Mormon, Jewish Religious Leaders Sign Amicus Briefs in Support of Marriage Equality

Amid the dozens of amicus briefs that were filed against the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8 were some real signs on how much the United States has shifted on LGBT equality. The signatories of these briefs might surprise some people. In addition to the businesses, faith leaders, entertainers, sports stars, and politicians of both parties, we'd like to lift up two more for specific attention.

The first set of briefs came from a coalition of religious organizations assembled by the Anti-Defamation League, including T'ruah (formerly known as Rabbis for Human Rights-North America). According to the statement the organization released, "T’ruah represents 1800 rabbis and cantors, of all Jewish denominations, as well as tens of thousands of Jewish community members in North America."

Of the decision to sign the amicus brief, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah, said, "it was also important to us to… emphasize that equality before the law is a Jewish and human rights imperative."

In statements regarding both the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, T'ruah explains that their, "commitment to human rights begins with the Torah’s declaration that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).” Additionally, they point out that the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements of Judaism all "permit clergy to sanctify same-sex relationships" and argue that, "while each rabbi or religious community retains the right to determine acceptable guidelines for religious marriage, the state has an obligation to guarantee to same-sex couples the legal rights and protections that accompany civil marriage." The reform movement of Judaism has permitted the performance of marriages between same-sex couples since 2000. The conservative movement has allowed such marriages since 2012.

According to The Jerusalem Post "the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund and the Hindu American Foundation," are just two of the non-Jewish groups who have also joined the ADL's coalition.

The other brief filed to the Prop 8 case that we wanted to highlight, comes from over twenty five "red-state" LGBT advocacy groups. According to Religious Dispatches Magazine, the brief was authored in Utah "by a team that included an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

The Mormon co-author, John Mackay, explained his decision to help author the brief, saying, "It really is about protecting people’s liberty, giving them the hope and human dignity that comes from being treated equally under the law… those are the same spiritual principles I identify within my Mormon faith."

Even though individual Mormons, like Mackay, are participating in a brief to oppose Prop 8, the Mormon Church has filed an amicus brief in support of upholding Prop 8, saying, in part, that, "opposite-sex definition of marriage in the civil law is not only constitutional but essential to the welfare of families, children, and society.”

The Mormon faith is currently in a time of flux regarding this issue. The Mormon Church recently launched a website, which promotes greater sensitivity towards the LGBT community. GLAAD has previously highlighted two Mormons who have voiced their support for marriage equality. Bishop Kevin Kloosterman came out in support of marriage equality in a speech in 2011, during which he apologized for the "the emotional wounds and scars" which many LGBT people have due to the Mormon Church. In 2011, Mitch Mayne, an openly gay man, was promoted to the position of Bishopric of the Bay Ward of the San Francisco Stake of the Mormon Church. In June 2012, a group of more than 300 straight Mormons marched in the Utah Gay Pride Parade. Other Mormon-affiliated groups marched in pride parades around the country.

Mackay thinks, "In their hearts members of the LDS Church get it; they want to be loving and accepting." However, he adds, "there will always be tension between that Mormon ethic of caring and the fact that the LDS Church is taking an opposing position in this case."          

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GLAAD is a part of the United for Marriage coalition, working with several marriage equality and justice organizations. Join GLAAD in Washington DC, March 25-27 as we stand United for Marriage. For full details, visit the United for Marriage web page and LIKE March 4 Marriage on Facebook.