October 26, 2014 at 8:54 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Westboro Baptist Church seeks to defend Kansas marriage ban

Westboro Baptist Church, gay news, Washington Blade

The Westboro Baptist seeks to defend the ban on same-sex marriage in Kansas. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church is seeking to intervene in a legal challenge against the ban on same-sex marriage in Kansas, citing fear of God’s wrath if the court rules in favor of the right of gay couples to marry.

In a 22-page legal brief filed Sunday loaded with references to biblical Scripture and condemnation of homosexuality, the Church seeks to take part in a lawsuit pending before the U.S. District Court for the Kansas, saying same-sex marriage “is utterly contrary to Bible doctrine.”

“Same-sex marriage will destroy Kansas,” the brief states. “If this Court requires Kansas officials to treat what God has called abominable as something to be respected, revered, and blessed with the seal-of-approval of the government, that will cross a final line with God. The harm that will befall this state, when the condign destructive wrath of God pours out on Kansans is the ultimate harm to the health, welfare and safety of the people.”

The Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, is considered a fringe religious organization, and has gained a reputation for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. service members, saying acceptance of homosexuality in the United States was responsible for their deaths. Church members carry signs at protests near funerals, as well as Pride celebrations, bearing anti-gay messages, such as “God Hates Fags.”

Although the brief doesn’t contain the same anti-gay slurs that have made the church infamous, the filing does envision calamity if same-sex marriage is legalized in Kansas based on the biblical scripture. Stories cited by the church include the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, ancient cities thought to have incurred God’s wrath for allowing homosexuality, and God’s destruction of civilization worldwide by Noah’s flood.

“Homosexuality is destructive in every way, to the individual and to the nation,” the brief says. “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 lawsuit seeking marriage equality, Marie v. Mosner, was filed this month by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. The lawsuit seeks to compel the state to stop enforcing its ban on same-sex marriage based on precedent enacted by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in rulings against same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Although Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt have pledged to defend the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, the Westboro Baptist Church insists it must intervene because, among other reasons, political pressure for state officials to disagree with the church and their inability to invoke religion in the arguments.

“The Kansas Attorney General is unable to adequately represent WBC because to do so would cause the Attorney General to assert religious viewpoints and constitutionally protected religious rights, which is arguably contrary to the duty of the government to remain neutral on matters of religion, and would constitute a breach of the separation of church and state doctrine,” the brief says.

The brief is signed by Margie Phelps, counsel to the church and daughter of the late church-founder Fred Phelps, as well as Rachel Hockenbarger, a lawyer at the Topeka-based Phelps Chartered law office.

Adam Romero, federal legal director for the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles, said he anticipates the court will deny the church’s request to intervene.

“Other courts have denied similar requests in various same-sex marriage litigations, concluding that groups that oppose same-sex marriage do not have a legally-protectable interest in the litigation and should not otherwise be permitted to formally join the case,” Romero said. “The Kansas District Court might permit Westboro Baptist Church to file an amicus brief, so that the church can be heard, but I do not think the Court will permit the church to formally intervene in the case.”

Even in the event the court allows the church to intervene, it’s hard to see how it could be successful given precedent enacted by the Tenth Circuit in favor of same-sex marriage and the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review rulings legalizing marriage equality in that jurisdiction.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said the brief is indicative of the views of those who draw on religion to oppose LGBT rights.

“Their motion to intervene shows the true colors of everyone who uses their religion as a reason to deny equal rights to LGBT couples,” Witt said.

[h/t Kathleen Perrin]

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • As religiious hate mongers go, not even Cardinals Burke and Dolan can beat Westboro Baptist.

    Huzzahs and kudos to Witt and Equality Kansas for standing out and standing taller in a state known for its tall grasses. It's LGBT heroes like that who are bringing Dorothy's friends back to Kansas.

  • In what legal world would Westboro conceivably have standing? This crowd will never accept SSM but frankly, who cares? Eventually, they will become yet another bigoted organization relegated to history and as ineffectual as the KKK and the John Birch Society.

  • In a perverse way, this is actually good news. The brief filed by the Westboro Baptist Church embodies the animus and hatred which many people still feel towards gay men and lesbians in this country to this day. The brief will showcase this animus, which could possibly lead the court to invoke precedent such as United States Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528 (1973), in which case the US Supreme Court held that "a bare [governmental] desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a LEGITIMATE governmental interest" (emphasis in original).

    There is simply no way that the Westboro Baptist Church can show that it has standing to intervene. It cannot show that it meets the requirements for such intervention.


  • Oh, I get it now! The reason god hasn't poured out his wrath on the Netherlands, Massachusetts, Canada, and every place else where marriage equality exists, is because he's waiting to see what Kansas does.

    Right …….

  • More proof that religion is pure poison!

  • They did the same thing with Proposition 8. They will be denied standing and then they will turn their brief into an amicus brief. Anyone can file an amicus brief, but the court isn't even required to read it.

  • I believe it's not same sex marriage that is bringing on the "wrath of God" they talk about, if anything it's the hate from people like them.

  • Well, once marriage equality becomes legal in all 50 states, the WBC can be put adrift on an iceberg to avoid god's wrath on us.

  • Well I never thought I would say it, but thank God for the westboro Baptist church. Gay marriage is being illegally forced on Americans and thankfully someone will stand and fight this tyranny in a time when often Attorney general's won't. The Westboro Baptist people are all lawyers and have been for many generations. They have already won a SCOTUS case on first amendment rights, so it will interesting to see what they argue. With gays bribing judges and judges illegally issuing orders like kings, it has become clear that the Westboro people are extreme, evidently they understand how serious the threat from gays is and that gays want to destroy democracy, and our republic and throw people in jail for their religion. If it comes down to that, I guess we will have to have a civil war and mow gays down with machine guns just like the nazi's did. I know gays seem to think that forcing this on states that don't want it and threatening to jail anyone that doesn't comply helps their cause, but I don't think so. It make me think they want a fight and I think they're going to get it.

  • Me thinks they protest too much. In many cases, they are what they hate.

  • Well, if god is getting ready to pour out some wrath of Biblical proportions I suppose Kansas is as good a place as any to dump it.

  • The WBC must have masochistic tendencies and likes to be beaten. I have not seen them win at anything.

  • Sigh, they know not what they do…… :>)

  • Seriously? One of my biggest pet peeves is the consistent reference to Sodom & Gomorrah. It really makes me wonder if anyone who references that has truly read the Bible, as well as studied the times. We can't read a book and understand it's meaning without considering the context of the times. What happened at Sodom and Gommorah was a result of the inhospitable acts that occurred (gang rape and murder). There was no actual focus on homosexuality, not to mention, homosexual wasn't even a word back then – it was a translation that came into play centuries later. The focus was on the way Lot's guests were treated by the horrible people in that town – the men in the town, in attempt to show domination, threated to rape them call – which, back in that day, was the ultimate way to dominate and disgrace someone. Those actions were what drew God's wrath, not "homosexuality" as we know it today. Loving, committed relationships are completely different than what the story of Sodom and Gommorah dictates.

  • How is anyone forcing anything on anyone? No one is forcing straight people to enter into a same sex relationship. Many in the gay and lesbian community are Christians, with families, and live more closely aligned to what Jesus wanted for his people than you do, obviously. "Mow gays down with machine guns"…. My God have mercy on your soul on Judgment Day. It's people like you that I fear my children encountering in this world. Very sad.

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