For Immediate Release - June 16, 2014

AG Coakley Urges Federal Appeals Court to Strike Down Bans on Same-Sex Marriage

Leads Filing of Multi-State Amicus Brief Arguing that Marriage Bans in Michigan Violate the 14th Amendment; Fourth Amicus Brief in Marriage Equality Cases in Eight Months

BOSTON – Arguing that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in Michigan are unconstitutional, Attorney General Martha Coakley today led a coalition of states in filing a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

“Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry strengthens families, protects children, and benefits our communities and our states,” AG Coakley said. “Though support of same-sex marriage continues to build across the country, there is much work left to be done. As long as there are discriminatory laws on the books that deprive same-sex couples of their fundamental rights, we will continue to urge courts to strike them down.”

AG Coakley led the filing of the amicus brief on behalf of Massachusetts and a record 16 other jurisdictions to sign onto one of the Commonwealth’s same-sex marriage amicus briefs, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. 

Michigan laws do not permit same-sex marriages, nor do they permit the recognition of same-sex marriages licensed by other states. The brief argues that by withholding the rights and protections associated with marriage the laws relegate gay and lesbian individuals as well as their families to a second-class status that is impermissible under the Constitution.

AG Coakley’s brief also highlights the experiences of Massachusetts and other states that have ended the exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage. Relying on data regarding marriage rates, divorce rates, and non-marital birth rates, the brief refutes speculation offered by the proponents of restrictive marriage laws regarding the supposed negative effects of allowing same-sex couples to marry. The brief also argues that these restrictive laws actually harm families by denying the legal and social benefits of marriage to same-sex couples and their children. The brief urges the court to reject Michigan’s asserted interest in the preservation of history and tradition as a defense to an unconstitutional law.

The brief further argues that states “establish policies that encourage individuals to get and stay married because they recognize that marriage provides stability for families, households, and the broader community; that children are better off when they are raised by loving, committed parents; and that state resources are preserved when spouses provide for each other and their children.”  Because all of these purposes apply equally to same-sex couples, there is no legitimate basis for excluding them from marriage.

Today’s brief was filed in connection with DeBoer v. Snyder, on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Since the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in United States v. Windsor last June, AG Coakley has led the multi-state effort in support of gay and lesbian couples. On Oct. 25, 2013, AG Coakley filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in cases challenging Hawaii’s and Nevada’s bans on same-sex marriage. On Mar. 4, 2014, AG Coakley filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in cases challenging Oklahoma’s and Utah’s bans on same-sex marriage. On April 18, 2014, AG Coakley filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.  Those cases are still pending before the Courts of Appeals.

This matter was handled by Jonathan Miller, Chief of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division, and Assistant Attorneys General Genevieve Nadeau and Michelle Leung, also of AG Coakley’s Civil Rights Division.

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