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Same-sex marriage bans are under heavy fire
Courts » Filings at the appeals court range from Republican politicians to states and social scientists.
First Published Mar 04 2014 11:45 am • Last Updated Mar 05 2014 02:42 pm

The nation’s largest professional association for sociologists says the states of Utah and Oklahoma are misrepresenting research on child well-being to make their cases against gay marriage.

The American Sociological Association says positive outcomes for children are tied to stable two-parent relationships and greater parental resources — regardless of whether the two parents are a same-sex or different-sex couple.

At a glance

State gets last word

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to extend the deadline for Utah to file its final response in its appeal to March 11. Oral arguments are set for April 10 in Denver.

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The association, in a brief filed with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of plaintiffs who challenged same-sex marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma, says some studies cited by the states did not evaluate children of same-sex parents at all; in others, findings are misstated.

"These studies cannot serve as the basis for conclusions about same-sex parents and related child outcomes and do not undermine the social science consensus that children fare just as well with same-sex parents," the association said in its brief.

In fact, studies that show stability improves child outcomes confirm that extending marriage rights to same-sex couples is likely to benefit children in such households, it said.

The filing is one of nearly two dozen amicus briefs filed by local and national groups urging the appellate court to uphold decisions by two different federal court judges that the states’ laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Among those voicing that opinion are constitutional law professors; gay rights groups; the American Psychological Association and its Utah counterpart; military and religious organizations; 20 current or former Republican politicians; a coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia; Voices for Utah Children and The Children’s Center of Salt Lake City; Equality Utah and the Utah Pride Center; and Alliance for a Better Utah.

OutServe SLDN and the American Military Partner Association, which were instrumental in the repeal of the federal "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, said the "uneven patchwork" of marriage laws is hindering the military’s efforts to recruit and retain gay and lesbian service members and complicating distribution of veteran’s benefits.

"No legally married couple would look fondly upon a move from a state where a couples’ marriage is recognized to a state where their marriage is essentially annulled for state-law purposes," according to the groups’ brief. "The unequal treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex military couples and their families undermines the well-established principle of uniformity, which lies at the heart of military unit cohesion and morale."

Each state is home to a major military base: Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

Voices for Utah Children joined an amicus brief filed by the Family Equality Council and COLAGE . Karen Crompton, president, said the child advocacy’s work is guided by one question: Is it good for children?

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"All children should enjoy the social and economic benefits of marriage," Crompton said in a statement. "Same-sex parents are successfully raising their children and want what all parents want — bright, secure and hopeful futures for the children."

In its brief, the Alliance for a Better Utah said "fundamental rights of gay and lesbian Utahns have been trampled on by the state’s insulated political and social majority" through marriage bans.

The bans "specifically exclude those couples from participating in an integral aspect of their state’s culture," the alliance said, and "are nothing more than sad examples of the type of ‘unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect’ of a right that the Constitution is designed to prevent."

Among the 20 Republicans who submitted a brief are former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming; Katie Biber, former general counsel to Romney for President Inc.; Melvin D. Nimer, treasurer of the Salt Lake County Republican Party; and John G. Storrs, north region chairman and Salt Lake County Republican Party executive committee member.

The group, most from states within the 10th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction, said they share " a common belief in the importance of limited government, individual freedom and stable families" as well as a belief that government "must act when individual liberties are at stake."

Government should promote "family-supportive values," but such "considerations cannot be determined based solely on history and tradition," they said.

"Marriage is strengthened and its benefits, importance to society, and the social stability of the family unit are promoted by providing access to civil marriage for same-sex couples," the Republican group said in its brief. "It is precisely at moments like this — when discriminatory laws appear to reflect unexamined, unfounded, or unwarranted assumptions rather than facts and evidence, and the rights of one group of citizens hang in the balance — the courts’ intervention is most needed."

Many of the groups presented similar briefs in Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 cases when they were before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as in two cases in the 9th Circuit Court of appeals.

The American Sociological Association zeroes in on a central argument made by the states: The bans against same-sex marriage are in the best interest of children.

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