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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 13, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 11
Top Dems send marriage brief to SCOTUS
Section One
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Top Dems send marriage brief to SCOTUS

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two hundred and ten Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have sent the Supreme Court an amicus brief supporting marriage equality.

All the Democratic leaders in both Senate and House signed on to the brief, including Washington Senator Patty Murray. Washington's junior Senator Maria Cantwell also signed the brief.

'I am so proud that Washington state has been a leader in advancing LGBT equality and ensuring that all loving couples have the right to marry, but for far too many Americans, inequality remains.' Murray said in a statement.

'I am hopeful the Supreme Court will right this wrong and deliver on the promise of equality for all couples across the country, regardless of who they love.'

Seattle Congressmen Jim McDermott and Adam Smith signed on as well, as did three of the four other Democrats in Washington's Congressional delegation.

Congressman Rick Larson did not sign the brief because, his spokesperson Ingrid Stegemoeller explained, he has a policy against signing amicus briefs, no matter what the issue. Larson supports marriage equality, she said, and cosponsored the successful repeal of DADT, as well as a bill to repeal DOMA before it was struck down by the Supreme Court.

No Washington Republicans were on the brief.

In all, 44 members of the Senate and 167 members of the House of Representatives signed on to the brief, according to a March 9 media release.

An amicus brief, sometimes called a 'friend of the court' brief, is used by outside parties who do not have a direct interest in a case but want to express their views on the legal issues at stake.

In their 60-page brief, the Congressional Democrats argue that 'we believe that heightened review is warranted for laws that distinguish among individuals based on sexual orientation,' but they also add that 'regardless of the standard applied, the refusal to license or recognize the marriages of same-sex couples is unconstitutional.'

The Congress members go on to note that 'nearly all of the state bans on marriages of same-sex couples were enacted between 1998 and 2012 - during the same political environment that led to Congress's enactment in 1996 of DOMA, a law that the Court already has held had the 'principal purpose [of] impos[ing] inequality.'

While they agree that marriage laws should be regulated by state governments, the Congress members point out that 'the [Supreme] Court has long recognized that state laws that infringe on fundamental rights or make invidious distinctions are subject to constitutional restraints. This is so even when those laws regulate areas within traditional state authority, such as state courts, property, crime and criminal procedure, and education.

'The same is true for marriage,' they conclude.

While the Congressional Democrats agreed with many lower court rulings that laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation should have to meet the 'heightened scrutiny' test, they also said that under any standard of judicial review laws banning same-sex marriage 'violate the equal protection clause and impair federal interests' in fair treatment of U.S. citizens.

'As federal legislators, we believe the state bans at issue violate the Equal Protection Clause, impair national interests, and impose significant pecuniary and dignitary harm on same-sex couples and their children throughout the nation,' they said.

Senator Murray was also a signatory to the 2013 amicus brief that Congressional Democrats sent to the high court urging them to declare DOMA unconstitutional.

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