WASHINGTON — Republican officials and religious organizations dominate a growing list of more than 60 groups urging the Supreme Court to uphold state bans against same-sex marriage.
The flood of “friend of the court” briefs arriving at the court by last week’s deadline easily made the upcoming case the most heavily lobbied in the court’s recent history. Earlier this month, more than 70 briefs were filed by proponents of gay marriage, including one signed by more than 200,000 people.
Sixteen states led by Republican governors were among those calling for the bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee to be upheld. Among them were nine states where same-sex marriage bans have been struck down by federal courts — an indication that the battle there and elsewhere will be renewed if the justices uphold the bans.
“How much better for this issue to play out, state-by-state, with citizens locked in urgent conversation,” one of the briefs says. “That is precisely what was happening before the courts began to intervene two years ago. The court should let that process of self-governance continue.”
States opposing gay marriage include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia, where federal appeals court rulings have struck down state bans. The Supreme Court refused to reconsider most of those decisions last October.
Last month, 18 states submitted briefs opposing bans on same-sex marriage, including some with Republican governors. The major one was written by officials from Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, and included California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The flood of legal briefs from both sides is indicative of what’s at stake in the debate. Unlike 2013, when the court ruled 5-4 that the federal government must grant benefits to legally married gays and lesbians, the justices likely will decide this June on same-sex marriage rights nationwide. The case will be heard April 28.
Fifty-seven Republican members of Congress called on the court to use restraint in this “unchartered area” and let states act as laboratories. “The relative novelty of same-sex marriage weighs against the mandatory redefinition of marriage,” they argued.
Only six senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and presidential candidate Ted Cruz of Texas, signed the brief, along with 51 members of the more conservative House. Missing were House Speaker John Boehner and other White House hopefuls, including Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.
By contrast, 44 Democratic senators and 167 Democratic House members filed a brief last month urging the court to approve same-sex marriage. The brief included the full House and Senate leadership teams.
And while some members of the 2012 Republican National Convention platform committee filed a brief against gay marriage Friday, it notably did not include GOP Chairman Reince Priebus.
Scores of prominent Republicans last month joined a brief on the other side filed by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman. They included Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, and former presidential candidates Rudolph Giuliani and Jon Huntsman.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops focused on marriage as a traditional institution that “furthers the interests and well-being of children.” The group’s brief specifically urged the court to reject theories that same-sex marriage bans are based on bigotry against gays and lesbians because it “would needlessly create church-state conflict for generations to come.”
Similarly, a brief filed by major evangelical, Mormon, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and other religious organizations said a decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationally “would generate church-state conflicts that will imperil vital religious liberties.”
“Because we cannot renounce our scriptural beliefs, a finding of animus would consign us to second-class status as citizens whose religious convictions about vital aspects of society are deemed illegitimate,” the groups said. “Assaults on our religious institutions and our rights of free exercise, speech, and association would intensify.”
A brief from national religious broadcasters and prominent evangelical and Baptist ministries and seminaries, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, goes even further in painting religious believers as future victims of discrimination whose freedom of speech would be threatened.
“Politically powerful advocates of same-sex marriage would likely use this court’s decision as a weapon to marginalize persons of faith who will continue to adhere to their millennia-old definition of marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman,” they said.
— by Richard Wolf | USA Today | RNS