Americans United, Allies Ask Federal Court To Strike Down Ohio’s Ban On Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage Cannot Be Defined By Religious Dogma, Groups Say

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 Ohio’s same-sex marriage ban.

In a legal brief filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by Americans United, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and more than 20 other religious and public policy groups say Ohio’s marriage restriction is unconstitutional; the brief argues that the ban restricts, rather than preserves, religious freedom.

“The laws of the United States should never be dictated by religious groups,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The Constitution simply does not allow a minority of fundamentalist tyrants to tell everyone else how to live their lives.” 

The brief for Henry v. Himes 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. “Ohio’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… who embrace an inclusive view of marriage. Ohio had no legitimate secular purpose in adopting that selective religious definition of marriage.”

Said Americans United Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser: “Laws based in religious belief are unconstitutional. Ohio’s marriage ban clearly resulted from religion-based bias against gay and lesbian people, and it is discriminatory.”

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.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.