March 2, 2013 at 7:21 am EST | by Chris Johnson
In historic week, a chorus of support for marriage equality
Mike Neubecker, gay news, gay marriage, Respect for Marriage Coalition, gay news, Washington Blade

Mike Neubecker signed a PFLAG brief against Prop 8 for his son-in-law David (right). (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A slew of legal briefs — signed by parties ranging from NFL players to LGBT advocates to businesses — were filed this week before the U.S. Supreme Court in lawsuits challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

During a news conference held on Thursday by the Respect for Marriage Coalition, a number of parties that filed briefs in the cases spoke out on why they were calling on the Supreme Court to issue rulings striking down Prop 8 and DOMA.

Mike Neubacker, a self-avowed devout Christian from Michigan, held back tears as he explained why he penned his name to a brief against Prop 8 filed by the LGBT group PFLAG. He and his wife, Janice, signed the brief on behalf of his son Lee, his spouse David and their two children.

“I met a lot of people in PFLAG, and signed on to this brief also knowing all the people that helped me besides my own family,” Neubacker said. “For me, marriage, when I say that I’ve been married 41 years to my wife, I usually get applause if I’m speaking somewhere because there’s that respect for marriage that’s understood. Right away, they immediately know the relationship and what we meant to each other. I want Lee and David to have that same recognition when they say they’re married.”

Gay former Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona was among the 131 Republicans who signed another brief against Prop 8 — which was also signed by former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, director Clint Eastwood as well as Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.). He also spoke at the news conference in terms of DOMA’s impact on bi-national same-sex couples.

“My partner is from Panama,” Kolbe said. “He’s been here for a number of years. He’s a Fulbright scholar, master’s degree in special education, bilingual education specialist, but our getting married does not permit the right to immigrate to this country, so our struggle to get immigration for him has been a long and very difficult one for him.”

Two separate briefs were filed in the DOMA case and the Prop 8 case that were signed by a number of LGBT advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the Courage Campaign and the Center for American Progress, as well as other civil rights groups such as the National Council of La Raza and the National Immigration Forum.

Both briefs argue that Prop 8 and DOMA should be ruled unconstitutional because laws related to sexual orientation merit heightened scrutiny in the courts.

“Amici urge the Court to hold that classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to heightened scrutiny, so that governments cannot use invented, after-the-fact rationalizations to mask and justify discrimination based on prejudice, antipathy, or baseless stereotypes,” the Prop 8 brief states. “Discrimination based on sexual orientation bears the same essential hallmarks as other kinds of discrimination that have long received heightened scrutiny, and it should be treated no differently under the law.”

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and Lambda Legal, which had filed their cases against DOMA that didn’t reach the Supreme Court, also filed their own brief in the case challenging the 1996 anti-gay law.

That 39-page brief also maintains DOMA should be subject to heightened scrutiny, but also argues the law would fail under a lower standard of rational basis review.

“DOMA bears each of the various indicia the Court has considered when it has invalidated laws under rational basis review,” the brief states. “DOMA both targets a group disliked at the time of its passage and impacts important personal interests. It arose not out of the usual process of allocating federal rights and benefits but as a one-time departure from the traditional method of predicating eligibility for federal marriage-based protections on a couple’s marital status under state law.”

Another brief was filed in the Prop 8 case by National Football League players known for their support for marriage equality: Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, and Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

The football players argue that professional sports play a major role in shaping public opinion and Prop 8 should be ruled unconstitutional because the earlier decision from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down the measure is consistent with the constitution.

“The NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA, at the league level, team level, and individual level, are finally speaking out against homophobia and intolerance of LBGTQ individuals,” the brief states. “More and more of us realize that using demeaning slur words like ‘faggot,’ ‘queer,’ and ‘gay’ can have serious, negative consequences.”

The deadline for filing in the Prop 8 case was Thursday and the deadline for filing in the DOMA case was Friday. In the Prop 8 case, oral arguments are set for March 26; they’re set the day after on March 27 in the DOMA case. Justices are expected to render a decision before their term ends in June.

A list of other friend-of-the-court briefs filed in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases follows. The Washington Blade has written more extensive articles on some of these briefs already.

Friend-of-the-court briefs against Prop 8

• Amid calls from LGBT advocates, the Obama administration a filed legal brief against California’s same-sex marriage ban. The brief focuses on the unconstitutionality of Prop 8, but Obama himself said the reasoning in the brief could be applied to other laws.

• A “red” state coalition of groups that operate where same-sex marriage is illegal — ranging from the Utah Pride Center, to the Campaign for Southern Equality, to Equality Virginia — filed a brief arguing that both Prop 8 and DOMA should be subject to heightened scrutiny.

• A coalition of state attorneys general, including Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, filed another brief against Prop 8.

• California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who has declined to defend Prop 8 in court, also filed a brief calling on the court to strike down the measure.

• Gay California Assembly Speaker John Perez — who’s reportedly on Obama’s short list as the next labor secretary — filed with law professors a brief against Prop 8 arguing that laws preventing equal political participation merit heightened scrutiny.

• Equality California filed a brief against Prop 8 with a different focus, arguing that proponents of the measure don’t have standing to defend the law in court.

• The libertarian think-tank known as the Cato Institute joined the Constitutional Accountability Center filed a brief arguing that Prop 8 violates equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

Friend-of-the-court briefs against DOMA

• 212 congressional Democrats filed a brief against DOMA, marking the first time ever that House and Senate lawmakers have joined together in calling the anti-gay law unconstitutional.

• The LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN filed a brief against DOMA emphasizing the harm it causes gay service members with same-sex partners.

• A coalition of 278 of municipalities and businesses, including Google, Twitter and Microsoft, filed a brief maintaining DOMA is unconstitutional because it requires employers to discriminate against married gay employees.

• The Family Equality Council and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network filed a brief with allied organizations against both DOMA and Prop 8.

• The American Bar Association filed a brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the “serious obstacles” that DOMA imposes on lawyers’ clients who are same-sex couples legally married under state law.

• The Gay & Lesbian Medical Association filed briefs in both the Prop 8 and DOMA cases highlighting for the justices the scientific and clinical evidence that sexual orientation is an innate human characteristic.

• Trevor Potter, gay adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and author of McCain-Feingold, signed a brief against DOMA filed by former federal election commissioners. That brief argues DOMA — when superimposed onto federal campaign finance law — legally bars married gays and lesbians from political expression and association opportunities that are afforded to other married citizens.

Michael K. Lavers contributed to this report.

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

  • You can't reconcile marriage of a man/woman with gays. Let the confused people have their "unions" so we can get on with MUCH more important business.

    • Hey, James, get a clue. There is no confusion with people who are born "gay". If you think this, then guess what?? It is nature that is confused.
      Unfortunately, there are all too many "confused" persons, such as yourself.

    • What's more important than civil rights? PS – from your profile pic you look like an alcoholic or meth-head, so maybe you should drink more water, get more sleep and stay out of that strong Florida sun.

    • James,
      You sound as if discrimination against a group of people in this country is small issue to you. From your comments, I'm assuming you are not gay so I imagine it might be hard to you to understand the grief that has been wrought by discrimination both in law and in attitude. In the end we gays are people and think and feel just like anyone else. To tell a hardworking, tax-paying, community-contributing, military-serving American citizen (that would be me) that he cannot enter into the same partnering contract with the person he loves as everyone else just because a number of people don't think it squares with their personal moral/religious convictions is frustrating. It's easy to see how libertarians jump on board on this issue, because in this supposedly religiously-tolerant society that we have built, a vocal minority believes it is their God-given right to police the rest of us. Even little comments such as calling us "confused" are hard to take on a constant basis. Let us live and let live and build a more just and happy society.

    • Gay's are less than 2% off the population but you are a bunch off loud mouth idiots.

    • Well Tom, if we are 2% of the population, we need to be loud to not be oppressed by the majority. Speaking our beliefs isn't idiotic, it's democracy. Now you may disagree with what we believe but doesn't mean we have any less right to discuss than you do to voice your opinions. Peace.

  • As a mostly libertarian the government does not have any business being in marriage any way. What we have done wrong was connect social services / tax laws / property rights and health care status to marriage and we have a tangled mess. If marriage was divorced from legal services and it was a matter of a persons faith then we do not have to have this argument. I guess it is simpler to continue with a broken system than to truly fix something :)

  • The Bible should be banned!

    Here are several really loving excerpts from the Torah; the first five books of the Old Testament in the bible — perhaps read to the congregation on Friday night at a synagogue or a Sunday morning church in the meadow.

    1. Kill any friends or family that worship a god that is different than your own. Deuteronomy 13:6-10
    2. Kill all the inhabitants of any city where you find people that worship differently than you. Deuteronomy 13:12-16
    3. Kill everyone who has religious views that are different than your own. Deuteronomy 17:2-7.

    Rabbinical / Priestly rules:
    Leviticus 21:17-18 … “No one who is blind or lame or has a defect or any blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God.”.
    Leviticus 18:22 … “You are not to go to bed with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination ….”.

    Rabbis; the pope and churches fully aware that Leviticus 18:22 applies to rabbis and priests … refuse to remove this stigma maliciously persecuting gays. Kids are being bullied into suicide …!

    Being black, left-handed or being gay is just as natural. It is a sometimes rare occurrence to fall in Love and to hold that person in your heart and be loved in return… it is something that should be celebrated! If it’s between two guys or two girls — all the better. It takes even more courage to defend that LOVE!

  • Thank you President Obama and the others who have supported equality!

  • Haters. Some of you will look back on these comments 10 years from now and see how stupid it sounds to create some sort of artificial club where only straight people can become a member- that’s narrow minded thinking and you are on the wrong side of history.
    Kids have NO CHOICE when it comes to picking parents, and two people raising a child in a loving household is 95% of the time better than single parenting, period.
    The only club you create is a class of people like the whites in Alabama or Mississippi, or let’s fast forward to 2013- the whites in the suburbs that choked off Detroit, once the fourth largest city in the USA. Don’t just tolerate these people raising children and paying taxes- embrace them and welcome them into our society. Me: Married 20 years, and hoping the gays someday soon get the respect I do for raising a family, creating jobs, and paying taxes.

  • Marriage is a private contract, so why should anybody need a license to enter into it? We do not get licenses for cell phone contracts, auto insurance contracts, contracts to buy a home, sell a car, so why should we need a license to get married? Get the government out of the marriage business. It's just another way politicians get more money by government intruding into our personal lives.

  • gays are confused, if they want a civil union, okay ket it happen, Marriage is between a man and a woman. God created Adam and Eve,, not Adam and Steve.

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  • I got my marriage license. I was legally married in a church that has exised since the mid 1800s. Our family came from all over the country to witness our wedding. After we were done, we received the exact same legal document any straight couple would receive. Yet the federal government does not recognize my marriage. It's about rights.

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