Diverse groups tell Supreme Court they support same-sex marriage

Friend of the court legal briefs supporting same-sex marriage were filed at the US Supreme Court Friday by more than 70 groups representing hundreds of individuals from across the political, religious, and business spectrum.

Kevin Wolf/Human Rights Campaign/AP
The Human Rights Campaign delivers historic "People's Brief" with more than 200,000 signatures in support of marriage equality to the Supreme Court on Friday, March 6, 2015 in Washington.

A wide spectrum of political, religious, and business groups – including the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots – filed legal briefs at the US Supreme Court on Friday urging the justices to rule in favor of same-sex marriage in the upcoming blockbuster case.

The friend of the court briefs were filed on behalf of more than 300 Republicans, 379 American companies, 226 mayors, and nearly 2,000 clergy members who say the high court should rule that gay men and lesbians have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

The filings are among more than 70 friend of the court briefs being submitted in support of same-sex couples in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The couples are challenging measures that restrict marriage in those states to a union of one man and one woman.

Although federal judges have struck down similar marriage laws in more than two dozen states in recent months, a federal appeals court upheld traditional marriage laws in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The Supreme Court has agreed to examine the appeals court decision.

The case is set for oral arguments on April 28 and a decision is expected by late June.

Lawyers for the same-sex couples and for the individual states are filing the main briefs in the case and will argue the case to the justices.

A friend of the court brief is designed to offer supplemental arguments to the justices, including providing additional perspectives on the implications of a particular case or issue.

(Friend of the court briefs are also expected to be filed supporting the states in their defense of their marriage laws.)

Gay rights advocates have organized similar friend of the court briefs in earlier gay rights cases. But this current crop of briefs is the largest showing so far.

“It shows the extraordinary broad base of support,” Camilla Taylor of the gay rights group, Lambda Legal, told reporters in a teleconference on Friday.

“We are seeing a societal consensus emerge that is pushing the court to act now and do the right thing,” she said.

In addition to the Patriots professional football team, two major league baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays, also joined that brief.

They were among a cross-section of American business and industry, including 40 firms on the Fortune list of 100 largest companies.

Among other businesses on the list were Alcoa, Broadcom, Dow Chemical, Goldman Sachs Group, Johnson & Johnson, and Northrop Grumman Corp.

The companies said that the “fractured legal landscape” with some states recognizing same-sex marriage and others banning it is harmful to employers and employees.

They said the patchwork of laws imposes an economic cost on businesses of $1 billion a year – including making it harder for companies in certain states to recruit and retain the most talented employees.

Among those who signed onto the Republicans’ brief was Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.

 “My view on this is pretty simple,” he said. “I don’t think there is a legal justification for a different legal treatment of these particular relationships.”

He said his brother is gay and married, and that by watching his brother and his partner interact, he had come to the conclusion that there was no moral justification for preventing same-sex marriages.

“I happen to be a big believer in individual rights,” he said. “We should simply permit people who are in love to marry the people who they are in love with.”

He added: “I think that promoting marriage is a great thing for society.”

Officially, the Republican Party is opposed to same-sex marriage. But there are indications that the views of many Republicans on the issue are evolving.

Among the 300 Republicans who signed onto the brief are: businessman and philanthropist David Koch, retired US Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Maine Senator Susan Collins, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, investor and philanthropist Daniel Loeb, and Hewlett-Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman.  

The brief said that although the signers hold a broad spectrum of socially and politically conservative, moderate, and libertarian views, “each share the view that laws that bar same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage, with all its attendant profoundly important rights and responsibilities, are inconsistent with the United States Constitution’s dual promises of equal protection and due process.”

The brief added that the signers also believe that “when the government does act in ways that affect individual freedom in matters of family and child-rearing, it should promote family-supportive values like responsibility, fidelity, commitment, and stability.”

Some 226 mayors signed onto a brief supporting broad recognition of same-sex marriage. Among them was Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero.

She noted that 37 cities joined the brief, including four of America’s largest – New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago.

“As mayors, we know that the great strength of our cities is our diversity,” Mayor Rogero said. “We want a city that is open to everybody, and that includes the LGBT community as well.”

A brief on behalf of various religious groups and members of the clergy, argues that there is an inherent creative tension where religion interfaces with a pluralistic, changing society 

But the brief says that eliminating discrimination in civil marriage would not impinge upon religious doctrine, conscience, or practice.

“All religions would remain free … to define religious marriage in any way they choose,” the brief says.

Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, told reporters that the issue in the case was civil marriage, not religious marriage.

She said she agreed to sign onto the brief because of her religious beliefs, not in spite of them.

“It is long past time to end any kind of discrimination against God’s children in this country,” she said.

The case is Obergefell v. Hodges (14-556, 14-562, 14-571, 14-574).

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