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March 6, 2015

Attorney General Jepsen Joins Coalition Urging U.S. Supreme Court

to Uphold Right to Marry Nationally

States Argue that Laws Barring Same-Sex Couples from Marrying are Unconstitutional

HARTFORD-Attorney General Jepsen has joined a coalition of states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the United States Supreme Court arguing that the U.S. Constitution requires marriage equality nationwide.

The amicus brief filed today by the Massachusetts Attorney General on behalf of more than a dozen states was submitted in the cases of Obergefell v. Hodges, Tanco v. Haslam, DeBoer v. Snyder and Bourke v. Beshear. All of these cases are currently on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and are scheduled for oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28.

“Discrimination and access to marital rights based on sexual orientation has no place in our society or under our laws,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “When states choose to not recognize marriages that were legally performed, major decisions about employment, education and residency are all impacted. Same sex couples deserve the stability and benefits that come with marriage. I urge the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm these decisions and uphold the right to marry nationwide.”

In Obergefell, James Obergefell and John Arthur accuse the state of Ohio of discriminating against same-sex couples lawfully wed out-of-state. Obergefell and Arthur were legally wed in Maryland and when Arthur became terminally ill, he chose Obergefell as his surviving spouse. Because Ohio bans same-sex marriage, they refused to recognize their marriage and did not list Obergefell as Arthur's survivor on his death certificate. In consolidating Obergefell, with the cases mentioned above, the U.S. Supreme Court is asked to determine if the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and whether it requires a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex that was legally licensed and performed in another state.

In their amicus brief, the states argue that the continued refusal to license or recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples by non-recognition states creates significant obstacles for same-sex couples and their families, including those living in marriage equality states.  Widespread harm is caused when non-recognition states refuse to amend birth certificates and death certificates to include both spouses and allow employers to deny access to healthcare coverage for spouses. Same-sex couples also face obstacles in regard to parental rights and the ability to make decisions when spouses are hospitalized.

In the U.S., a total of 12 states currently refuse to permit marriages between same-sex couple, even those lawfully licensed by other states. However, 21 states are now honoring same-sex marriages only because they have been required to by recent federal court decisions that found their marriage bans unconstitutional. Unless the Supreme Court recognizes marriage equality nationally, those states may cease to honor same-sex marriages as well.

Led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, Connecticut joined 19 other jurisdictions, including California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington in submitting briefs in support of the right to marry. Hawaii, Minnesota and Virginia filed separate briefs. 

Click here to view Obergefell amicus brief.


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