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Religious, other groups join same-sex married couple to seek overturn of Prop. 8

File briefs on federal court deadline for commenting on case now under judge's review

Several coalitions of church groups, psychology organizations and civil rights groups asked a federal judge in San Francisco today to overturn California's ban on same-sex marriage.

The groups' pleas were made in so-called friend-of-the-court briefs filed in support of two same-sex couples who are challenging the ban enacted by state voters in 2008 as Proposition 8.

Today was the deadline set by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker for filing such briefs, which can be submitted by outside parties in support of either of the two official sides in a lawsuit.

Testimony in a 12-day trial on the couples' lawsuit ended on Jan. 27. Walker will hear closing arguments later, possibly in March, and is expected to issue a written ruling at a later date.

By early evening today, eight friend-of-the-court briefs, some joined by a dozen or more organizations, were filed in support of the plaintiffs in the case.

One brief was filed on the other side in support of the sponsors of Proposition 8.

That brief was submitted by Dublin attorney Michael McDermott, who charged that the attack on Proposition 8 is "an overt act of ideological thought policing, financed mainly by radical Hollywood activists."

On the side of the couples challenging the initiative, two briefs filed by psychology and family therapy associations argued that children aren't harmed by having gay and lesbian parents.

A coalition of therapy organizations wrote, "No peer-reviewed research supports a conclusion that same-sex couples are less effective parents than heterosexual couples."

Three civil rights groups - the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights - offered an argument that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional because of its "unique history and nature."

They said that as a result of Proposition 8, California law denies same-sex couples the status of marriage at the same time that it gives those who are registered domestic partners the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples.

The organizations wrote, "The government may not decide that two groups of people are similarly situated with regard to the purposes of a law, but nonetheless have that law treat them differently."

A coalition of Christian and Jewish religious groups, including the California Council of Churches, wrote that Proposition 8 enshrines "strongly negative religious attitudes toward homosexuality and homosexuals not universally shared by all faiths and denominations."

They argued, "California should not be permitted to strip a disfavored minority of a fundamental civil right by enacting its most powerful sects' religious doctrine as general law."

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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