Anti-gay groups — ranging from the Family Research Council to the Westboro Baptish Church — filed friend-of-the-court briefs before the Supreme Court this week asking justices to uphold California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
The briefs filed on Tuesday assert the same arguments seen repeatedly in opposition to a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, such as the inability of gay couples to procreate and the argument that being gay isn’t an immutable characteristic.
The Family Research Council, one the more prominent anti-gay groups opposed to same-sex marriage, filed briefs in both the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. In the Prop 8 brief, the group argues that the California ban on same-sex marriage isn’t discriminatory, among other reasons, because it enables any person to marry — so long as the other person is of the opposite sex.
“Proposition 8 treats men and women the same,” the brief states. “Both may marry someone of the opposite sex; neither may marry someone of the same sex.”
As Right Wing Watch points out, Family Research Council makes arguments on the political power of gays and lesbians that are contradictory. In the Prop 8 brief, the group notes that 30 states have amendments defining marriage as one man, one woman while arguing that “there is no ‘emerging awareness’ that the right to marry extends to same-sex couples.”
But in the DOMA brief, the group notes that three states voted in favor of marriage equality and Minnesota rejected an anti-gay marriage amendment to argue gay people aren’t a “politically powerless” group that need protection from discrimination.
“So when voters reject gay rights at the ballot box, they are reflecting public opinion,” concludes Right Wing Watch blogger Miranda Blue. “But when they vote in favor of gay rights, they have been ‘enlisted’ to the cause by powerful gay rights lobbyists.”
William Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, filed a brief on behalf of the National Organization for Marriage in the DOMA case, but identifies himself as a “scholar of history and related disciplines” in the Prop 8 case.
“When the People of California adopted Proposition 8, they acted to retain in their law an understanding of marriage that, until very recently, was recognized universally and without exception throughout time and across cultures,” Duncan said. “That conception of the institution of marriage has consistently been understood to advance crucial social interests in procreation, understood as the bearing and rearing of children.”
Duncan cites in his arguments a series of philosophers who’ve had an impact on American thinking, including Noah Webster and David Hume. The brief also cites a 1690 piece of writing from British philosopher John Locke, who said marriage “has no necessary form or function beyond this ‘chief end’ of procreation.”
Another brief in the Prop 8 case was filed by a coalition of black pastors, including the Coalition of African-American Pastors USA and the Frederick Douglass Foundation. That brief argues at length that the 1967 Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia striking down bans on interracial marriage shouldn’t be applied to gay couples.
“Loving can be distinguished from the current dispute over same-sex marriage,” the brief states. “Laws against miscegenation were designed to segregate the races, reinforcing the socially disadvantaged position of African-Americans. … By contrast, the traditional definition of marriage calls for mixing of the genders — integration not segregation — and therefore cannot be understood as an attempt to disadvantage either gender.”
During a news conference in September, Rev. William Owens, founder and president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, admitted that he has limited financial ties to NOM. Owens said the group provides him and his wife a salary of $20,000 a year.
Notably, the brief isn’t signed by black pastors. The attorneys who signed the brief are Lynn Wardle, a law professor at Brigham Young University, and Stephen Kent Ehat, an attorney who does business as the Utah-based California Research Inc., and is a graduate of BYU law school.
Yet another brief was filed by three gay individuals who believe same-sex couples shouldn’t have the right to marry. They are David Benkof, ex-owner of the gay press syndicate Q Syndicate and now a resident of Israel; Robert Oscar Lopez, a bisexual award-winning writer who’s written comedies about same-sex couples raising children; and Doug Mainwaring, a gay writer who rethought the capability of same-sex unions to raise children after realizing the importance to his teenage sons of their mother’s presence in their lives. The brief is signed by Herbert Grey, a private attorney based in Beaverton, Ore.
“We, and they, believe gay people should be free to love and live as they choose but we also recognize that society has a right to express a rational preference for the kind of unions necessary to the survival of the whole society, and to the well-being of children,” the brief states. “Some gay, lesbian and bisexual people will benefit from this preference as they may marry a person of the opposite-sex.”
The brief by the Westboro Baptist Church, a virulently anti-gay Kansas-based organization known for picketing the funerals of service members with signs reading, “God Hates Fags,” makes arguments characteristic of its organization in briefs both for the Prop 8 case and DOMA case.
“This nation has gone astray, letting fornication, adultery, abortion-for-convenience-on-demand, divorce, remarriage and sodomy become the norm,” the church says in its DOMA brief. “Homosexuality is destructive in every way, to the individual and to the nation. Government should not put its seal of approval on that unholy union by issuing a marriage license. Government’s interest is in doing the opposite, for the good of the people and the nation.”
The brief is signed by Margie Phelps, daughter of church founder Fred Phelps, who has represented the church in a lawsuit against it before the Supreme Court.
Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the “anti-gay machine is alive and well,” but noted that each of the briefs takes a different approach to supporting Prop 8 and DOMA.
“As you would expect, some of the briefs were based a particular religious view,” Bonauto said. “Others claimed they were secular but simply reasoned based on certain religious principles. Others raised the religious freedom argument that it is a burden for objecting members of the public to have to deal with the existence of married gay people.”
Bonauto added, “Overall, none of these briefs raise a new issue and several are helpful to us.”