Lambda Legal joined with other LGBT legal and advocacy groups in filing two friend-of-the-court (amicus) briefs in major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court:
On April 1, 2010, Lambda Legal and other leading LGBT organizations, including Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force joined the State of Washington in defending laws requiring public disclosure of the names of voters who sign petitions supporting state ballot initiatives. In particular, this brief refutes the false claims now presented to the Supreme Court in this and other cases that individuals who support anti-gay initiatives have been subjected to “systematic intimidation” by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
In Doe v. Reed, anti-gay groups are asking the Supreme Court to overturn a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordering the release of the names of 138,000 people who signed petitions supporting a ballot initiative to repeal basic protections for same-sex couples in Washington State. In November 2009, Washington voters rejected this attempt – Referendum 71 – and preserved the state’s domestic partnership law. Under Washington’s Public Records Act, the signatures on referendum petitions are public. The antigay groups claim that their supporters would be exposed to harassment and intimidation by the LGBT community if their names were made public.
Our amicus brief argues that it is the lesbian and gay community that continues to suffer serious violence, harassment and discrimination, along with a 30-year barrage of ballot petitions aimed at stripping LGBT people and other minority groups of basic protections. The brief also attacks the notion of an alleged organized campaign of harassment and intimidation against supporters of anti-gay ballot initiatives, calling into question legal statements and press accounts cited by anti-gay groups (details available at www.glad.org/Doe-v-Reed).
“What is happening here is attackers screaming, ‘Help! Help!’ while they do the pummeling,” said Jon Davidson, Legal Director at Lambda Legal. “Let’s not forget who is really under assault. In trying to play the victim, anti-gay organizations are relying on exaggeration and outright lies to try to block an important check on anti-minority ballot initiatives. The requirement that petition signatures be available for public inspection prevents fraud and encourages open debate”
In the second case, Lambda Legal and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) filed a brief on March 15, 2010 in support of the University of California Hastings School of Law in a case brought by the Christian Legal Society (CLS) to challenge the school’s nondiscrimination policy. The law school’s policy requires student organizations supported by the school to agree to accept “all comers” and not to discriminate against students based on their status or beliefs. In 2004, Hastings denied CLS registration as an official campus organization after CLS refused to comply with the school’s nondiscrimination policy. CLS said that it could not comply because it requires that those who join its group to agree not to engage in “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” including “homosexual conduct.”
Registration as a student organization at Hastings gives groups the right to use Hastings’ name and logo, access to a university email address, limited use of facilities, and modest university funds for travel and other expenses. CLS sued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, saying that the school’s written policy only limits school support to organizations that agree not to discriminate based on certain enumerated categories, including religion and sexual orientation but that the Christian Legal Society excludes members on the basis of conduct, not orientation. After losing at both the District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, CLS appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The amicus brief by Lambda Legal and GLAD explains that CLS refused to accept all students as members and that excluding students who engage in same-sex sexual conduct does discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
“The Supreme Court already accepted, in Lambda Legal’s Lawrence v. Texas case, that treating people badly because they engage in same-sex sexual conduct obviously discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Davidson.
Davidson added, “CLS is demanding that even though it will not agree to the same reasonable conditions required of all other student groups Hastings assists, CLS must be provided a public school’s support. CLS has no right to such preferential treatment. The Constitution does not obligate the government to subsidize those who discriminate.”