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PHoD Gay Jennings signs Amicus Brief for Marriage Equality

PHoD Gay Jennings signs Amicus Brief for Marriage Equality

President of the House of Deputies has joined with many others signing a legal brief in support of marriage equality. USA Today reports:

With the U.S. Supreme Court set to decide the legality of same-sex marriage bans in cases from four Midwestern states, dozens of legal briefs representing hundreds of thousands of parties calling for the bans to be overturned flowed into the court ahead of a filing deadline today.

While many of the briefs came from groups who have long fought to have the bans reversed, support also came from more unexpected sources: More than 300 Republican, conservative and center-right activists and government officials signed a brief in support of overturning the bans. Another brief was signed by hundreds of U.S. companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Microsoft and more….

“No religion’s belief or practice should be allowed to restrict the rights of people to marry and receive equal protection under the law,” said the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, which submitted a brief arguing that this case is about civil — not religious — definitions of marriage.

Christian Science Monitor notes the number of briefs filed including President Obama’s administration:

A wide spectrum of political, religious, and business groups – including the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots – filed legal briefs at the US Supreme Court on Friday urging the justices to rule in favor of same-sex marriage in the upcoming blockbuster case.

The friend of the court briefs were filed on behalf of more than 300 Republicans, 379 American companies, 226 mayors, and nearly 2,000 clergy members who say the high court should rule that gay men and lesbians have a right to marry anywhere in the United States

Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, told reporters that the issue in the case was civil marriage, not religious marriage. She said she agreed to sign onto the brief because of her religious beliefs, not in spite of them. “It is long past time to end any kind of discrimination against God’s children in this country,” she said.

posted by Ann Fontaine


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Fr. Gregory Tipton

There are other issues at stake here. While the end may be laudable, the means, I think, are problematic. The problem with “the end justifies the means,” is that an end is built up of its means. If one is Just both are, if one is unjust both are.

1. An archaic, quaint, but incorrect assumption that “civil” is one thing and “religious” another.

2. An assumption that The Church, or anyone for that matter, actually believes in Equality.

3. An assumption that The Church believes in Rights.

#1 I was raised a pagan. I could recite the pledge like I now can recite the Creeds. I could sing the Anthem like I now sing hymns. I could salute a flag like I now bow to the cross. “Religion” is about habits, ways of life, not deities. We know this since The State deems Buddhism and Shintoism “religions” even though they have no deities – right next to Christianity and Hinduism that have deities.

“Religion” is simply a way that the State says “not one of us,” in the same way Christians use the word “pagan” to say “not one of us.” It is a negative identity marker, it tells us nothing about what you are. “Religion” is simply a way of saying The Market, The Reformation, The Modern Nation-State won — you Christians lost. So to say, “No religion’s belief or practice should be allowed to restrict the rights of people to marry and receive equal protection under the law,” is to give up a Christian grammar and to follow another. The State is a religion, and most of my life was proof of that. What this distinction (religious vs civil) ultimately does, it suggests that Christianity has nothing to do with the way we live our life. Christianity is just “fanciful” thoughts and passions and appetites, but keep it to yourself. What really matters — who owns your body — is the State. “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Cor 6.19). Thus, I don’t think that rhetoric is anything but a contradiction to The Church’s own grammar, which is the Word itself.

The end does not justify the means.

#2 When I go to my carpenter, musician doctor, mechanic, professor, programmer, historian, priest, etc. I don’t want them to be my equal, I want them to be better than me, that’s why I go to them. And I think we all live our lives that way. Equality seeks to flatten out and put everyone on a linear scale. The problem with that is that we have Order. And Order assumes some people have Gifts for certain things. So to the old question, “Do you think you’re better than me?” The answer is, “I hope so, at least in one thing. And I assume you’re better than me in other things.” The Church’s Polity is built on the same assumption of Order as is The World’s various constitutions.

What’s at stake with the language of Equality is treating people Justly. But you can’t do that by flattening everyone out. Justice is doing what we ought to do. We ought to let people excel, not flatten them to being equal. Indeed Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, and now same-sex marriage has been or is being won by this language. But what we are wont to say is not that we’re equal, because many beautiful human beings excel at things I could never dream of, but that we’re the same kind of thing. I am a human, you are a human, and there are Just ways to treat humans.

But I fear we are losing excellence, losing virtue through this language. I hate to say it but, how much awful architecture, art, and music has The Church produced in the last century? I don’t see many flying to America to laud our excellence. But the arts produced in eras that believed in virtue in a tangible, living way, well, people are still flocking to see those. The dark underbelly to the language of equality is that it is a language of Pride. I don’t want people to have gifts, be better than me in anything, etc. Or if by”equality” I mean “the same opportunities” we’re suggesting we’re either going to control Providence or create one huge Cosmopolis to enforce it. That’s Pride either way, either by Control or by constructing a Tower of Babel. It would become a new, soft, colonialism in search of equality, at the cost of destroying human excellence and flourishing.

The end does not justify the means.

#3 Rights are entitlements given what a human being is. They have two flavors today:
(1) human beings have them by nature
(2) human beings have them by social contract

If (1) is the case, then rights are like pixies or unicorns, there has been no discovery of said “rights” in human nature, they have not been detected, discovered, nor derived by logical deduction.

If (2) is the case, then rights are extensions given by agreements, and are only as good as the country you’re situated in. (This makes universal human rights an a priori project to create a cosmopolis to the destruction of other cultures.) This means they are essentially arbitrary, and are only as good as the agreement. But the problem with agreements is they beg the question, is this good? is this true? is this beautiful? And on what grounds would we justify it? We would be appealing to a higher authority than the city’s constitution. And here the nations are in disagreement on what that entails. Some think Justice is relative, other think it is an attribute of a god, others the same but of the Trinity, others still that Justice is made in a disorderly, chaotic world. In other words, there is no unified common good nor authority to appeal to to make sense of such an agreement. Goethe’s “Faust” is the famous ‘sell your soul to the devil’ contract story, and it is a perfect reductio ad absurdum of social contract theory. So much for either of these options.

And then of course there is one Baptism. So much for entitlement to anything. We are not our own. But were made to be poured out, broken, so that we might be remade to be excellent. Like Equality though, this language has been used to win some fights, but it has a scaly underbelly.

The end does not justify the means.

Harry M. Merryman

Fr. Gregory: I’m not sure your definition of some of these terms is applicable to Gay Jennings’ statement.

“Civil” in the context of marriage almost certainly refers to the legal rights and benefits afforded to and obligations expected of married couples. You seem to be asserting that “state” and “religion” represent a distinction without a difference. But even Jesus recognizes this as an important distinction (Matt 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26). If a couple wants to undertake the civil obligations and enjoy the civil benefits and protections of marriage, I have a hard time understanding how religious people of any stripe who support efforts to assure this end are engaging in questionable means.

With regard to “equality,” you seem to be saying that the language used to advance civil rights, women’s rights, and now same-sex marriage is based on “flattening” everyone so that there are no distinctions with regard to individual characteristics and abilities, as opposed to the goal of “treating people Justly.” I gather you think that “human excellence” is under attack when speaking of “equal opportunity.” The equality we’re speaking of here is certainly not equality of gifts or abilities, but equality under the law. Perhaps you could give some specific examples where equality of opportunity has been confounded with equality of individual abilities or characteristics in support of women’s suffrage, civil rights, or same sex-marriage.

BTW, I suspect we agree that the notion of “human excellence” has taken a hit in the last 50 years. It has become fashionable to distrust those who have special knowledge or ability and to refer to them pejoratively as “elites.” However, I have a hard time seeing how this phenomenon can be blamed on the drive for equality under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation.

Cynthia Katsarelis


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