Bishops sign amici curiae briefs in support of civil marriage equality

Unanimous support for Proposition 8 brief and virtually unanimous support for DOMA brief

Posted Feb 28, 2013

[Episcopal Diocese of California] More than two dozen bishops of the Episcopal Church have filed two briefs in U.S. Supreme Court supporting civil marriage equality for same-sex couples. At the invitation of the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of the Diocese of California and Christopher J. Hayes, 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.

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.

In one filing, bishops in 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 state. 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 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which prevents the U.S. government from recognizing same-sex civil marriages in their dioceses.

In 2006, the Episcopal Church General Convention of the adopted a resolution 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 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 called on Congress to repeal DOMA and similar laws.

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. 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.

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; the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, bishop of Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, bishop suffragan of Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, bishop suffragan of Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, bishop of Northern California; the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, bishop of San Diego; and the Rt. Rev. Chester L. Talton, bishop of San Joaquin. 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; the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. Diane Jardine Bruce, Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, bishop suffragan of Los Angeles; the Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, bishop of Northern California; the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, bishop of San Diego; the Rt. Rev. Chester L. Talton, bishop of San Joaquin; 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).


Comments (21)

  1. The Reverend Susan Russell says:

    As Americans we pledge to be a nation of liberty and justice for all and as Episcopalians we promise to respect the dignity of every human being – and today these bishops put both that pledge and that promise into action. Their actions are yet another sign that as a nation we are past the tipping point and that the time is now for marriage equality. As a life-long Episcopalian, a priest and pastor and a lesbian I could not be more proud of my church and of our bishops for their principled stand for justice. Today was an important step forward for those committed to a Protect Marriage Movement that protects all marriages and to a Family Values Coalition that values all families. And here in Pasadena at All Saints Church we look forward to the day in the not-too-distant future when civil marriage is once again available to all our couples and to the end of federal discrimination against same-sex married couples.

  2. Fr. Will McQueen says:


    1. Hugh Magee says:

      Heretics? Ha ha ha!

  3. Ronald J. Caldwell says:

    Many thanks to Bishop Andrus for his heroic work for human rights. How I wish he were still bishop here in the Diocese of Alabama and leading us again on our annual pilgrimage in Hayneville for the Blessed Jonathan Daniels, one of our most revered martyrs for equality. As Blessed Jonathan taught us, doing the right thing might bring down a fatal wrath from others but we do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do.

  4. Nathaniel John says:

    How will the bishops answer God Most High when he asks them how they upheld 1 Corinthians 6.9-10? Are they ready to tell him that it’s the right thing to do? “But the Lord will scorn them all; He will laugh, Who sits on high, Then His wrath will on them fall; Sore displeased He will reply:
    ‘Yet according to My will I have set My King to reign, And on Zion’s holy hill My Anointed I’ll maintain.'”

    1. Don Caron says:

      They might say something like, “Where we saw the fruit of mercy, justice and love, we saw the face of God; where we had the opportunity to support the dignity of human beings we risked derision to be faithful to Your call.”

  5. Danny L Anderson Jr says:

    Heretics? Father McQueen if you were in England during the 150’s you would be burned at the stake for being a heretic. Let the person who has NO SIN cast the first stone. People who marry then divorce and remarry while the ex-spouse is still alive are committing adultery … I don’t see that rule going back into the books of any mainline Protestant church.

    1. Fr. Will McQueen says:

      Yes, Danny, heretics. They have departed from catholic Christian teaching on human sexuality, and are propagating something completely opposite, and thus, rightly called heretics.

      1. Fr Steven M. Smith says:

        When bishops decide to move away from scripture, teachings of the ancient fathers, and apostolic tradition it is clear that they are NOT contending for the faith once delivered by the saints. I call on these bishops to repent, and until then I have no confidence in the validity of their sacraments.

    2. John Neitzel says:

      Amen to Les Singleton and Danny Anderson. As for teachings on human sexuality, why do so many single that out as “divine truth” when we’ve banned slavery, concubines, stoning for adultery? I’d like to remind people that there are plenty of Episcopal and Anglican priests and bishops who are divorced. And that wasn’t always so.

  6. Deb Jacoby-Twigg says:

    Thank you, bishops. Today, you make me feel proud and grateful to be an Episcopalian.

  7. Hugh Magee says:

    How orthodox is the concept of heresy?

  8. Les Singleton says:

    If I were a Biblical literalist, I’d have to go out and buy myself a slave. Anyway, I am being reluctantly drawn into accepting relationships that don’t appeal to me personally. I guess God had more cookie cutters available than I had realized.
    I can’t really tell the civil society not to have same gender marriages. Part of me still wants to find a way to bless (but not solemnize a marriage) within the church. And, I’m rapidly becoming minority.
    Heresy??? No. Because we are accepting creation the way God build the product.

  9. Mike Losinger says:

    Of the 24 dioceses, the one missing in this witness? My own: Albany. The diocese which this June prohibited its clergy from even ATTENDING same-sex marriage ceremonies! The amicus action of our bishops is deeply important in so many ways, not the least of which is its encouragement to those of us gay/lesbian Episcopalians struggling in the few hostile dioceses remaining. Thank you, bishops.

  10. John Neitzel says:

    And a big shout-out THANK YOU to my bishop, Rt. Rev. Gregory Rickel and the others who have the prophetic courage to stand up for what is right.

  11. Don McCleary says:

    Thank you to all these Episcopal bishops for standing up for marriage equality at this critical time.
    History will show that you are on the right side of this issue.
    I’m so proud to be an Episcopalian.

  12. Michael Curtner says:

    We, (my boyfriend & I) are very happy to have found a welcoming home in the Episcopal Church in very conservative mid-west Ohio. Our priest is performing our “Union Ceremony” in April and it will be
    in the church. There have been a few who have left because the congregation welcomes Gay people but for the most part our congregation has been very happy to have us.
    Thank You to all the bishops who are standing up for Equality for everyone !

  13. Jason Dench says:

    I am proud to be an Episcopalian and We are ALL GOD’S Children even if we are ALL in diffrent denominations. We ALL BELONG to GOD! God taught us to LOVE our Neighbor and Love is the most important Commandment above all. So I do also believe God created us ALL in HIS Image. Straight, Gay, Black, White,Hispanic,Asian. We all BELONG to God and he sent his Son Jesus Christ for Who EVER believes in HIM will Have Eternal Life -Amen-

  14. Andrew Magallanes says:

    Thank you Episcopal Church USA for doing what is right.

  15. Doug Desper says:

    Here’s a little something that didn’t make it clearly into the recent same gender blessing study underwritten (in part) by a secular gay rights group:
    ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ (Matthew 19:5)
    The Advocate of that radical concept (so missing in this ‘my way/my rights’ discussion) is “Jesus”.

  16. John Ryan, O.C.P. says:

    Thank you to all of the bishops who have come forward, especially my own, Bp. Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia. From a pastoral point I don’t think the Church can do anything other than support men and women in their honest search for a life in Christ. Revelation is an on going process, when we listen for the work of the Spirit of God and work with it, we find new ways of living out the Gospel Life. When we dig our heels in and look only to the past we block the work of the Spirit of God.

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