Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bishops Petition Supreme Court for Marriage Equality

Twenty-nine bishops in the ten states (plus Washington DC) where same-sex marriage is legal signed an amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court of the United States which challenges the constitutionality of the "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA), a 1996 law which mandates that the Federal government cannot recognize same-sex marriages. The leaders of all but one of the 24 dioceses where civil marriage is legal signed the brief addressing the case of Windsor v. United States, which is being heard by the Court this month.

The case refers specifically to an inheritance tax burden of over $360,000 owed by a New York woman after her wife died. The couple of 40 years was legally married in Canada in 2007, but DOMA stipulates that the inheritance benefits of marriage do not apply to even those same-sex marriages recognized by some states.

A second brief, signed by the bishops of all six dioceses in California, speaks to the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry and the overturn of Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot initiative which took away marriage equality in California after thousands of couples were legally married. The Supreme Court of California has already found the law unconstitutional, but its overturn was appealed by the initiative's sponsors.

Dozens of groups -- including one by the CEO's over many of the country's largest corporations -- recently filed briefs in favor of marriage equality.  The bishops' campaign was launched by the Right Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California, which includes San Francisco.  Bishop Andrus explained his motives in a Washington Post column published February 28th.

“We overturned nearly two millennia of set tradition when we began ordaining women 34 years ago. We repudiated the traditional tolerance of slavery and racial prejudice in the mid-20th century. We traded our cultural privilege and hegemony as a largely Anglo denomination for the wealthy and have deliberately become more and more consciously a church for all,” Andrus wrote. “In all these things we have prayed and thought and been in earnest conversation in and out of the church, and believed that in the end we have discerned better the mind of Christ than we had in the past.”

“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,” said the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, Integrity's President. “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.”

Please join us in thanking all the bishops for speaking out on marriage equality. For a complete list of the signers and more background, please visit this article on the Diocese of California website.

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