of the land — impressions strikingly contradicted by legal precedent, the lessons of history and by the president’s own very powerful words.

Mr. Obama’s Inaugural Address appeared to reflect a deepened understanding that the right to marry the person of one’s choice is a fundamental right “under the law.” He needs to make sure his solicitor general conveys that sound legal view loud and clear in the Proposition 8 case.

In other marriage equality news, Minnesotans United–the group behind the successful push to reject a marriage equality ban last year–announced today that legislation will be filed in the state legislature tomorrow to allow same-sex couples equal marriage rights.  The bill enjoys bipartisan support and was co-authored by Republican Senator Branden Petersen, although many lawmakers from the more rural areas of the state remain opposed.

In Iowa, a Republican state senator has initiated the process to put a constitutional marriage equality ban on the ballot for a statewide vote.  The legislation would need to be approved by two successive legislatures before going to voters.  The bill seems unlikely to gain much traction, not only because Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has consistently blocked such efforts since the Iowa Supreme Court granted same-sex couples equal marriage rights in a unanimous 2009 decision, but also because many Republicans are wary of re-litigating an issue that is essentially settled policy in the state.

Finally, in a non-Midwestern bit of marriage equality news, a select committee of the New Zealand parliament has issued a recommendation that a proposed marriage bill should be passed into law.  The Government Administration Committee endorsed the bill and proposed an amendment to clarify that no religious organization that opposes marriage equality would be required to marry same-sex couples.

The bill passed its first parliamentary reading 80-40.  A second reading will be held on March 13.

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