Does the White House want the Supreme Court to strike down RI's civil unions law?

The White House filed a brief yesterday urging the Supreme Court to strike down California's ban on same-sex marriage.

But did the administration also ask the high court to nullify Rhode Island's civil unions law? It certainly looks that way.

The brief argues that California's voter-approved ban is unconstitutional, in part, because it denies gays and lesbians the right to marry while leaving intact many of the substantive benefits of marriage they enjoy through the state's domestic partnership law.

Indeed, as the brief puts it, the "sole purpose" of California's Proposition 8 was "to deny same-sex partners access to marriage." That, the administration argues, is a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection because it deprives same-sex couples of the "dignity, respect, and stature" only marriage can confer.

The administration goes out of its way to note that seven other states - Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island - offer up the same kind of near-marriage through domestic partnership or civil unions laws. The clear implication: the Supreme Court should strike down those laws, too, and require the states to allow for gay marriage.

The administration's lawyers aren't the first to suggest that a pro-same-sex marriage ruling could land somewhere between a narrow, California-specific dictum and a sweeping, nationwide legalization of gay nuptials. But they have certainly given the idea a high-profile gloss. 

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