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Dozens of supporting briefs filed in Utah, Okla., same-sex marriage cases

Dozens of supporting briefs filed in Utah, Okla., same-sex marriage cases
Corbin Aoyagi, a supporters of gay marriage, waves his flag during a rally at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Salt Lake City.
Corbin Aoyagi, a supporter of same-sex marriage, waves his flag during a rally at the Utah State Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — More than 50 groups, organizations and coalitions have weighed in on gay marriage cases in Utah and Oklahoma with supporting court briefs — giving a Denver-based federal appeals court thousands of pages of arguments to consider.

A total of 27 friend of the court briefs urging the court to make gay marriage legal in the two states were submitted before the Tuesday midnight deadline. In addition to a group of Western Republicans and national associations of sociologists and psychologists, a brief was sent in by a conglomerate of 46 companies including Starbucks, Pfizer, eBay, Facebook, Google and Levi Strauss.

The businesses argue that state bans on gay marriage are bad for business, shouldering the companies with unnecessary costs and hampering their ability to recruit and retain top talent. They said denying same-sex couples the chance to marry goes against their core values and principles.

“We recognize the value of diversity, and we want to do business in jurisdictions that similarly understand the need for a society that enables all married persons to live with pride in themselves and their unions,” the brief says.

Last month, 26 supporting briefs were filed asking the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the ban on same-sex marriage. The overarching theme was that children should be raised by a man and woman, not gays and lesbians.

Hearings for the Utah and Oklahoma cases are set for mid-April before the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The judges must decide if they agree with federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma who ruled the state same-sex-marriage bans violate gay and lesbian couples’ constitutional rights.

The flood of amicus briefs would be abnormal for usual cases before a federal appeals court, but it has become commonplace as challenges to same-sex-marriage bans work through the courts, said Douglas NeJaime, a professor of law at the University of California, Irvine.

Many of the same groups that sent in arguments in these cases filed similar briefs in past cases in California that eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and will likely do the same as other cases reach appeals courts, NeJaime said.

“People are already lined up on both sides of this, and they know they are going to be filing these,” NeJaime said.

There have been a total of 53 amicus briefs filed so far in the Utah and Oklahoma cases — split nearly evenly on both sides. The briefs are about 45 pages on average, totaling 2,300 pages.

There have been groups of states weighing in on both sides, with attorneys general from 11 states including Arizona, Colorado and Idaho urging the court to uphold the same-sex-marriage bans. On the other side, attorneys general from 16 states including Massachusetts, California and Washington asked the court to legalize gay marriage.

Currently, gay marriage is legal in Washington, D.C., and 17 states.

Including Utah and Oklahoma, six federal judges have issued pro-gay-marriage rulings since the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor v. U.S. in June that struck down part of the federal anti-gay-marriage law.

Hundreds of pages of the arguments centered on the ability of gay and lesbian parents to raise healthy, happy and well-adjusted children. Groups supporting same-sex-marriage bans pointed to studies they say demonstrate that children do much better in homes with a mom and dad. Organizations such as the American Sociological Association told the court that the claim that same-sex parents can’t be good parents is contradicted by “abundant social science research.”

The briefs showed a split between religious organizations as well.

A coalition led by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argued unions between a man and a woman are best for children, families and society.

A group that included Episcopal, Unitarian and Methodist organizations and a group called Mormons for Equality argued for gay marriage, saying that “American religious panorama embraces a multitude of theological perspectives on lesbian and gay people and same-sex relationships.”

Nearly all of the briefs supporting gay marriage came from organizations or carefully grouped coalitions. That’s common for gay marriage supporters, who try to coordinate to avoid redundancy, NeJaime said.

Backers of the bans coordinate too, NeJaime said, but there are also usually a handful of unaffiliated people who file briefs. That was the case again with several arguments coming from regular people who just wanted to add their opinions.

Duane Morley Cox, a 54-year-old Mormon from a Salt Lake City suburb, sent in a 74-page brief citing passages from the Bible to make his case for upholding the ban.

“God’s plan is for man to marry a woman to create offspring (which same-sex couples cannot do), and be married for time and eternity,” Cox wrote.

Follow the cases: Kitchen v. Herbert (Utah) and Bishop v. Oklahoma (Oklahoma).

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