I’ve rounded up the weirdest Supreme Court briefs that argue in favor of preventing gays and lesbians from marrying. Some are full of mistakes, others have baffling arguments. And at least one is incredibly sexist, and signed by a member of Congress.
Here’s a sampling of the logic before the US Supreme Court right now: Gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person they love because most Americans are in favor of that, and also most Americans aren’t. In addition, marriage equality is bad for kids, according to a study had nothing to do with marriage. Also, religion. Tradition. And straight people don’t actually want to be married, so if gay people can marry then straight people will lose interest in each other. These are just some of the stupefying arguments presented to the US Supreme Court ahead of oral argument next week.
Maybe the strangest brief came from a group called “Same Sex Attracted Men and their Wives.” These are gay guys who married straight women, who seem to think that the case will result in a “mandate requiring same-sex marriage.” It won’t, don’t worry, nobody’s going to be required to have a same-sex wedding. The brief also argues that letting gay people marry each other suggests that there’s something wrong with gay people marrying straight people.
Whether it suggests that or not, the argument still doesn’t make sense. LGBTs should be prevented from marrying the person they love because it’s better to marry someone they don’t love? The logic here just doesn’t work. Which is probably why at least one of the couples cited in the brief, a gay man married to a straight woman, has since said that they wish they hadn’t been included.
Another brief claims that children of LGBTs do worse when their parents get married. But it cites a study from 1995, which is ten years before marriage equality was legal anywhere. Another says that gays are so politically powerful that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry because … well, that’s never explained. And it contradict’s NOM’s brief claiming that gays don’t actually have any public support.
Then there’s a brief signed by the “Leaders of the 2012 Republican National Convention Committee on the Platform.” That’s Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, former Republican National Committee Vice-Chairman James Bopp Jr, and Carolyn McLarty, the chair of the RNC’s Committee on Resolution and a retired veterinarian. Their argument: men are so promiscuous and women are so emotional that they need to marry each other to control those impulses.
The brief also argues that only straight families, and their children, can resist tyrants and totalitarian regimes. No explanation of how that works. It also claims that the average gay relationship only lasts a year and a half. Again, this was paid for and signed by Republican party leaders and at least one member of Congress.
It’s probably a good thing that the briefs against marriage equality are so convoluted. It’s certainly not doing any favors to the states trying to preserve their marriage bans. Oral argument will be the morning of April 28, that’s next Tuesday. So keep an eye out for that, and hopefully this is the last time we’ll have to roll our eyes at arguments like these.
We have more details about the Supreme Court arguments at the end of the month. The National Organization for Marriage has fumbled yet another brief. And two public officials are suing for the right to discriminate.
Here’s what to expect on April 28, when the Supreme Court hears oral argument on marriage equality. First, the justices are only asking two questions: does the Constitution require states to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples; and are states required to honor marriage licenses from other states?
Mary Bonauto will argue question one, and Doug Hallward-Driemeier question two. They both got 30 minutes apiece. The states defending their ban will get 45 minutes for question 1 and 30 minutes for question 2. The Solicitor General will get 15 minutes to argue on behalf of the government. So it’ll all be over pretty quick. Then comes several weeks of waiting and speculating, with a ruling probably at the end of June.
The National Organization for Marriage will not be arguing in court, but they did submit a brief last week. They’re claiming that public opinion is still closely divided on marriage equality. That is not even remotely true. Dozens of national surveys show a pretty clear trend. NOM does cite two surveys that show a majority oppose the freedom to marry. But guess who paid for those surveys? The National Organization for Marriage. What a coincidence.
Also, it’s worth pointing out — even if it was true that support was declining, that doesn’t matter. NOM devoted a big chunk of their brief to arguing about opinion polls. But public opinion has nothing to do with either of the two questions the Supreme Court asked. So, good job, NOM.
Also this week, the 8th circuit committed to hearing cases from Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota on May 12. Two former magistrates in North Carolina have sued for the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. And a lesbian couple in Guam has sued after being denied a marriage license. Guam is part of the US and covered by the Ninth Circuit, which overturned marriage bans several months ago. So hopefully this will be an easy one to clear up.
Michigan says that they don’t want to let gay people get married because that would be demeaning to gay people. Kentucky says that their marriage ban isn’t discriminatory, since LGBTs are free to get straight-married. Ohio wants to maintain its marriage ban out of concern for the people who voted for it. And Tennessee is just fixated on sex.
Four states will have to defend their marriage bans before the US Supreme Court this month, and all four are still scrambling to figure out exactly how they’re going to pull that off. They filed a series of briefs with the court last week that are full of weird claims and arguments that just don’t make sense. Kentucky says that its marriage ban doesn’t discriminate, since gay couples are still free to marry someone of the opposite sex. This is exactly the same argument that was used to justify bans on interracial marriage, and it’s essentially saying “you’re free to do whatever you want, as long as you actually do something else.”
Michigan’s brief is even crazier. They say that gaining marriage equality through a court order, rather than a popular vote, would be demeaning to gay couples. So, thanks, Michigan, for your concern. Tennessee is sticking with the argument that if gay couples can get married, then straight couples will stop raising children in stable families, somehow. And Ohio says that overturning the marriage ban would cause the people who voted for it to feel isolated. Sure.
Those four states will be going up against Mary Bonauto and Doug Hallward-Driemeier on April 28th. Mary’s a longtime champion of marriage equality. She won the case that brought marriage to Massachusetts in 2004, and the case that overturned DOMA in 2013. Doug has argued fourteen times before the Supreme Court, and is a former Assistant U.S. Solicitor General. Those marriage bans aren’t going to know what hit them.
Those are the headlines. Subscribe here to stay up to date. For the American Foundation for Equal Rights, I’m Matt Baume. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you next week.
Texas has won the right to have gays and lesbians fired for taking medical leave. The state’s also working on a sneaky work-around to stop marriage equality, just in case the Supreme Court overturns the state’s ban. And Alabama officials says that maybe gays and lesbians don’t want to get married after all.
If you’re straight and you need time off to care for a sick spouse, federal law requires that you get Family and Medical Leave. If you’re gay, you could get denied that right, depending on what state you live in. A new rule was supposed to expand access to Leave for gay couples last week, but at the last minute Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to stop it. Now a judge has put the rule-change on hold. That means that Texan LGBTs will have to choose between taking care of their family and keeping their job.
The basis for last week’s ruling was the Defense of Marriage Act. Wait, didn’t the Supreme Court overturn DOMA? Well, technically, no. The Supreme Court only ruled against the part of DOMA that blocks the federal government from recognizing marriage. There’s another part that allows one state to disregard licenses from another state. And Paxton thinks that should give him permission to withhold medical leave from gays and lesbians who married in other states.
Of course, there’s one other authority here that Texas might want to consider: The US Constitution. The Supreme Court will hopefully rule in June that the equal protection clause applies to LGBTs. But homophobic Texas lawmakers are preparing for that, too. They’re pushing a bill that would give the Secretary of State the authority to punish any clerk who issues a license to couples the state doesn’t like. That means Texas would be saying, in essence, “oh we’re letting clerks obey the Supreme Court’s ruling. We’re just punishing them for doing so.”
Meanwhile, the Alabama marriage mess is continuing. The latest update: state Attorney General Luther Strange has asked a court to reject a class-action suit filed on behalf of the state’s LGBT couples. He says that even though they can estimate how many gays and lesbians live in Alabama, there’s just no way to know how many of them want to be treated equally. The plaintiffs will respond to that on Wednesday of this week, as soon as they can find a legal way to say “pretty much all of them do.”
It’s been nearly two months since marriage was supposed to start in Alabama, and the state still doesn’t have its act together. Texas just filed a lawsuit to prevent gays and lesbians from taking family medical leave. And it’s going to take at least five different bills to overturn Michigan’s marriage ban.
Alabama’s still a mess of conflicting rulings. Right now, it looks like the only way that judges could comply with every order they’ve received is if nobody ever gets married ever again. First a federal court said judges have to issue licenses, then the State Supreme Court said they don’t have to. And then last week, Judge Callie Granade issued a new ruling that said, in essence, “yes you do.”
This leaves judges stuck in the same tug of war as before: state courts say one thing, federal courts say another. It’s like a big legal game of chicken, and neither side is willing to budge. The state court won’t back down, because they believe they’re right. And the federal court won’t back down, because they actually ARE right.
Meanwhile, anti-gay politicians have continued their desperate rhetoric. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court last week, claiming that marriage equality harms children. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued the Obama administration, claiming that the state should be allowed to withhold family and medical leave from married gays and lesbians. And Idaho Republicans asked Congress to impeach all of the judges who ruled that marriage bans are unconstitutional. That is a lot of judges, what they’re really asking for is a massive gutting of federal courts.
But this limited backlash aside, most lawmakers are still moving in the direction of supporting greater equality. Michigan Democrats have proposed five bill that would repeal various marriage bans. Puerto Rico, which previously defended its marriage ban, just reversed course and will now allow it to be overturned. And Congress is considering reforms that would allow LGBT couples to access Social Security benefits that they previously couldn’t.
And public support is growing too. Last week the Presbyterian Church voted to recognize gay and lesbian couples as married. And a new survey in Wisconsin shows that 70 percent of residents say that overturning the state’s marriage ban has had no effect on their lives. Of the people who said it did have an effect, about half said it was positive.
Texas is pushing a proposed law that would let the state overrule the Supreme Court. There’s just one problem: they can’t actually do that. Alabama judges have decided that they don’t have to obey federal courts either, except that in reality, they do. And Oklahoma politician wants to switch from marriage licenses to marriage certificates, which would accomplish … not very much.
Let’s start in Texas this week, where first time State Rep Molly White has introduced a bill that would require the state to ignore any Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage.
Can she do that? Nope, that’s not how laws work. Or the Supreme Court. Or America in general. For better or for worse, Texas is still part of the United States, so Texas can’t just say “no thanks” when the Supreme Court tells them to do something. White’s only been in office for two months, so hopefully she’ll get the hang of it soon.
Over in Alabama, the state Supreme Court is experiencing similar confusion. They’ve ordered probate judges to ignore the federal ruling that they have to issue marriage licenses. So now it’s state law versus federal law, and nobody knows who will win. Just kidding! Federal law will win. That’s the basis of our entire legal system.
Then there’s South Carolina, where a couple of politicians want to amend the US Constitution to ban marriage equality. This has no chance of happening. But State Senator Larry Grooms says that it’s necessary for “the propagation of our species.” Contrary to what Grooms seems to think, reproduction does not, in fact, originate in the U.S. Constitution.
And in Oklahoma, State Rep Todd Ross has solved the marriage debate with a new bill that stops the state from issuing marriage licenses, and instead requires marriage certificates. And this is different because … well, it’s actually pretty much the same, it’s just slightly less paperwork. So, okay.
Finally this week a new national survey shows support for marriage soaring to 59 percent, with just 33 percent opposed. This means that the freedom to marry is slightly more popular than the Pope.
Those are the headlines, subscribe here on YouTube for more on all these stories. For the American Foundation for Equal Right Rights, I’m Matt Baume. See you next week.
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