Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic Files Amicus Brief in 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Arguing that Marriage Restrictions on Gay Couples Violate U.S. Constitution

New York, July 25, 2014—The laws of Idaho and several other western states impose a constitutionally impermissible burden on lesbians and gay men who seek to exercise their fundamental right to marry their chosen partner and have that marriage recognized, Columbia Law School’s Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic argues in an amicus brief filed today with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

The clinic’s brief, authored by Columbia Law School Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg, is filed in the case of four same-sex couples in Idaho challenging a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to different-sex couples. Goldberg argues that the U.S. Constitution’s due process guarantee has long been understood to protect against government interference in fundamental personal decision making, including the choice of one’s spouse.

“Idaho, along with the other states in the Ninth Circuit, has an extensive domestic relations framework that generally takes pains to avoid restrictions on individuals’ ability to marry the person of their choice,” writes Goldberg, director of the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic. “Matters stand otherwise with respect to individuals who would choose a spouse of the same sex in Idaho, as well as several of the other states in this Circuit, including Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Nevada. Freedom of choice is absent here.”

Goldberg’s clinic, founded in 2006, has extensive expertise in constitutional doctrine related to marriage and family recognition and has filed similar briefs in marriage equality cases across the country. Goldberg was co-counsel for plaintiffs in Lawrence v. Texas and Romer v. Evans, two U.S. Supreme Court cases that struck down a criminal statute punishing same-sex couples’ sexual intimacy and a law blocking antidiscrimination protections for gay people, respectively.

“Idaho is one of fourteen states where a marriage law was struck down by a district court for violating individuals’ freedom to marry and is now on appeal,” said Goldberg. “It is striking to see that states barely restrict marital choices – even minimum age rules can be waived – but forbid individuals from marrying a same-sex partner. This appeal is part of a broader wave of efforts across the country to secure full marriage equality for same-sex couples.”

Oral argument in the case is scheduled for September 8, 2014 at the Ninth Circuit’s courthouse in San Francisco.
Columbia Law School Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic student Helen Ethridge ’15 assisted with research for and preparation of the brief.

Read the brief.

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