Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Press Release

Marriage

Broad Array of Child Welfare and Public Interest Organizations, Businesses, State Governments, and Faith Leaders Urge Federal Appeals Court to Uphold Freedom to Marry for Same-Sex Couples in Utah

(Salt Lake City, UT, March 5, 2014)—A diverse range of friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, urging the court to uphold a lower court’s December 2013 decision finding that Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the United States Constitution. The briefs were filed on behalf of child welfare organizations, businesses, scholars, military servicemembers, religious leaders and denominations, Republican officials, and many of the leading civil rights groups in Utah and throughout the country.

Among the individuals and organizations filing briefs in support of the freedom to marry for Utah’s same-sex couples were:

  • Fifteen states and the District of Columbia, arguing that marriage is strengthened, not weakened, by removing barriers to access, and that marriage not only remains strong, but has been invigorated by the inclusion of gays and lesbians in states that permit it.
  • Former Senators Alan Simpson and Nancy Kassebaum and other Western Republican officials and leaders, arguing that marriage is strengthened and its benefits, importance to society, and the social stability of the family unit are promoted by providing access to civil marriage for same-sex couples.
  • The Episcopal Diocese of Utah, Mormons for Equality, Union for Reform Judaism, United Church of Christ and more than 100 other religious organizations and individual faith leaders, arguing that civil recognition of same-sex relationships, including through marriage, is fundamentally consistent with the religious pluralism woven into the fabric of American law, culture, and society.
  • The American Psychological Association, Utah Psychological Association, and American Sociological Association, arguing that abundant social science research shows that gay and lesbian parents are as fit and capable as other parents, and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well adjusted.
  • Family Equality Council, COLAGE, Voices for Utah Children, and The Children’s Center of Salt Lake City, presenting the personal stories of children being raised by Utah same-sex couples, who regard their families as similar to other families and are confused and saddened by the societal and governmental disapproval of their families.
  • Joan Heifetz Hollinger, Courtney Joslin, Laura Kessler, and 37 other family law scholars, arguing that the State of Utah’s position that married biological parents are the “optimal” environment for children is unsupported by social science and conflicts with Utah law, which does not view biology as the sole criterion for parentage and rejects the notion that a parent’s gender is relevant to determinations of the best interests of children.
  • A broad coalition of civil and human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Utah, ACLU of Oklahoma, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Salt Lake Branch and NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Council of La Raza, National Organization for Women Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, arguing that laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian people, like laws that discriminate based on race and sex, should be carefully scrutinized by courts under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
  • The Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic, arguing that opponents of marriage equality have attacked same-sex couples using the same flawed arguments that once were used to justify laws prohibiting interracial marriage and other discriminatory laws, including arguments that marriage equality threatens the moral fabric of our civilization, is contrary to nature, or is harmful to children.
  • Equality Utah Foundation and the Utah Pride Center, arguing that Utah’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples unconstitutionally imposes inequality and stigma on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGBT) Utahns, and on the parents, relatives, friends, and colleagues who love and support them, and particularly on LGBT children.
  • Outserve-SLDN and the American Military Partner Association, arguing that the strain associated with frequent cross-country moves is exacerbated for same-sex married couples in the military when they must move to a new state that does not respect their marriage, and that this lack of uniform treatment among military families undermines unit cohesion and morale.

On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby ruled that Utah’s laws denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process of law. That decision is now on appeal before the Tenth Circuit. The State of Utah filed its opening brief in the Tenth Circuit on February 3, 2014.  The plaintiff couples in the case filed their response on February 25, arguing that Utah’s marriage ban violates multiple guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and cannot be justified based on Utah’s claimed interest in giving heterosexual couples “privileged and special status” because they are able to procreate biologically.

The case, Kitchen v. Herbert, was brought by Utah couples Derek Kitchen and Moudi Sbeity; Laurie Wood and Kody Partridge; and Karen Archer and Kate Call. The couples are represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm of Magleby & Greenwood, P.C.

Mary Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project Director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and a leading advocate for marriage equality, provided critical support in coordinating friend-of-the court briefs.

Said NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter who along with Peggy Tomsic of Magleby & Greenwood, P.C., represents the plaintiffs in the case:  “We are thrilled by the outpouring of support for same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. The friend-of-the court briefs filed in this case represent an extraordinarily broad spectrum of voices supporting fair treatment of all families, including businesses, health care professionals, family and child welfare experts, military organizations, elected officials, civil rights groups, and others. As these diverse voices show, support for marriage equality is bipartisan, grounded in science and sound child welfare policy, and includes every major segment of our society. The breadth of information presented in these briefs is impressive and powerfully illustrates the compelling need for the law to embrace and support all families equally.”

Read the amicus briefs and learn more about the case.

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