Biden Takes Legal Action in Support of Marriage Equality

Date Posted: Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Categories:  Civil Department of Justice DOJ Press Releases

Wilmington – Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden and 13 of his colleagues today filed legal briefs with the United States Supreme Court supporting the freedom to marry for all couples and arguing that laws discriminating against same-sex couples violate the federal Constitution.

“Equality under the law is a founding principle of America, but we will not all be equal until everyone has the freedom to choose whom to love and whom to spend their lives with,” Biden said.  “It is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry.”

The amicus brief was filed today by Biden and 13 Attorneys General in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.  In that case, the high Court is considering the question of whether Proposition 8’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The brief contends that it does and that the Court should declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. The case has been scheduled for oral argument on March 26.

The second amicus brief will be filed tomorrow by Biden and other Attorneys General in the case US v. Windsor, which challenges the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  That Act, which prohibits states from recognizing full civil marriage for same-sex couples, runs against to 200 years of congressional deference to state determination of domestic relations.

Proposition 8 amended the California state constitution to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  California voters approved the measure by ballot initiative in November 2008 following a California Supreme Court decision that granted same-sex couples the right to marry.  In 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled the measure unconstitutional.

The brief highlights the experience that many states that have ended the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage. Relying on data regarding marriage rates, divorce rates, and percentages of out-of-wedlock births, the brief refutes speculation offered by the proponents of Proposition 8 as to the supposed negative effects of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The brief also argues that the measure actually harms families by denying the multitude of legal and social benefits of marriage to same-sex couples and their children.

The brief argues that “Proposition 8 deprives the children of same-sex couples of the benefits of being raised in a secure, protected family unit with two married parents.  In doing so, it works against the states’ efforts to ‘strengthen the modern family in its many variations,” citing the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 2003 decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health.

The brief further argues, “The states favor – and therefore encourage – marriage over transient relationships because marriage promotes stable family bonds, fosters economic interdependence and security for members of the marital household, and enhances the physical and emotional well-being of both the partners to the marriage and any children they may raise…  All of these interests are furthered by ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution.”

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