Monday, March 4, 2013

Friends (Quakers) for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns Endorses Friend of the Court Briefs in Two US Supreme Court Cases -- Details

[UPDATE: Briefs are available to read here.]

I recently attended the Mid-Winter Gathering of Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC).

During our first Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, one of our co-clerks brought a two-fold request to us from the law firm Kramer Levin, regarding friend of the court (amicus) briefs they were preparing to file in two civil same-sex marriage cases:

  • One, could we provide them with information on any policies from the Quaker equivalents of, for example, dioceses, supporting equal marriage for same-sex couples?
  • Two, would we endorse the briefs (become a signatory to the friend of the court briefs), with the understanding that they were not sure that, if we said yes, they would be able to use our name, that our name might not appear after all?

I agreed to serve on the committee looking at both these issues and bringing a recommendation back to Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business.

Co-Clerk had, I believe, already explained about Quakers' lack of dioceses, and so we set about finding information on the Yearly Meeting level -- much of which FLGBTQC already has compiled in our Collection of Marriage Minutes. Without disclosing why, I also posted electronic requests for information from other Yearly Meetings, to which a number of Friends who were not at Mid-Winter Gathering responded with resources.

When our committee met, several of us sat down to work our way through the draft brief to make sure we understood it before making a recommendation. Thankfully, it was very readable.

It was also, simply, a pleasure to read. The authors went through through many of the arguments set forth in briefs already filed in the cases in opposition to same-sex civil marriage, and just demolished them, simply and clearly, without ever being insulting; I was impressed.

You can read an outline of these arguments in this announcement, and you can read the originals of the briefs here and here. I highly recommend doing both -- as I said, the briefs are very readable -- but do read at least the announcement.

(It turns out I kept sending many people at the committee table into gales of laughter by blurting out, "Oh my gosh! This is brilliant!" over and over while I was reading.)

The law firm had also clearly done some good background research on Friends; we had a few factual corrections we asked them to make, but by and large they "got it right."

We took a summary and a recommendation for endorsement to Meeting for Worship with Attention to Business, where it was approved.

However, no matter how excited or happy I was, or how brilliant the draft brief, I couldn't talk about it, because until the brief was filed, it was client confidential.

Kramer Levin filed the briefs Thursday, 28 February, 2013 (yesterday)!

Here's Kramer Levin's announcement:

  • Kramer Levin Files Briefs in Historic Supreme Court LGBT Rights Cases

I highly recommend reading the announcement itself for a nice summary of the briefs' arguments.

I was also struck very much at the time by the parallels to the arguments of Friends in Britain regarding same-sex marriage, particularly General Meeting for Scotland's response in November of 2011 to the Scottish Government's Consultation on same-sex marriage. General Meeting for Scotland's statement is here; Britain Yearly Meeting's statements on same-sex marriage in general are here.

  • The brief for Hollingsworth v Perry (the CA Prop 8 case)
  • The brief for US v Windsor (the DOMA case from NY State)

There are so many reasons I'm excited about these two briefs, but here are a few:
  1. I had a very small but direct impact on some of the content of the brief. (I mean, holy shit.)
  2. It's a bunch of religious groups saying not only do DOMA and Prop 8 infringe on our religious freedom, but marriage equality does not infringe on any other religious groups' religious freedom, in spite of all their arguments.
  3. It demolishes all those arguments just brilliantly.
  4. A religious group I'm part of is a signatory / amicus curiae.

More briefs

If you'd like an amazing experience, grab a hankie and do a news search in your favorite search engine for "marriage briefs" or "DOMA briefs."

You will find reports of briefs supporting same-sex marriage from a huge array of groups and individuals -- religious groups, employers, unions, NFL players, advocacy groups, US states, doctors and psychologists, the Department of Justice, Democrats, Republicans, and more.

That's just not something I ever thought I'd see in my lifetime.

Following the cases

Here are a couple of places to follow the cases:
(Please note they're still catching up on linking all the briefs on all of these pages.)

Related announcement

Please see related post "Friends (Quakers) for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns Endorses Friend of the Court Briefs in Two Supreme Court Cases -- Announcement" at

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