Prominent marriage allies petition court

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President Barack Obama, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Attorney General Eric Holder after the State of the Union address. -Photo: Pete Souza/White House

Dozens of friend-of-the-court briefs from prominent and popular allies have been submitted in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in two same-sex marriage cases,

The arguments take place March 26-27.

One case involves a challenge to Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The other involves a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The court is expected to release opinions in late June.

The first filings came from opponents of marriage equality, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Westboro Baptist Church, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Family Research Council, the Eagle Forum, a group of Republican senators and a coalition of attorneys general from states that ban gay marriage.

But in the final week of the submission storm, amicus briefs calling on the court to overturn Proposition 8 and the federal marriage ban came from varied parties – the president, Democrats, Republicans, NFL players, Hollywood celebrities, corporate America and civil rights leaders.

The Obama administration filed as an LGBT friend in both cases – the brief against DOMA was expected, the brief against Prop 8 was wished for and arrived at the court on deadline Feb. 28.

“The government seeks to vindicate the defining constitutional ideal of equal treatment under the law,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. “Throughout history, we have seen the unjust consequences of decisions and policies rooted in discrimination. The issues before the Supreme Court in this case and the Defense of Marriage Act case are not just important to the tens of thousands of Americans who are being denied equal benefits and rights under our laws, but to our nation as a whole.”

Other friends on marriage equality include:

• More than 200 members of Congress who signed a brief against DOMA. Among the signatories is openly gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., who said, “Having been happily married for more than five years, I look forward to a time when my partner and I will be treated equally to every American in a ‘traditional’ marriage by our government. The march toward full equality is unending, but I am confident we will be able to put this discriminatory relic behind us in the near future.”

• More than 130 Republican leaders who signed a brief against Prop 8, including Mary Bono Mack, Alex Castellanos, James B. Comey, Gary Johnson, Stephen Hadley, Jon Huntsman, James Kolbe, Ken Mehlman, Steve Schmidt, William F. Weld, Christine Todd Whitman, Meg Whitman and Clint Eastwood.

• More than 300 companies signed onto briefs against DOMA and Prop 8. Companies in the Prop 8 brief include Apple, Facebook, Xerox, Verizon, Cisco and Levi Strauss. Employers calling on the court to overturn the federal ban include Google, Starbucks, Amazon and Citigroup.

• NFL players Brendan Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe, two high-profile advocates for equality. They wrote, “When we advance the idea that some people should be treated differently because of who they are, demeaned in public as lesser beings, not worthy of the same rights and benefits as others despite their actions as good citizens and neighbors, then we deny them equal protection under the laws. America has walked this path before, and courageous people and the court brought us to the right result. We urge the court to repeat those actions here.”

In anticipation of the historic hearings, activists on both sides are planning demonstrations.

For March 26, the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage is planning a Marriage March. A NOM poster asks, “Do you believe that every child deserves a mom and a dad?” and invites opponents of gay marriage to “be heard. Protect marriage.” 

In late February, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent American dioceses a letter urging priests to encourage parishioners to attend or show solidarity for the anti-gay effort.

Meanwhile, longtime gay rights activists David Mixner and Cleve Jones have encouraged a “National Equality Action” outside the court on March 26-27. The activists aren’t proposing a national march, but they are endorsing a gathering. “If you can be in Washington, D.C., there will be peaceful and civil demonstrations of support for the cases at the Supreme Court on March 26 and 27,” they wrote in a joint statement. “While there you can also visit your members of Congress to lobby for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Uniting American Families Act as well as marriage equality. Our opponents will also be marching – ignore them.”

The activists also encouraged “peaceful demonstrations for LGBT equality in every city and town across our country at sunset” on March 25.