Corporations to court: Same-sex marriage is good for business

7 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Civil rights groups file lawsuit over gay marriage denials in Alabama.

Civil rights groups in Alabama on Friday asked a federal judge to order all 68 of the state’s probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite an order from the Alabama Supreme Court blocking the licenses.“These facially discriminatory laws impose concrete harms on same-sex couples and send the inescapable message that same-sex couples and their children are second-class families, unworthy of the recognition and benefits that opposite-sex couples take for granted,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in the brief. Although the administration has been supportive of gay marriage, the brief marks the first time it has explicitly asked the high court to rule that bans violate the US constitution.

Opponents of the ruling went all the way to the Supreme Court to try to get the ruling stayed, but the Court—over the objections of Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas—refused. There are currently 37 states where gay marriage has been allowed to proceed, although a legal battle is ongoing in Alabama, with the state’s top court putting it on hold. The administration’s brief completes a shift on the issue for Obama, who ran for president in 2008 as a supporter of civil unions for gay couples, but not marriage.

Dozens of briefs backing gay marriage were filed ahead of Friday’s deadline, including one signed by corporations such as Google Inc, American Airlines Group Inc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Johnson & Johnson. In the 134-page opinion, the justices also said the state ban was constitutional. “As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for ‘marriage’ between only one man and one woman,” the ruling read. “Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage licenses contrary to this law. Another was filed on behalf of dozens of prominent conservatives, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and David Koch, one of the billionaire Koch brothers known for donating to right-leaning political causes. Unlike the suing couples, the Obama administration doesn’t make the case that the states lack any “rational basis” for restricting marriage to heterosexual unions.

Verrilli contended that laws discriminating against gays should be given “heightened scrutiny,” a standard the court has previously used to protect women and racial minorities. “A state should be required to present an especially strong justification for a law that excludes a long-disadvantaged class of persons from an institution of such paramount personal, societal and practical importance,” Verrilli argued. They signed a brief alongside sports franchises that include the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants and the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots.

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