In its Perry v. Brown decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Proposition 8, a measure that withdrew the civil marriage rights of same-sex couples in the state.
“No American’s right to marry should be subjected to a veto from aggressive and well-funded religious groups,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. “Our nation is a democracy, not a theocracy. Our laws should reflect equality and fairness, not discrimination and intolerance.”
Added Lynn, “Opponents of same-sex marriage have been unable to muster any arguments other than it offends their theology. We have a secular government, and dogma should not and cannot be transformed into law.”
In a November 2008 referendum, voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, a ballot measure that revoked the right of same-sex couples to obtain civil marriages. The referendum was dominated by lavishly funded political front groups representing the Roman Catholic bishops, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and fundamentalist Protestant churches.
Americans United asserts that powerful religious interest groups must not be allowed to change civil marriage laws to reflect their doctrinal teachings.
Americans United filed its friend-of-the-court brief jointly with the Howard University School of Law Civil Rights Clinic. It notes that historically opponents of marriage rights for slaves and interracial couples argued that such unions were a threat to the social order and the institutions of marriage and family. Opponents also claimed that such marriages violated their interpretation of the Bible.
Observes the brief, “Even though reliance on religious doctrine as the basis for public policy is as improper today as it was in the days of anti-miscegenation laws, today opponents of marriage between two persons of the same sex use (their) Biblical interpretations to suggest that homosexuality is unnatural because it is against God’s will. Indeed, like their anti-miscegenationist counterparts, opponents of marriage for same-sex couples almost always attempt to clothe their arguments in literal and selective interpretations of the Bible.”
Today’s ruling is certain to be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court.