Dec 29, 2014

Americans United for Separation of Church and State and its allies have asked a federal appeals court to uphold a lower court’s ruling that struck down Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage.In a legal brief filed in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Florida as well as Alabama and Georgia, Americans United joined the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other religious and public policy groups in saying that Florida’s marriage restriction is unconstitutional.

The brief argues that the ban restricts, rather than preserves, religious freedom.

“Religious groups do not have the power to make laws that everyone else is then forced to follow,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The U.S. Constitution absolutely does not permit a minority of fundamentalists to impose their theologically based view on marriage policy on everyone else.”

The brief for Brenner v. Johnson and Grimsley v. Johnson argues that no government may adopt a narrow definition of marriage favored by a handful of religious organizations.

“It is a violation of the First Amendment to deny individuals the right to marry on the grounds that such marriages would offend the tenets of a particular religious group,” the brief asserts. “Florida’s Marriage Ban flouts this fundamental principle by incorporating a particular religious definition of marriage into law — a definition inconsistent with the faith beliefs of many religious groups, including many of the undersigned amici, who embrace an inclusive view of marriage. Florida had no legitimate secular purpose in adopting that selective religious definition of marriage.”  

Said Americans United Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser: “Laws anchored in religious belief are unconstitutional. Florida’s marriage ban clearly resulted from discrimination fueled by religious belief.”

The brief was prepared by attorneys at Ropes & Gray LLP and the ADL, with input from Luchenitser.

Other groups joining Americans United and the ADL include: the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America; Interfaith Alliance Foundation; Central Conference of American Rabbis; Metropolitan Community Churches; More Light Presbyterians; The National Council of Jewish Women; People For the American Way Foundation; Society for Humanistic Judaism and Women's League for Conservative Judaism.