Challenges to State Marriage Laws and Federal DOMA Continue in California

Jan 28, 2005

Yesterday, Liberty Counsel attorney Rena Lindevaldsen, appeared in federal court to argue a summary judgment motion in support of the constitutionality of the state's marriage laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"). One of the last remaining challenges to the federal DOMA, Smelt v. Orange County, is a case in which a same-sex couple filed suit in federal court challenging Proposition 22, a statewide initiative passed in 2000 preserving traditional marriage, as well as the federal DOMA. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Rena Lindevaldsen, Senior Litigation Counsel of Liberty Counsel, represent Campaign for California Families ("CCF"). CCF was granted intervention to defend the case.

The arguments yesterday centered on whether California's marriage laws, which clearly limit marriage to one man and one woman, are constitutional. Rena Lindevaldsen argued that the state of California has the right to limit marriage to the union of one man and one woman in order to promote the ideal setting to raise children. Studies and evidence clearly support the fact that children do best when raised by a mother and a father. To grant same-sex marriage would undermine the most basic, fundamental institution upon which our society rests. Furthermore, Lindevaldsen argued that the federal DOMA, which allows states to reject same-sex marriages from other states, is constitutional. This case is the last remaining challenge to the federal DOMA in federal court, as three federal challenges in Florida were dismissed this past week.

After more than five hours of argument, the Plaintiffs' entire case rested on their plea for the court to ignore well-established federal law. Plaintiffs told Judge Taylor that the Supreme Court had sent him a telegram in its 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, where the court overturned a law criminalizing same-sex sodomy. Lawrence, however, expressly stated it was not ruling on whether the state must place its stamp of approval on same-sex relationships.

The challenge to the federal DOMA in this case is bizarre, because it only applies when one state refuses to accept the validity of an out-of-state, same-sex union. Here, the Plaintiffs have no legal, same-sex union from any state. Thus, the DOMA challenge should be dismissed.

Liberty Counsel President Mathew Staver stated, "A mother and a father provide the most healthy and stable environment for children. There is a direct correlation between marriage and the security of our community. Same-sex marriage would destroy marriage, hurt children and cause havoc, as one state law collides with another. Congress should move quickly to pass a bill to amend the U.S. Constitution to preserve traditional marriage."

Liberty Counsel is a nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family. Liberty Counsel is directly involved in defending more than thirty marriage cases throughout the country.