Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Cites Pollvogt's Amicus Brief

Photograph: ObergefellWashburn Law Professor Susannah Pollvogt co-authored an amicus brief that was cited in the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, extending the fundamental right of marriage to same sex couples. An astounding 149 amicus briefs were filed in this case, but less than 10 were cited in the majority opinion, including Pollvogt and her colleague’s Brief of Amici Curiae Scholars of the Constitutional Rights of Children in Support of Petitioners.

Photograph: Susannah Pollvogt

“My colleagues, Catherine Smith, Tanya Washington, Lauren Fontana, and I were incredibly happy about the outcome in Obergefell v. Hodges, and especially pleased that the Court cited our amicus brief in its decision,” said Pollvogt. “Specifically, the Court cited our brief for the proposition that, among myriad other benefits, ‘Marriage also affords the permanency and stability important to children’s best interests.’” In their brief, the authors argued that the Court has unequivocally held that states may not punish children based on matters beyond their control, and that state marriage bans harm children by depriving them of important legal, economic, and social benefits without justification.

Pollvogt was interviewed by Colorado Public Radio about the same-sex marriage ruling. “It simply reaffirms that right at the highest judicial level. And, it further makes marriage a nationwide right.” Looking forward, she sees that what we have now is a marriage right, but we don’t have a right for sexual minorities to be free of discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the national level. “The Court’s decision did not designate sexual minorities as a protected class which would have had a much greater impact in terms of the equality of sexual minorities in our nation,” she explained.  

In the future, Pollvogt anticipates that there will be resistance on the part of people who seek religious exemption. “The wonderful thing about our Constitution is that it both protects religious freedom and equality and tolerance,” she said. In the Supreme Court’s ruling, Pollvogt observed that Justice Kennedy went to great lengths to explicitly reinforce the right of people to maintain their private and faith community religious beliefs under the First Amendment.

Washburn Law faculty enthusiastically congratulated Pollvogt on the inclusion of her brief in the Court’s landmark decision. “What is most remarkable about this friendly brief is the combined effort of four law professors of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds to pool intellectual and experiential resources to appeal to the high court that their ruling would have an impact on children,” said Professor L. Ali Khan. “Truly admirable and fruitful professorial activism!” 

Pollvogt is an associate professor of law and director of academic skills and bar passage. Her teaching responsibilities include Legal Analysis in Context - Torts and Mastering Legal Analysis. Learn more about Pollvogt at her blog.

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