October 26, 2014 at 8:54 pm EST | 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

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