Even though 501(c)(3) organizations face severe limitations on lobbying, they do find ways to weigh in on public policy issues. Inside Higher Ed reports that three scholarly associations have filed amicus briefs in favor of same-sex marriage:
In briefs filed or about to be filed with the court, the associations are citing what they call a scholarly consensus on key research issues that are part of the legal arguments before the court. So while many scholars in the associations support gay marriage rights, the briefs themselves focus on scholarly issues. And briefs filed by individuals -- some of them scholars -- opposed to gay marriage deal with some of the same research questions, but draw very different conclusions.
In addition, at least one college -- Patrick Henry College -- has filed a brief with the Supreme Court, opposing gay marriage. "[B]ased on its moral convictions arising from its traditional Christian faith, the college views the practice of homosexuality as moral error and would refuse any recognition of same-sex marriage for any of its internal purposes," the brief says. "The outcome of this litigation could operate effectively to change the law of Virginia to require legal recognition of same-sex marriage within the Commonwealth. This could impact the College’s ability to deny such recognition for its internal purposes."
Most of the briefs from disciplinary associations and groups of scholars focus on research. Briefs by the American Sociological Association and the American Psychological Association discuss at length research on the children of same-sex couples. Opponents of gay marriage have argued that children benefit from being raised by a mother and father in a traditional, opposite-sex marriage -- and the social science associations say that there is no valid research basis for such a claim. Because courts generally want to see a public good or compelling reason to justify discrimination, and because opponents of gay marriage cite child-rearing as part of their argument, the issue at play here could be significant.
The American Historical Association, meanwhile, is joining a brief being filed today by individual historians on the narrow question of the way marriage law has been set in the United States. The historians' brief argues that the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law barring gay marriage, runs counter to the tradition in the United States of Congress deferring to states on issues related to marriage. The brief argues that there should not be bans on states permitting same-sex marriage, but it does not argue that states should be required to permit it.