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Lawmakers, psychologists, others weigh in on Tennessee's same-sex appeal

Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-05 05:09:50-04

With less than a week before a three-judge panel is set to hear a landmark same-sex marriage appeal, groups representing law enforcement officers, military families, psychologists, lawmakers and others have filed more than two dozen friend-of-the-court briefs in the case.

Twenty-six of those briefs support recognizing gay marriage in Tennessee.

Three back the state’s ban on it.

Many of the same organizations, none of whom are parties in the case but still have an interest in the outcome, also have filed briefs in the Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio case. Cases in those states are also scheduled for oral arguments on Aug. 6 at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

The amicus briefs delve into business, history, mental health and politics, and touch on topics ranging from child-rearing and threats to national security and religious freedom.

Some groups filing are among those you would expect: the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, and the North Carolina Values Coalition. Others represent individuals or groups of people who are not typically associated with gay rights, like churches, law enforcement and major private corporations such as Starbucks

The Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ and activist groups comprised of Mormons, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews and other religions and denominations joined in a brief arguing that affirming same-sex marriages would not interfere with congregations’ ability to practice their own faith.

In fact, the brief points out, some religions have already disallowed marriages that are otherwise legal: Conservative Judaism prohibits interfaith marriages, the Mormon church once discouraged interracial marriages and the Roman Catholic Churches teaches that remarriage of divorced spouses is not permitted under God’s law.

Two separate briefs — one filed by law enforcement officers and another by military personnel and their families — both argue that gay and lesbian soldiers and first responders put their lives on the line and should be given equal recognition.

In the case of the military, the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the federal “Defense of Marriage Act,” both mean the federal government recognizes the same-sex marriages of military men and women, but the states where they may be stationed do not.

“The uneven of marriage equality from state to state for same-sex couples is hindering the military’s progress,” reads the brief, filed by the American Military Partner Association and OutServe-SLDN (the second half of which stands for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network).

“No legally married couple would look fondly upon a move from a state where the couple’s marriage is recognized to a state where their marriage is annulled for state-law purposes,” it goes on. “The unequal treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex married military couples undermines the well-established principle of uniformity, which lies at the heart of military unit cohesion and morale.”

When it comes to the science of same-sex marriages, two briefs from mental health professionals argue that homosexuality is a normal expression of sexuality and that gay men and women form long-lasting relationships that are on par with heterosexual relationships. There is no scientific basis for assuming children raised by same-sex parents are any less healthy or well-adjusted as those raised by opposite-sex couples, argues the brief filed by the American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Worker and the Kentucky Psychological Association.

At the Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of Law, the country’s oldest historically black college points out that many of the arguments made against same-sex marriages were once made in protest of interracial unions.

“At the heart of the opposition to interracial marriage was the perceived need to maintain social order and preserve American families by sanctifying racial purity,” the argument reads. Interracial marriages were also perceived as “unnatural,” threatening to traditional families and “solely sexual.”

But society grew past its hang-ups with interracial marriages, and now recognizes there is no harm in allowing people to marry whomever they want no matter his or her race.

“Setting aside the discredited arguments used against interracial marriage, there can be no credible evidence that allowing couples of the same sex to marry would threaten either American Society or the institution of marriage itself,” the brief reads.

Employers ranging from local businesses, including local Louisville, Ky.,-chain Heine Brothers Coffee to national conglomerates like Starbucks, have also spoken out about the difficulty of recruiting and retaining employees when same-sex employees may not want to live in a state where their marriage isn’t recognized or where employee benefits are not standard across the country.

The brief, representing 57 employers including Alcoa, Google, eBay, New York Life Insurance Company, Viacom, Marriott and Pfizer, expresses the frustration of businesses trying to maintain a diverse workforce, create a culture of inclusion and offer consistent employee benefits to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

For nationwide companies, adhering to different laws in each state creates “a complicated landscape of laws and human resources regulations.” Offering employees stipends to cover the costs of benefits already offered to other employees means a higher out-of-pocket cost for the company.

But for all the briefs filed against the state, at least one brief is made up of its own: Tennessee state lawmakers.

The brief was filed by the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, which is affiliated with the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

Thirty-seven state representatives, 16 senators and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, all Republicans, signed the brief. Among them are Knoxville lawmakers Rep. Harry Brooks, Rep. Bill Dunn and Sen. Stacey Campfield.

In their brief, the lawmakers dismiss the idea that a ban on same-sex marriage is discriminatory. Instead, they argue the question at hand — whether Tennessee must recognize marriage licenses in other states — “depends on whether a sovereign state can determine for itself the definition of marriage within its own borders. “

Their answer, of course, is yes — it is up to the people of Tennessee to decide whether marriage should include same-sex marriage.