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MLP Signs Amicus Briefs in Supreme Court Marriage Equality Cases

Equal Justice Under Law

More Light Presbyterians has joined ecumenical faith partners to sign two amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court of the United States to strike down DOMA (in Windsor) and Proposition 8 (in Perry). The briefs were submitted to the Supreme Court on Thursday, February 28.

If the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA and Proposition 8, writes legal scholar William Eskridge in scotusblog.com, “every state marriage law excluding lesbian and gay couples would be in immediate jeopardy, because no state could muster a compelling or substantial public interest that would satisfy the Second Circuit’s approach.”

“MLP will always stand on the side of justice for LGBTQ people both in the PC(USA) and in civil society. We are thrilled to join our ecumenical faith partners, as well as our friends at The Covenant Network of Presbyterians and Presbyterian Welcome in becoming amici for these briefs. These are historic days, and we hope that the witness raised by a broad coalition of progressive people of faith will speak a word of hope to the court and to those who have been historically excluded by both the church and the law.” Patrick Evans, Interim Executive Director at More Light Presbyterians

“We are honored to join our voices with those who stand for justice and inclusion of all of God’s children.  We look forward to the day when society fully lives into the promise of justice and equality for all.” Nathan Sobers, Co-Moderator at More Light Presbyterians

From the briefs:

Certain amici supporting reversal have argued that civil recognition for the marriages of same-sex couples would alter a longstanding “Christian” definition of “marriage.” But this and other religiously based arguments for limiting civil recognition of marriage to different-sex couples cannot constitutionally be given weight by this Court. Crediting such arguments would improperly both enshrine a particular religious belief in the law – itself prohibited under the Establishment Clause – and implicitly privilege religious viewpoints that oppose marriage equality over those that favor it.

For these and other reasons, civil recognition of same-sex relationships, including through marriage, is fundamentally consistent with the religious pluralism woven into the fabric of American law, culture, and society. An affirmance here would not amount to “taking sides” with one religious view against another or constitute an attack on religion. Nor would it signal a judicial imprimatur on changing social mores. Rather, an affirmance would recognize the creative tension inherent in religions’ interface with our pluralistic, changing society while confirming that all, regardless of faith, are entitled to equal protection under the law.

ARGUMENT

Americans are a religious people, but diversely so. Religious adherents differ on contentious issues, and religious bodies have themselves evolved and disagreed over time – on marriage as well as other civil rights and social issues. In view of that history and the wide range of modern religious thought on same-sex unions, it would be a mistake to elevate any one view on marriage above all others as the “Christian” or “religious” view. Indeed, it would be constitutionally inappropriate, because civil marriage is a secular institution, see Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 210 (1888), and the Constitution bars the government from favoring certain religious views over others, see Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 (1982). Religious freedom means that all voices may contribute to our national conversation, but particular religious perspectives on marriage cannot be permitted to control civil recognition of marriage for all…

With time, and across traditions, religious Americans have affirmed that the dignity of lesbian and gay people logically and theologically follows from the premise that all persons have inherent dignity. In some traditions, this affirmation has affected religious practice – e.g., in the ordination of clergy. In others, it has led to various forms of religious affirmation of same-sex unions. All of this confirms that no one “religious” view of even the rite of marriage predominates in America, putting aside the separate question of whether there is a common religious viewpoint on civil marriage…

Read the full briefs:

Windsor Religion Brief (pdf)

Perry Religion Brief (pdf)

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