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Civil Rights and Race Relations in America and Their Impact on the Lives of African Americans
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two landmark cases seeking marriage equality for gay and lesbian people. LDF has submitted a brief in each case asking the Court to overturn laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians.
LDF’s friend-of-the-court brief in United States v. Windsor urged the Court to strike the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because it intentionally relegates gays and lesbians to inferior social status. The brief states that DOMA and other laws that purposefully infringe on the rights of gay people are “analogous to the racial caste system effectuated under ‘separate but equal’ in an important respect: they create and perpetuate a social hierarchy that is premised on the superiority of one group over another.” “DOMA’s denial of marital benefits under federal law subordinates them within the institution of marriage. And like early laws that were designed to oppress African Americans, DOMA relegates gays and lesbians to an unequal and inferior status as a group.”
DOMA is the law that denies marital benefits under federal law to gays and lesbians who are legally married under state law while extending benefits to married heterosexual couples. The Obama administration has declined to defend the federal statute and is supporting Ms. Windsor’s effort to have the Court apply heightened scrutiny to the law and to find it unconstitutional.
LDF is also part of a coalition of civil rights groups that submitted a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this month in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case challenging California’s state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage known as Proposition 8. The brief argued that the Court should apply heightened scrutiny to laws, like Proposition 8, that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. LDF also filed a friend-of-the-court brief when the case was being heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing its long held view that the principles set forth in Loving v. Virginia , the 1967 Supreme Court case which held that laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional, establish the fundamental right of every individual, including gays and lesbians, to marry the person of his or her choice.
As the Washington Post reported, “LDF is no stranger to defending the equal protection rights of gay men and lesbians. The organization, which is separate and apart from the NAACP, has filed amicus briefs in related cases since Romer v. Evans in 1996. But given the amazing changes in the last year, the LDF’s brief in the DOMA case is especially powerful.” LDF has participated as a friend-of-the-court in cases across the nation, including California, Maryland, and New York, seeking to establish the right to marry for same-sex couples.