Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Look At the Dueling Amicus Briefs in the Oklahoma And Utah Marriage Appeals

10th Circuit Court of Appeals
With both the Oklahoma and Utah rulings that struck down those states' respective bans on same sex marriage, those filing amicus  - i.e. "friends of the court - briefs has been sky rocketing.  What is ironic or disgusting depending on one's perspective is that some of the groups filing briefs to influence legislation and legal rulings operate under "charitable" non-profit status.  Section 503(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code bars this precise type of conduct. Where is the IRS in revoking the tax exempt status of these organizations. The Oklahoman has a summary of some of the amicus filings.  Note how the "godly folk"a and their political whores in the GOP always allege that gay marriage will lead to recognition of polygamy and/or incest based relationships. It is also distressing that Paul Cameron's thoroughly discredited organization was allowed to file an amicus brief.  Here are excerpts:

The nation’s deep divisions over same-sex marriage found expression in a flood of briefs filed recently with the federal appeals court considering the constitutionality of states bans in Oklahoma and Utah.

Leaders of major businesses and religious denominations weighed in, along with psychologists, scholars of the law and history, political figures, state attorneys general, families of gays and lesbians and special interest groups on both sides of the issue.

In all, more than 50 friend-of-the-court briefs sought to persuade judges in the Oklahoma and Utah cases on various aspects of the same-sex marriage issue.

The Oklahoma and Utah decisions turned on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law; the Utah judge also found violations of the amendment’s due process guarantee.
In their briefs, legal scholars and attorneys general focused on the 14th Amendment issues and the approach appeals court judges should take to the question of whether states can restrict marriage to heterosexual couples.

Briefs were filed by groups arguing over whether homosexuality is a characteristic that can be changed. That could be relevant if judges consider whether to give homosexuals the same level of protection given to racial minorities.

Arguments filed by faith groups about the religious traditions of marriage and whether one church or another would perform same-sex marriage have no bearing on state laws guiding the issuance of marriage licenses. Likewise, a brief filed by some of the nation’s largest businesses barely touched on the legal issues at hand. Still, the briefs from the groups showed the philosophical, moral and economic divisions among various segments of U.S. society.

Here are excerpts from briefs filed supporting Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith and the state of Utah:

Catholic Bishops, Southern Baptists, Mormons, Evangelicals and other faiths: “A common theme has arisen among advocates for redefining marriage to include same-sex couples: that those who oppose them must be irrational or even bigoted — that they are motivated by ‘antigay animus,’ whether in the form of unthinking ignorance or actual hostility. Such aspersions, which take various forms, are often cast at people and institutions of faith.

“The accusation is false and offensive. It is intended to suppress rational dialogue and democratic conversation, to win by insult and intimidation rather than by reason, experience, and fact. In truth, we support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families, and society.”

Attorneys General for Oklahoma, Indiana, Colorado, Nebraska and six other states: “If the desire for social recognition and validation of self-defined ‘intimate’ relationships are the bases for civil marriage, no adult relationships can be excluded ... from making claims upon the government for recognition.

“A variety of platonic relationships — even those that if sexual in nature could plainly be prohibited, such as incestuous or kinship relationships — could qualify on equal terms with sexual relationships. A brother and sister, a father and daughter, an aunt and nephew, business partners, or simply two friends could decide to live with each other and form a ‘family’ based on their ‘intimate and sustaining emotional bond,’ even if not sexual in nature — indeed especially if not sexual in nature — and demand recognition as a ‘marriage.’”

National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality:
“Given the significant scientifically sound data showing that non-heterosexual identities are subject to significant change and certainly not immutable, the district court’s notion that homosexuality is a fixed trait was misguided.

“Additionally, the substantially negative outcome associated with homosexual behavior and identity reveal that changes in social and legal policy concerning same-sex marriage are not merited and should be rejected.”

The American Leadership Fund and 19 professors of history and related disciplines: “Since before recorded history, societies have sought to protect, support, and foster a lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual bond between a man and woman called marriage because, in most instances, children result from such relationships ... The question is not whether two or more adults of the same sex may live together and have sexual relationships. The question is whether a state must be coerced to call and recognize such a relationship as a ‘marriage.’”

Here are excerpts from briefs filed on behalf of Oklahoma and Utah same-sex couples wishing to marry or have their out-of-state marriages recognized:

Churches and faith leaders from Oklahoma and Utah, including: the First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City; St. Stephens United Methodist Church of Norman; and Trinity Christian Church of Edmond:
 The religious freedoms embodied in the Constitution guarantee that diverse religious traditions and beliefs, including the sole right to define who can marry religiously, will flourish regardless of changes in civil marriage laws.”

Attorneys General for California, New York and 13 other states and the District of Columbia: “Today, marriage serves as a basic building block of society. Among other things, it helps create economic and health benefits, stabilize households, form legal bonds between parents and children, assign dependents’ care providers, and facilitate property ownership and inheritance.

“Marriage thus provides stability for individuals, families, and the broader community. States therefore encourage marriages, regardless of whether they result in children, because these private relationships assist in maintaining public order. All of these interests are furthered by including same-sex couples.”

American Sociological Association: “The social science consensus is both conclusive and clear: children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents as when they are raised by different-sex parents … The research supports the conclusion that extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples has the potential to improve child wellbeing insofar as the institution of marriage may provide social and legal support to families and enhances family stability, which are key drivers of positive child outcomes.”
Google, Facebook, Starbucks, Pfizer and several other businesses:
“In states like Utah, Oklahoma, and others where marriage to a partner of the same-sex is prohibited, same-sex couples in committed relationships have no access to the myriad federal rights, benefits and privileges that depend on marriage unless they leave the state and are legally wed elsewhere.

“And even then, those same couples — or legally married same-sex couples who later move to Utah or Oklahoma — will still be denied access to the wide range of state benefits and mutual responsibilities available to married partners of different sexes. That bar works to the detriment of employees, and to employers that seek to recruit and retain the best human capital.”

Religious belief and the bigotry that has flowed from it for centuries has no place in the nation's civil laws.  One can only hope that the 10th Circuit quotes past U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have religious belief as a basis for discriminatory laws kicks the Christofascists and their political whores to the curb where they belong.

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