Hundreds of businesses on Wednesday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a 1996 federal law barring benefits to same-sex couples, including Silicon Valley tech titans Apple, Google, Oracle and eBay.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, a broad range of businesses, ranging from the insurance industry to the Walt Disney Co., argue that the federal Defense of Marriage Act places an unfair burden on employers, forcing them to create a "dual" system of treatment for same-sex couples by denying them benefits that heterosexual married couples receive. The brief stresses that DOMA is particularly troublesome in the nine states that permit same-sex marriages.

Business interests, including Apple, eBay and other valley companies, are expected to also file a brief with the Supreme Court by Thursday arguing that Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage, is discriminatory and should be declared unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, California Attorney General Kamala Harris also on Wednesday filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to let stand a federal appeals court ruling last year finding Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The state is siding with two same-sex couples challenging the 2008 voter-approved law.

"Proposition 8 serves no interest recognized by California as legitimate," state lawyers wrote.


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The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on March 26 in the Proposition 8 case and the following day in the challenge to DOMA. In Wednesday's brief, businesses asked the Supreme Court to uphold a New York federal appeals court's decision finding DOMA unconstitutional.

The Obama administration is expected by Thursday to decide whether to take a legal position in the Proposition 8 case. The federal government has not yet made arguments in the courts on whether a state has a right to outlaw same-sex marriage.

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236, or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.