Marriage Law Should Not Be Based On Theology, Americans United Tells Supreme Court

Church-State Watchdog Group Joins Anti-Defamation League In Urging High Court To Affirm Secular Basis For Laws

Laws governing marriage in the United States should not reflect religious views because such rationales often evolve over time as attitudes change, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has told the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed yesterday, Americans United joined the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in asking the high court to strike down Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage.

“The people who want to ban same-sex marriage need to do more than spout Bible verses,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Quoting the Bible is fine for a theological debate, but it’s hardly a legal argument.”

AU and the ADL assert that laws with a religious foundation are often later rejected as societal norms change.

The brief cites several examples.

“Like the moral and religious justifications for slavery, segregation, interracial-marriage bans, and laws restricting women’s roles in public life, the moral and religious objections to marriage equality are proving ephemeral,” asserts the brief.

The brief points out that many of the conservative religious groups that have filed briefs in the case rely on explicitly religious arguments, and some even cite biblical passages. The ADL and AU urge the justices to reject this line of thinking, asserting that it is often used to deny rights to others.

“Proponents of laws that marginalize disadvantaged groups have long relied on arguments grounded in morality and religion to justify the discrimination,” observes the brief. “Time and again, however, society has come to see these laws as a stain on the nation’s history and to view the religious and moral justifications offered for them as wrong, both spiritually and philosophically.”

The brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry was drafted primarily by the ADL with writing assistance provided by Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case next month, with a decision expected by early July.

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.