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Episcopal bishops sign amici curiae briefs in support of civil marriage equality

 

More than two dozen bishops of The Episcopal Church have filed two briefs in the United States Supreme Court supporting civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. At the invitation of the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California and Christopher J. Hayes, Esq., chancellor of the diocese, bishops across The Episcopal Church joined a broad range of religious groups, organizations, and leaders in filings in two historic cases pending in the Supreme Court.

In one filing, Episcopal bishops in the state of California unanimously supported a challenge to the constitutionality of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that ended access to civil marriage for same-sex couples in California. They joined Episcopal bishops in nine other states and Washington, D.C.—29 bishops in all, representing 23 out of 24 dioceses in civil jurisdictions with marriage equality—in supporting a second brief challenging the constitutionality of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” or DOMA, which prevents the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex civil marriages in their dioceses. The bishops represent dioceses located in the States of California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The amicus curiae briefs are among at least 40 expected to be filed with the Supreme Court this week from groups representing current and former military leaders, members of Congress, medical and mental health associations, CEOs from more than 280 leading businesses, former U.S. government officials, and experts in history, family law, and family and child welfare.

The bishops’ action follows historic steps by The Episcopal Church in support of civil marriage equality for same-sex couples and in developing rites for blessing same-sex unions. In 2006 the highest legislative body of The Episcopal Church, its General Convention, adopted resolution A095 calling on federal, state, and local governments to provide legal protection for same-sex couples and opposed the adoption of laws like Proposition 8 that prohibit same-sex civil marriages or civil unions. The 2009 General Convention of The Episcopal Church charged the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to develop rites for blessing same-sex unions in resolution C056. This same resolution authorized “bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, [to] provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church.”

The 2012 General Convention reaffirmed this generous pastoral response for bishops and authorized rites developed by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in resolution A049. This resolution further authorized bishops to make adaptations to the liturgies to meet the needs of the members of The Episcopal Church. The same General Convention called on Congress to repeal DOMA and similar laws in resolution D018.

The bishops who have joined these briefs have engaged in a generous pastoral response, many by authorizing the priests of their diocese to officiate at same-sex civil marriages. The Episcopal Church is currently engaging and in-depth study of the theology of marriage.

The Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California said about the briefs, “We have signed these briefs because The Episcopal Church is on the side of integrating human rights and respect. We are honored to be supporting these Supreme Court briefs and view our participation as one line of our overall support of the rights of LGBT people. That support also includes advocacy and the development of supportive structures within the church to offer welcome into loving Christian communities.”

Christopher J. Hayes, an attorney and Chancellor of the Diocese of California, added, “These two cases will be among the most important decisions the Supreme Court has made in decades. Voices from every sector of American government, society, profession, and faith are filing briefs to tell the Supreme Court where they stand. Same-sex couples deserve the equal protection of the law; it does not interfere with the free exercise of any religion for the government to recognize that equality for civil marriage. It is important for the Supreme Court to hear from The Episcopal Church that we welcome civil marriage for all loving couples.”

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, president of IntegrityUSA, the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in The Episcopal Church, said, “Integrity is delighted that the Bishops have signed on to these two amici briefs. Last year General Convention passed resolution D018 urging members of Congress to repeal federal laws that discriminate against civilly married same-gender couples. Signing the amicus brief in Windsor v. United States is a logical step as it supports the repeal of the discriminatory so-called Defense of Marriage Act. However it is a step that might not have been taken had it not been for the courage of the bishops involved and the leadership of the Diocese of California. Once again, The Episcopal Church joins with the leaders in this important witness and commitment to social justice.”

Hall continued, “Bravo to the Bishops of the California dioceses who have again shown their commitment to end discrimination against gay and lesbian couples by signing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court against California’s Proposition 8. Proposition 8 denies a basic right to happiness to all those who wish to live in committed and stable same-gender relationships. The Church has a reputation for standing against injustice, and this is another time when we can be proud of her stand, and the leadership of our bishops.”

Brian Baker of the Chicago Consultation commented, “At the 2012 General Convention the Episcopal Church took an important step in authorizing a rite to bless same-sex couples.   After working for equality for in the church, the Chicago Consultation enthusiastically supports equality in the civil realm.  Our faith requires us to strive for justice which includes extending the legal benefits of marriage to all couples.” The Chicago Consultation’s principal focus is on strategies for advancing the inclusion on GLBT people in the sacramental life of the Church while resisting further discrimination

Edith Windsor, plaintiff in the DOMA case, is an 83-year-old woman who hopes not only for the expansion of marriage if DOMA is overturned, but for ongoing end of the stigma against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. Because of DOMA she was not granted a marital deduction on her wife’s estate and required to pay over $360,000 in estate taxes that she would not have owed if her spouse had been male. Although she brought the case against the United States government, the Obama administration agrees with Windsor and has asked the Supreme Court to find DOMA unconstitutional. The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has intervened and asked the Court to uphold DOMA. The case is United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307.

The challenge to Proposition 8 was brought by Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, California, and by Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank, California, who were barred from marrying by the passage of the ballot proposition, along with the City and County of San Francisco, which was barred from issuing marriage licenses to other same-sex couples. They sued the State of California, which agreed that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional; the sponsors of the ballot initiative have intervened and asked the Court to uphold Proposition 8. The case is Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144.

Other amici joining the Episcopal bishops on both briefs include the Rabbinical Assembly, which is the international association of Conservative rabbis; the Union for Reform Judaism; the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the professional association of Reconstructionist rabbis; the Unitarian Universalist Association; and the United Church of Christ among others. Groups within the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American, Society of Friends, and The United Methodist Church also signed the brief.

Groups filing amici briefs arguing in favor of the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and DOMA include the Family Research Council, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, among others.

The Episcopal Diocese of California and bishops signing the amici briefs on Windsor and Perry are grateful for the attorneys at Kramer, Levin, Naftalis, & Frankel for their hard work and authorship of the briefs.

The Episcopal bishops signing the briefs include:

In the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry: the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California; the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of El Camino Real (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop of Northern California; the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, Bishop of San Diego (Cal.); and the Rt. Rev. Chester L. Talton, Bishop of San Joaquin (Cal.). These bishops all serve The Episcopal Church in the State of California.

In the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor: the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California; the Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of El Camino Real (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop of Northern California; the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, Bishop of San Diego (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Chester L. Talton, Bishop of San Joaquin (Cal.); the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut; the Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut; the Rt. Rev. James E. Curry, Bishop Suffragan of Connecticut; the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of Washington (D.C.); the Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, Bishop of Iowa; the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of Maine; the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of Maryland; the Rt. Rev. Joe Goodwin Burnett, Assistant Bishop of Maryland; the Rt. Rev. James Joseph Shand, Bishop of Easton (Md.); the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw SSJE, Bishop of Massachusetts; the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan of Massachusetts; the Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop of Western Massachusetts; the Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop of New Hampshire; the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, Bishop of New York; the Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island (N.Y.); the Rt. Rev. Gladstone B. Adams III, Bishop of Central New York; the Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh, Bishop of Rochester (N.Y.); the Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin, Bishop of Western New York; the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, Bishop of Vermont; the Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, Bishop of Olympia (Wash.); and the Rt. Rev. James E. Waggoner, Jr., Bishop of Spokane (with respect to the portion of the diocese located in the State of Washington). These bishops serve The Episcopal Church in the States of California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

The Episcopal Diocese of California serves a diverse community of faith encompassing the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Approximately 27,000 people form 80 congregations in seven counties under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California.

Contact information for the other bishops can be found here.

UPDATED: The amicus brief for the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry is  available here. The amicus brief in the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor is available here.