SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–If the major homosexual activist groups have their way, there won’t be an outbreak of “gay marriage” lawsuits nationwide now that California has legalized such unions — at least not yet.
Nine of the nation’s largest homosexual activist organizations have issued a joint six-page statement urging couples not to sue in their home states or in federal court. The reason? Losses in such lawsuits could set the “gay marriage” movement back for years.
The joint document, called “Make Change, Not Lawsuits,” was signed by, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).
For years the groups have worked together to put forth a unified effort on the issue of “gay marriage” and “gay rights.” The statement, though, is the first time they have jointly put their strategy on paper for the entire nation to read.
The document apparently seeks to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2005 when a federal judge in Florida tossed out a lawsuit against the federal Defense of Marriage Act and in Arizona in 2003 when a state appeals court refused to legalize “gay marriage.” Neither lawsuit had the backing of major homosexual activist groups.
“The fastest way to win the freedom to marry throughout America is by getting marriage through state courts (to show that fairness requires it) and state legislatures (to show that people support it),” the June 9 statement reads. “We need to start with states where we have the best odds of winning. When we’ve won in a critical mass of states, we can turn to Congress and the federal courts. At that point, we’ll ask that the U.S. government treat all marriages equally. And we’ll ask that all states give equal treatment to all marriages and civil unions that are celebrated in other states.
“… But one thing couples shouldn’t do is just sue the federal government or, if they are from other states, go sue their home state or their employer to recognize their marriage or open up the health plan. Pushing the federal government before we have a critical mass of states recognizing same-sex relationships or suing in states where the courts aren’t ready is likely to get us bad rulings. Bad rulings will make it much more difficult for us to win marriage, and will certainly make it take much longer.”
The groups argue it “will take longer to win the right to marry in states where we first lose cases, than it would if we waited” and sued later.
“As society gets more used to gay and lesbian couples being married, it will be easier to win cases in states that look iffy now,” the document reads. “In a few years, the cases just won’t seem like such a big jump. If we plunge ahead and lose cases in those states now, the courts will have to overrule themselves later to go our way. That usually takes a few years at least, and often much longer. That means it is likely to take longer to get a good decision than it would have taken if we hadn’t brought a case early on and lost it.”
The U.S. Supreme Court, the statement says, might not be ready to issue a favorable ruling for homosexual activists.
“The history is pretty clear: the U.S. Supreme Court typically does not get too far ahead of either public opinion or the law in the majority of states. For example, few states still had laws requiring segregation or outlawing interracial marriage by the time the Court struck those laws down. Most states had already struck down or repealed their own laws against same-sex intimacy when the Supreme Court invalidated Texas’s law. Right now, we need to make gains in both public opinion and state law.”
The statement urges same-sex couples to work toward defeating a proposed constitutional marriage amendment in California.
“A loss on the initiative in California — a loss at the hands of voters — would be particularly damaging to work in other state legislatures and other state courts,” the statement says. “That makes the California campaign of prime importance. … Marriage in California will transform the national debate on the freedom to marry. It will do that because the decision is well-reasoned constitutional law from the most influential state court in the nation. It will do that because California is an American trendsetter. But marriage in California will do those things only if we can hold onto it.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.