Christian Right’s Tired, Loopy Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage

March 25, 2013

by Jeremy Leaming

Over the weekend The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg provided a relatively glowing profile of Brian Brown, the leader of the rabidly antigay group called the National Organization for Marriage.

Brown, Stolberg tells us, has “an open face and easy laugh that belie his status as a divisive figures in the culture wars” and a “keen sense of strategy and a polished speaking style, traits that unnerve his opponents.”

Beyond lavishing praise on Brown’s lobbying abilities, Stolberg had to provide us a bit of information about his arguments against same-sex marriage – and those arguments are hardly polished or keen. They’re Christian Right retreads. Legal recognition of same-sex marriage will threaten religious liberty and undermine the sacredness of marriage, the Christian Right argues.

For example, Brown said, “When you knock over a core pillar of society like marriage, and then try to redefine biblical views of marriage  as bigotry, there will be consequences.” He then asks will a push to “normalize pedophilia occur.”

Like other Christianists Brown also comes around to the topic of children – if lesbians and gay men can legally wed they’ll adopt even more children and according to Christian Right groups that’s really bad news for children.

These arguments regarding the ability of gay couples to raise children and the supposed threats to religious liberty are more than overwrought, they’re inaccurate. But peddling this nonsense has been a high priority for Brown and his allies in the Christian Right community for a long, long time.

Boston College law school professor Kent Greenfield in a piece for The American Prospect titled “Weird Friends of the Court,” highlights a few of the “friend-of-the-court briefs” lodged by religious groups in both cases – Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor – that the Court will hear oral argument in this week.

Greenfield notes upfront that controversial cases, such as the Perry and Windsor, “bring out the crazies, and crazies can hire lawyers to write a brief. And sometimes the crazies are the lawyers.”

And then Greenfield gives us some examples. The far-right Thomas More Society declares gay people can’t have sex. “A man and woman, and only a man and a woman, are capable of engaging in sexual intercourse.” Greenfield adds, “Now that’s going to come as a surprise to some people.” No kidding.

Fortunately there are likely many more serious, thoughtful briefs lodged before the Supreme Court. This blog has noted some of them here and here.

Georgetown Law Center Professor Nan Hunter and Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne Goldberg have lodged briefs in both cases. During a recent interview with ACSblog, Goldberg briefly described some arguments advanced in those briefs.  


Regarding Perry, involving Proposition 8, Goldberg said the supporters of Proposition 8 are likely not the proper persons to be defending the antigay measure.

The proponents of proposition 8 “are no more than private citizens who have a generalized interest that doesn’t get them into federal court,” Goldberg said. “The promoters care a lot about Proposition 8, but they don’t have that interest [sufficient interest to defend the case in federal court]. Because they are sponsors, they went through the initiative process; but that process does not give them any special right to defend an initiative after it has passed.”

The proponents of Proposition 8 claim they are standing in for the government interests, Goldberg continued. “But in fact,” she continued, “the government has taken a position in the case.” For example the California Attorney General has agreed with the challengers of Proposition 8 that it is unconstitutional. See Goldberg’s brief here.

Goldberg and Hunter lodged a brief in Windsor focusing on equality and how the high court has defined it. The two make the argument that the Supreme Court needs to “articulate a clearer framework for equal protection.”

When the state puts a burden on a group of people historically discriminated against, such as lesbians and gay men, Goldberg said we have to ask is that “burden justified.” An aim of the brief, she continued, is to give the court a framework for thinking about that. Read the brief by Hunter and Goldberg here. The entire interview with Goldberg is available here or below. 

The Religious Right groups have largely lodged briefs that peddle tired arguments that really have no place before the high court – except for possibly Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Court’s far-right justices.  Religious Right groups’ arguments largely have no place, not because they advance obnoxious, offensive arguments but because they advance religious based arguments. It is not the place of federal or state governments to promote or protect marriages defined by fundamentalist Christians. The Constitution contains a mandate for a separation of religion and government for a reason.

Religious Right groups have the right to recognize the marriages they wish, what they do not have is a right to force the government to advance their religious take on marriage.