States, businesses, families agree in new briefs: SCOTUS should rule on marriage

Today, September 4, a new roster of amici briefs were filed to the United States Supreme Court urging the Justices to consider the freedom to marry as soon as possible. The briefs lay out the urgency of bringing an end to the tangible harms and national disparities in how same-sex couples and their families are treated and encourage the Supreme Court to bring the country to national resolution without delay.

The amici briefs were filed in support of the petitions for review by states whose marrige bans were struck down in the past year - including Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Of course, the amici oppose the marriage bans but believe the Supreme Court must resolve this question without further delay and affirm the freedom to marry nationwide.

The amici briefs were filed today from three different groups:

  • 15 states, which have either affirmed the freedom to marry or refused to defend existing bans, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.  
  • Organizations advocating for couples and families who experience real harm every day because of the denial of the freedom to marry and the refusal to treat all marriages equally under the law, including Freedom to Marry, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Family Equality Council; Equality Federation; and COLAGE
  • 30 American businesses, including 16 in the Fortune 250, which are forced by marriage bans to discriminate in defiance of their policies of inclusion and equal opportunity and which must maintain complicated, costly and confusing personnel policies to accommodate the patchwork of discrimination. 

The brief filed by family organizations, including recounts harrowing stories from families and couples who have suffered because they either are denied the freedom to marry or their lawful marriages are not respected by discriminating states.  Read the full brief here.

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson said today after the briefs were filed:

Today America’s businesses and families, diverse states and loving couples, have come before the Supreme Court to make clear that every day until the Court acts is a day of injustice, indignity, and injury that harms real people and disserves our nation, and that it is time to end marriage discrimination in the United States. On top of the irrefutable momentum in public opinion and the revealing consensus of 38 state and federal courts, the stark and needless harms that delay inflicts underscore the urgency of the Supreme Court’s bringing our country to national resolution. Americans should not have to fight couple by couple, case by case, state by state, year by year to secure the freedom to marry and equal protection under the law that our Constitution promises to all of us. 

Since June 2013, when the United States Supreme Court struck down the core of Windsor v. United States, 38 state and federal courts have affirmed the freedom to marry, with two courts - a state court deciding a Tennessee divorce matter and a federal court in Louisiana - upholding marriage bans. The momentum in the courts of law is matched by the momentum in the court of public opinion, with clear and growing national majority - 59% - supporting the freedom to marry and majorities in every region of the country. 

The amicus brief written by the Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and joined by 14 other state Attorneys General, reads: "Marriage equality has only benefitted families, communities and states." The brief notes that while as many as 200,000 same-sex couples may have legally married across the country, none has full security in the protections and obligations of marriage if they reside in or travel to the other 31 states which still discriminate. This, the brief argues, “harms millions of Americans – same-sex couples and their children and extended families every day.” Read the full brief here.  

The amicus brief concerning businesses that support marriage for same-sex couples, written by the law firm Bingham McCutchen, includes 30 companies, such as General Electric, Pfizer, Oracle, Nike, Alcoa, Staples, Target and Amazon. In the brief, the businesses argue that the current landscape with regard to respect for relationships is unfair to their employees and adds bureaucratic burdens that inhibit their ability to conduct business and attract and retain the best and brightest employees. Read the full brief here. 

Noting that in 2014, 91% of Fortune 500 companies have non-discrimination policies for their LGBT employees and 67% offer benefits to same-sex partners, the Amici contend that differing state laws “alternately celebrating and condemning same-sex marriage conscript us, as the administrators of state benefits, to become the face of a law that demands we treat our employees in committed same-sex relationships” differently from one state to another, regardless of the company’s stated policies. As a result, the brief concludes, the current patchwork of state laws “hinders our ability to run our businesses efficiently and effectively, and to make our businesses as diverse and inclusive as possible, despite our stated policies and our recognized business case. In abiding by inharmonious and discriminatory state laws, we become complicit in our employees’ injury – and our own.”

Before the Supreme Court are three different marriage cases - Utah's Kitchen v. Herbert, Oklahoma's Bishop v. Smith, and Virginia's Bostic v. Schaefer. Read about each of them - and all of the briefs related to the cases - here.