Columbia Law School Clinic Argues for Marriage Equality in Indiana, Wisconsin

Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Files Amicus Brief in 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Arguing Marriage Restrictions on Gay Couples Violate U.S. Constitution

New York, August 5, 2014—The laws of Indiana and Wisconsin violate the constitutional rights of lesbians and gay men to marry the person of their choice and to have that marriage recognized, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

In the brief filed in Baskin v. Zoeller (the Indiana case) and Wolf v. Walker (the Wisconsin case), Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg argues that the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantees have long been understood to protect against government interference in fundamental personal decision making, including the choice of one’s spouse. Goldberg points out that the laws of Indiana and Wisconsin impose few restrictions on the choices of married couples but nevertheless prohibit people from choosing a spouse of the same sex.
“Fundamental rights are defined by what conduct they protect, not by who can exercise them,” writes Goldberg, director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic. “If fundamental rights could be redefined so easily and superficially, the Constitution’s insistence on equal and fair access to those rights would be eviscerated.”
Goldberg’s clinic, founded in 2006, has filed amicus briefs in several cases challenging state bans on gay marriage in the wake of the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision striking down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act barring recognition of same-sex couples’ marriages.
“There is a long and well-settled American tradition of state governments allowing people to choose their spouses, for better or worse,” said Goldberg. “These marriage restrictions defy that tradition and cause great harm to the same-sex couples who cannot marry or have their marriages recognized.”
Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic students Julia C. Maddera '16, Hunter A. Vanaria '16, and Sarah E. Mac Dougall '16 assisted with research for and preparation of the brief.