Post submitted by Fred Sainz, former HRC Vice President, Communications & Marketing
Last week Byron Babione of the Alliance Defending Freedom – an anti-gay legal group representing Prince William County Clerk of Court Michele McQuigg – filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. McQuigg was permitted by the district court to intervene in defense of the state’s ban on marriage in Bostic v. Rainey.
Throughout the brief, Babione uses terms like "genderless marriage" and "marriage-mimicking construct" when referring to marriages between same-sex couples. Opponents of equality have often used such language, which is deeply steeped in homophobia, to marginalize and stigmatize committed and loving gay and lesbian couples when arguing in support of discrimination.
Those who defend bans on marriage equality or other similar issues often argue that children do better when raised by dual-gender parents (an argument that has been disputed by the nation’s leading child welfare, psychology and children’s health organizations). In fact, Mr. Babione made the same argument in a similar case out of Oklahoma – Bishop v. United States– warning against turning marriage into a “genderless institution.”
However, U.S. District Judge Terence Kern ruled in favor of marriage equality and against Mr. Babione in that case, writing, “Exclusion of just one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived 'threat' they pose to the marital institution is, at bottom, an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority's disapproval of the defined class. It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships."
The use of inherently disparaging and demeaning phrases like those used by Michele McQuigg’s attorney Byron Babione have no place in the judicial process. Prejudice and anti-gay animus are not acceptable much less viable legal arguments – especially when discussing real people with real lives and real families.