Jun 26, 2013

Today’s Supreme Court marriage decisions advance equality while preserving religious freedom, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The high court ruled 5-4 that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. The justices said the federal statute violates the equal liberty protections of the Fifth Amendment.

The high court also ruled 5-4 that defenders of Prop. 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage, do not have standing to bring the case before the justices. That means a federal district court decision striking down the ban remains in place.

“Civil marriage law should be based on principles of fairness, liberty and equality, not religious doctrine,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “These decisions are important steps toward that goal.

“Religious Right groups and their allies are fighting a losing battle to impose their theology and moral views about marriage on everyone,” he continued. “The decisions today are two more losses for their discriminatory agenda.”

Lynn said it’s important to remember that houses of worship remain free to marry whomever they chose. These decisions impact only civil marriage, not denominational rules governing weddings.

Americans United, the Anti-Defamation League and allied religious and advocacy organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the Supreme Court in both cases.

In one brief (U.S. v. Windsor), the groups argued that the DOMA is an example of government promotion of one religious perspective and should be struck down.

“While some religious institutions may have a history of defining marriage as between a man and a woman,” the brief observed, “that tradition is separate from, and cannot be allowed to dictate, civil law. The legal definition of civil marriage is not tied to particular religious traditions, but instead reflects changes in contemporary understandings of marriage.”

In the second brief (Hollingsworth v. Perry), AU and its allies asserted that laws governing civil marriage should not reflect religiously grounded discrimination.

“Proponents of laws that marginalize disadvantaged groups have long relied on arguments grounded in morality and religion to justify the discrimination,” asserted the brief. “Time and again, however, society has come to see these laws as a stain on the nation’s history and to view the religious and moral justifications offered for them as wrong, both spiritually and philosophically.”