Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of academics, several states and five religious organizations, including the LDS Church, weighed in on Utah's fight against same-sex marriage with hundreds of pages of arguments filed Monday in a federal appeals court.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist and evangelical churches and groups joined together to rebut the contention that their belief in marriage between a man and a woman is borne of bigotry.
"The accusation is false and offensive," according to a 53-page court brief. "In truth, we support the husband-wife definition of marriage because we believe it is right and good for children, families and society. Our respective faith traditions teach us that truth. But so do reason, long experience and social fact."
At least 20 friend-of-the-court briefs, many of them joint efforts by multiple organizations or people, were filed in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals before Monday's midnight deadline supporting Utah's case from varied points of view.
Arguments include defense of the long-standing definition of marriage, and that states have the authority to regulate marriage and voters have the right to define it through the democratic process.
Briefs also argue that only a man and a woman can bear children and traditional marriage is the best environment to rear them. Some of the briefs contend that gay and lesbian people are not a protected class, and that sexual orientation isn't solely biological and can change over time.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Association of Evangelicals, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Lutheran Mission Synod say they bear no "ill will" toward same-sex couples.
"Faith communities and religious organizations have a long history of upholding traditional marriage for reasons that have nothing to do with homosexuality. Their support for husband-wife marriage precedes by centuries the very idea of same-sex marriage," according to the brief.
The brief outlines why marriage between a man and a woman is "sanctioned by God as the right and best setting for bearing and raising children" from the perspective of each of the five faiths.
"No other institution joins together two persons with the natural ability to create children for the purpose of maximizing the welfare of such children," according to the brief.
"We know, from personal experience over numerous decades of ministering to families and children, that more focus on satisfying adult needs will not benefit vulnerable children."
The brief also explains why the support of religious organizations for traditional marriage laws "by no stretch undermines their constitutionality."
Laws protecting traditional marriage "are entitled to be judged on their merits based on settled rules of law — not on a more demanding standard born of suspicion toward religion, religious believers or their values," according to the brief.
Utah voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 2004 defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Three same-sex couples challenged the law in federal court last March.
U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby found the law violated the equal protection and due process provisions in the 14th Amendment. Shelby ruled that it denies gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and demeans the dignity of same-sex couples for no rational reason. He agreed with Utah that marriage laws have traditionally been and remain the province of states, but must comply with the U.S. Constitution.
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