As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on marriage next month, attorneys general in D.C., Maryland, along with a host of other private organizations, are joining the call for the high court to rule in favor of marriage equality nationwide.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine joined the attorneys general from 16 states in filing an amicus or ‘friend-of-the-court’ brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on March 6 arguing that the Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex couples to marry.
The joint brief argues that the continued refusal by some states to legally recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples “inflicts widespread harm” on same-sex couples, including those living in the District of Columbia and other jurisdictions that have legalized same-sex marriage.
“As in other states with full marriage equality, couples married here in the District face serious disadvantages when they travel in or move to states without marriage quality,” Racine said in a statement. “It is time for the Supreme Court to declare that, no matter where they might go in this great country, the District’s same-sex couples are equal to other couples.”
Racine noted that the brief highlights several specific “harms” inflicted on married same-sex couples in D.C. and other states by the remaining states that refuse to recognize those marriages.
Among them are the refusal to amend birth certificates to include both spouses; allowing employers to deny access to health-care coverage for spouses; denying a spouse’s right to make decisions for or visit his or her spouse in a hospital; denying parental rights for one of the spouses; and not including a spouse’s name as a survivor on a death certificate.
“Major life decisions made by married same-sex couples – including decisions about education, employment and residency – are affected by the lack of legal recognition of their marriages in some states,” Racine said in his statement.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey organized the joint filing of the 49-page amicus brief on behalf of D.C. and the other states, which include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.
Virginia’s attorney general filed a separate amicus brief last week calling for the high court to require all states to recognize marriage equality.
Maryland’s attorney general, Brian Frosh, went a step further and has announced a new report, “The State of Marriage Equality in America,” that examines the experiences of states that have both outlawed and allowed same-sex marriage and chronicles the animus behind state marriage prohibitions. “The findings of this survey are deeply troubling and inspire no confidence,” the report says. “In the end, the Report concludes that the pressing question of marriage equality cannot be adequately addressed by a state political process that has been systematically degraded by animus directed at gays and lesbians.”
Dozens of organizations have filed Supreme Court amicus briefs in support of and in opposition to marriage equality in connection with four pending cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee in which those states are asking the high court to uphold laws banning same-sex marriage.
Several LGBT groups have filed amicus briefs calling on the court to rule in favor of marriage equality nationwide.
D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health has joined those calling on the court to act in a friend-of-the-court brief arguing the health benefits of marriage.
“Time and again, Whitman-Walker Health’s providers and lawyers have seen how lack of full legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships has harmed the lives of so many of our patients and clients, particularly those living with HIV or other serious medical conditions,” said Dan Bruner, Whitman-Walker Health’s senior director of public policy. “This amicus brief documents that marriage is much more than just a legal label. It’s a status has real, beneficial effects on health.”
The court has combined the four cases and has scheduled oral arguments for them on April 28.