Earlier today, the American Humanist Association, joined by a coalition of many national non-theistic groups, submitted amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of marriage equality.
The briefs argued that, under the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, discrimination against gays and lesbians must, like that on the basis of race or gender, be presumed to be unconstitutional. The briefs also argued that such discrimination is particularly egregious when it implicates the fundamental right to marriage and family life that is protected by the Constitution. Legislation may not “be used as a sword to deny the basic humanity and fundamental rights of gays and lesbians,” the briefs conclude. “Our Constitution requires that our laws treat each of us with equality and forbids them to create any class of second class citizens.”
“The Supreme Court has the opportunity to reverse decades of discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans, often rooted in religiously justified bigotry,” said Bill Burgess, legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Our government must be a secular one, and cannot adopt any legislation that seeks to give religious condemnation of homosexuality the force of law. The Constitution instead requires that the law treat each of us equally.”
Some who oppose this conclusion… claim that their “religious liberty,” to use their own intentionally overbroad, yet vague, phrasing, would be violated if this Court confirms a right to legal equality for gays and lesbians. The fundamentalist Christians among them cite their Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. Of course, no decision of this Court striking down a law forbidding same-sex marriage would require these individuals to engage in any sexual activity their religion forbids. Instead, the only “right” they can claim is one that, given the secular nature of our government as guaranteed by the Establishment Clause, cannot exist: the right to have their religious views written into law so that others may be compelled to follow them.
There are good legal reasons (as well as obvious moral reasons) for Secular Americans to be on the side of tolerance and equality. Huge tips of the hat to William J. Burgess and Monica Miller of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center for their work on these documents.