For Immediate Release

Defense Of Marriage Act Promotes Religion And Should Be Struck Down, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Asserts That Law Enshrines Certain Theological Views Into Law

WASHINGTON - The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is an example of government promotion of religion and should be struck down, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has told the U.S. Supreme Court.

Americans United on Friday joined a friend-of-the-court brief asserting that DOMA should be struck down on church-state grounds.

“DOMA takes the view of marriage held by some – but by no means all – religious groups and enshrines that into law,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This is a clear example of government favoritism toward one religious view over others.”

The brief notes that religious groups have the right to determine their own parameters for marriage. For example, some churches will not marry interfaith couples and some will not allow a person to remarry after a divorce. These religious standards, the brief says, cannot be injected into secular law.

“Under our constitutional scheme, these groups have a fundamental right to adopt and modify the requirements for marriage within their own religious communities,” argues the brief. “But they do not have the right to impose their particular religious view onto the institution of civil marriage.”

The brief goes on to argue, “While some religious institutions may have a history of defining marriage as between a man and a woman, that tradition is separate from, and cannot be allowed to dictate, civil law. The legal definition of civil marriage is not tied to particular religious traditions, but instead reflects changes in contemporary understandings of marriage.

“A religious group cannot be forced to open its doors or its sacraments to those who disagree with its traditions,” it continues, “but neither can the government restrict access to civil marriage to align with any particular religious beliefs.”

The brief in United States v. Windsor was drafted primarily by attorneys at the law firm of Ropes & Gray and the Anti-Defamation League, with writing assistance provided by Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan.


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Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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