“This brief is about arguing on behalf of the millions of Americans who feel hopeless that legislation on a state level will ever advance their cause,” said Utah Pride Attorney and former Bush Administration US Attorney Brett Tolman.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Proposition 8, California’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, on March 26, while arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions, will be heard the following day. The outcome of the cases will shape the fight for marriage equality for same-sex couples for years to come.
In a press release Wednesday, advocates noted that “the brief contends that many local state laws are designed to routinely deny gay citizens basic civil rights, and many state codes are woven in a tangle that can only be unraveled by the courts.”
“The ultimate question before this Court is whether gay Americans must continue to live as second-class citizens,” the brief states.
The brief is submitted by organizations including Utah Pride; Equality Federation; the Campaign for Southern Equality, whose supporters recently applied for and were denied marriage licenses in several Southern cities, including Decatur, Ga.; Georgia Equality, and other statewide LGBT equality organizations.
“Georgia Equality is proud to stand with our colleagues from around the south and mid-west in urging that the Supreme Court consider the lack of political power held by gay citizens in states such as Georgia,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, in the press release.
“Despite strong gains nationally and polling that indicates extremely high levels of support for nondiscrimination measures, hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Georgians continue to lack the basic protections and legal standing that our heterosexual family members, co-workers and neighbors enjoy,” Graham said. “We therefore urge the Court to adopt heightened scrutiny in its review of laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians.”
The Justice Department filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Feb. 22, calling on the nation’s highest court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, stating that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.
“It is abundantly clear that this discrimination does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest. The statute simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Constitution therefore requires that Section 3 [of DOMA] be invalidated,” wrote Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
As the court hearings near, other organizations are also speaking out. Amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs allow parties who are not directly involved in the case to provide information to the court.
On Feb. 26, a brief asking the court to strike down Prop. 8 was filed by 75 prominent Republicans, including former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman; Mary Cheney, the openly gay daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney; Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman; and Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey.
The Atlanta Bar Association, a general organization of attorneys and other legal professionals, also joined a brief in favor of same-sex marriage.
(Photo: The Campaign for Southern Equality led a protest for marriage equality in January in Decatur, Ga. Same-sex couples and their supporters marched to the courthouse, where they applied for marriage licenses and were denied. Photo by Dyana Bagby)