Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it is anchored in religion, say Americans United for Separation of Church and State and allied groups.
Americans United joined the Anti-Defamation League and 22 other religious and public policy groups in a friend-of-the-court brief filed today before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief argues that a 1986 Indiana law that forbids the state from extending marriage rights to same-sex couples must be declared null and void.
“The state of Indiana has yet to come up with a good secular reason why same-sex couples should not be allowed to wed,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Religious rationales don’t cut it, and that’s why this law must fall.”
The brief in Baskin v. Bogan asserts that Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage was enacted for religious reasons.
“While protecting religious liberty is a legitimate governmental interest in general, what the proponents of the Marriage Ban actually urge is that Indiana be allowed to enact a particular religious view of marriage to the exclusion of other religious views,” argues the brief. “State governments have no legitimate interest in enacting legislation that merely adopts a particular version of Judeo-Christian religious morality.”
The brief explains that supporters of Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage have made explicitly religious arguments for it. It notes that many Indiana clergy who support the ban have “couched the battle over same-sex marriage in overtly religious terms.”
The brief goes on to point out that there is significant debate within the religious community over the issue of same-sex marriage.
“The primary purpose of the Marriage Ban was to take sides in this religious debate by putting the full force of state law behind an express moral and religious condemnation of a vulnerable minority – gays and lesbians – whose relationships a state senator has characterized as sinful,” the brief asserts. “The restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples is thus a quintessential governmental ‘endorsement’ of religion – a misuse of governmental power to promote a particular religious view, with no legitimate secular purpose.”
Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director of Americans United, said the brief makes it clear that laws must not be anchored in specific theological views.
“Some religious groups oppose same-sex marriage while others support it,” Luchenitser said. “The government has no business acting as a theological referee in this dispute.”
The brief was prepared by attorneys at Ropes & Gray LLP and the Anti-Defamation League, with input from Luchenitser.
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.