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ADF, Alabama to US Supreme Court: Affirm the people’s liberty, uphold marriage laws

Brief: If laws affirming marriage as man-woman union are declared unconstitutionally irrational, a host of other laws are also at risk
“Just Who do We Think We Are?”

WASHINGTON – Alliance Defending Freedom and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday that encourages the court to uphold the freedom of states to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In November 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that Michigan’s, Ohio’s, Kentucky’s, and Tennessee’s laws affirming that understanding of marriage are a rational exercise of state authority and are thus constitutional.

The 6th Circuit rightly observed that “[a] dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.” The Alabama brief filed with the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges encourages the court to uphold the 6th Circuit’s decision and likewise affirm the rationality of the states’ man-woman marriage laws.

“The people of every state should be free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell. “As the Supreme Court concluded in its recent Windsor decision, marriage law is the business of the states. Federal courts should not reinterpret the Constitution to prevent the states from affirming marriage as it has existed in their states since the time of their founding.”

“If the traditional definition of marriage is not a rational basis for legislative action, it is hard to imagine what is,” the Alabama brief explains. “Put another way, if rational-basis review invalidates traditional marriage, it seems likely that few other laws would be safe from the federal courts.”

The brief further explains that accepting the “irrationality” arguments of those advocating for the redefinition of marriage would transform our Constitution into a tool for “federal courts, through mere disagreement with the wisdom or utility of state policy, to overturn scores of state laws that afford government benefits or impose government costs on some (but not all) citizens. That result would…jeopardize the liberty of Americans to choose their destiny through the ballot box instead of the courtroom.”

“The Constitution does not demand that one irreversible view of marriage be judicially imposed on all the states,” added ADF Legal Counsel Doug Wardlow. “The states should be free to affirm the essential role that marriage has always played in linking children to both of their biological parents. Maintaining these essential links surely constitutes a legitimate government interest, particularly in a time of increasing fatherlessness and broken homes.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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Jim Campbell
Jim Campbell
Chief Legal Counsel
Jim Campbell serves as chief legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he leads the U.S. Legal Advocacy team.