Columbia Law School Clinic Argues for Marriage Equality in U.S. Supreme Court Brief
New York, March 4, 2015—States that refuse to allow same-sex couples to marry and refuse to recognize valid marriages of same-sex couples violate the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, which limits state interference with individuals’ freedom of choice in marriage, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed March 3 with the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the brief, filed in four consolidated cases arising out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, Columbia Law School Professors Suzanne B. Goldberg and Henry P. Monaghan argue that states impose few burdens on a person’s choice of spouse—except for individuals who want to marry a person of the same sex. Goldberg is director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic.
The brief reviews marriage eligibility rules in the 13 “marriage-ban” states, which allow minimum age limits to be waived and grant recognition to almost all marriages, “reinforcing that parties exercise nearly complete autonomy when choosing marital partners, for better or worse.”
“Restrictions on choice of a same-sex spouse defy this otherwise pervasive freedom” to choose a marital partner, Goldberg and Monaghan write.
“As this Court has explained many times, the Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantees protect the freedom to marry as one among several ‘aspects of what might broadly be termed ‘private family life’ that are constitutionally protected against state interference,’” the brief states. “Same-sex couples and their deeply personal decisions about how to build a family life together are no exception to this rule.”
Goldberg’s clinic, founded in 2006, has filed amicus briefs in numerous cases challenging state bans on marriage rights for same-sex couples 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.
“The Constitution protects same-sex couples’ intimate decisions about marriage just as it protects those decisions for different-sex couples,” said Goldberg. “In addition, when we look at the backdrop of our nation’s marriage laws—which allow 15-year olds to marry with parental permission and recognize marriages of couples who admit to having no affection at all for one another—it becomes even harder to fathom how or why states continue to exclude loving and committed same-sex couples from marrying.”
Columbia Law School student Jeremy R. Girton ’15 assisted with preparation of the brief.
The cases before the Court, which will be argued in late April, are Obergefell and Henry v. Hodges (Ohio), Tanco v. Haslam (Tennessee), DeBoer v. Snyder (Michigan), and Bourke v. Beshear (Kentucky). A decision is expected at the end of the Court’s term in late June.