The Obama administration urged the US Supreme Court Thursday to overturn California's ban on same-sex marriage.
In what is perceived as a bold and brave political move, the administration formally expressed its support in a friend-of-the-court brief, calling on the court to allow gay and lesbian couples to have the same "equal protection" right to wed and that voters in that state had no power to ban it, CNN reported.
According to CNN, senior government sources said President Barack Obama had offered his personal input and blessing to the legal brief.
Obama's position, if adopted by the court, could have wide ranging implications, with media commentators speculating it would likely result in gay marriage becoming legal in the seven other states: Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island, NBC reported.
California is one of eight states in the US that give gay couples all the benefits of marriage through civil unions or domestic partnership, but don't allow them to wed, AP reported.
"They establish homes and lives together, support each other financially, share the joys and burdens of raising children, and provide care through illness and comfort at the moment of death," the administration wrote.
The surprise move Thursday came after the President previously suggested the Government would not get involved in the case involving two gay couples from California who are opposing Proposition 8, NBC News reported.
Proposition 8, a ballot initiative approved by 52-percent of California voters in 2008, banned gay marriage in California. Prior to the vote about 18,000 gay couples were legally married in California, Fox News explained.
Equal opportunity marriage advocates welcomed Obama's formal support, stating: "President Obama and the solicitor general have taken another historic step forward consistent with the great civil rights battles of our nation's history," said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign and co-founder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights.
In an interview last month, Obama spoke of his views on gay marriage, and told KPG 7: "My personal view is that same-sex couples should have the same rights and be treated like everybody else and that's something that I feel very strongly about."
Media commentators say same-sex marriage could be the social issue that defines President Barack Obama's second term legacy, CNN reported.
Obama has a complicated history on gay marriage and as a presidential candidate in 2008 he opposed the California ban but did not endorse same-sex marriage, AP reported.
During his campaign last year he said marriage was an issue that should be decided by the states, not the federal government.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the middle of the year on the California ban, USA Today reported.
Twenty-nine other US states also have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, while nine states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.