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Marriage Equality

Ken Mehlman's GOP Brief: Marriage Equality Makes Society 'More Free'

Ken Mehlman's GOP Brief: Marriage Equality Makes Society 'More Free'


A pro-equality Supreme Court brief filed by more than 300 conservatives, coordinated by Ken Mehlman, features several noteworthy changes from a similar effort in 2013.

More than 300 conservative politicians submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of marriage equality last week, a significant advance from 2013, when fewer than half that number signed a similar brief in the case that struck down California's marriage ban, known as Proposition 8.

Both the 2013 and 2015 briefs were coordinated by Ken Mehlman, who was the chair of the Republican National Committee during a time of significant organized opposition from the party toward marriage equality, and who came out as gay in 2010. As in 2013, the new brief is signed by various current and past governors, mayors, members of Congress, and White House officials.

The signatories include 23 former and current Republican members of Congress as well as seven current and former governors, according to Time. Among those signatories are Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, and former Utah Gov. (and former GOP presidential hopeful) John Huntsman, in addition to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and billionaire GOP donor David Koch.

While the number of Republican signatories has increased from 133 in 2013 to more than 300 this month, the arguments presented in the 2015 brief are similar to those from 2013.

A 2013 section titled "Marriage Promotes the Conservative Values of Stability, Mutual Support, and Mutual Obligation" reappears as "Equal Access to Civil Marriage Promotes the Conservative Values of Stability, Mutual Support, and Mutual Obligation." The new brief expands on that idea by adding a mention of the cases Maynard v. Hill (which established a precedent of respect for the family unit) and Loving v. Virginia (which eliminated antimiscegenation laws). Both briefs refer to the ability of marriage to confer stability on child-rearing environments.

Another new feature of the 2015 brief is its explict appeal to the Fourteenth Amendment, which "requires equal access to civil marriage because there is not legitimate, fact-based justification for government to exclude same-sex couples in committed relationships." This section builds on the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor ruling, which overturned a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The brief concludes, "Two years ago, this Court reaffirmed that 'State laws defining and regulating marriage, of course, must respect the constitutional rights of persons," referencing Loving as cited in the Windsor decision. "Our society is more free because the Court has exercised its power and duty to enforce and support the Constitution in such a manner. The Court should do so again in these cases."

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 28 in a consolidated case from four states whose marriage bans were upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. It is the only federal appellate court since the Windsor decision to conclude that such voter-approved bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional. After the court hears oral argument, it can issue a ruling at any time, though most court-watchers expect a decision to be handed down by the end of the court's session in June.

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