Importance of The People’s Brief

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human-rights-campaignThe Human Rights Campaign has launched an unprecedented “People’s Brief” to the U.S. Supreme Court. Roberta Kaplan, the leading civil rights litigator who won a landmark Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor striking down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, is the author and lead counsel on the brief. The historic effort, joined by Edie Windsor as first signer, gives every American a chance to share their view on marriage equality with the Supreme Court.


On February 9th, HRC launched an unprecedented “People’s Brief” to the U.S. Supreme Court. Roberta Kaplan, the leading civil rights litigator who won a landmark Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor striking down Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, is the author and lead counsel on the brief. The “People’s Brief” campaign allows any American who has read the brief and agrees with its contents to sign on and to show their support for marriage equality directly to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a crucial marriage equality case this spring, and is expected to resolve the issue of national marriage equality once and for all in a ruling this summer. The People’s Brief marks the first time that many fair-minded Americans will have the opportunity to have their voices formally heard in a civil rights case of this magnitude.

By going to HRC.org, LGBT Americans as well as their friends, family members, coworkers and other allies can review the contents of the brief and affix their name to a document that will be entered into the record, distributed to the Supreme Court justices, and considered by the highest court in the land.

Edie Windsor, the trailblazing plaintiff who successfully challenged the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act at the Supreme Court in 2013, was the first signatory on the People’s Brief—one of dozens of amicus briefs that are expected to be submitted to the high court in support of marriage equality.

“When it comes to marriage equality, the Supreme Court has heard from business leaders and elected officials, faith leaders and even the President of the United States,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “But, until now, they’ve never heard from the fair-minded American majority who simply wants to see their LGBT friends and neighbors treated fairly and equally under the law. As we fight to guarantee marriage equality for all Americans, the People’s Brief will show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the country is ready for marriage and that love can’t wait even a single day longer.”

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that laws passed based upon a desire to discriminate against gay people offend the equal protection principles of our Constitution,” preeminent litigator and lead counsel Roberta Kaplan said. “Such laws treat gay people as second class citizens—exactly what the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits. Over the course of decades, the American people have come to realize that their gay friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues have the same dignity and the same aspirations to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as everyone else. This brief describes that phenomenon and its impact on the law.”

HRC is launching a campaign to collect signatures on the brief over the next four weeks. A national paid social media and online advertising effort will drive marriage equality supporters to a webpage where they can read and sign the brief.

About the Brief

A summary outline of the brief reads:

“Times can blind us to certain truths,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a major 2003 LGBT rights opinion, “later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact only serve to oppress.”

Many voters and legislators really were blinded by the times when they supported laws and constitutional amendments banning marriage equality. They did not realize that they knew LGBT people personally, and could not recognize the contributions that LGBT people and their families make—as employees, as neighbors, as part of the social fabric in every community in America. Some saw the LGBT community as strangers, not as people with the same hopes and dreams as anyone else.

In many respects, those oppressive times are behind us. In poll after poll, the broad majority of Americans now support marriage equality. Many people who once opposed it are unafraid to admit their views have evolved. Why? They’ve simply met LGBT people in their own lives.

In other words, the laws challenged in this case are more than fundamentally unfair. They were adopted at a time when many did not understand that LGBT Americans are individuals deserving of dignity. The Supreme Court has already recognized in US v. Windsor that LGBT people have an inherent right to dignity. In light of this undeniable truth, it’s time to leave the blindness of the past behind and guarantee the equal protection our constitution promises to every American.

The brief will be formally submitted to the Supreme Court in advance of the March 6 deadline for such submissions.

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