Needed: Clergy support, legal brief on same-sex marriage

Chris Cormier & Ted Jacobs, Esq., 3/24/2005

Dear Rabbinic Chevra,

I am enclosing here an invitation for us as individual rabbis to join in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief favoring the legitimacy of civil-governmental same-sex marriages, and if we wish, to encourage our congregations to join as a body in the brief.

Please note that some rabbis who think Jewish law precludes Jewish same-sex marriages nevertheless believe that secular authorities should not discriminate against same-sex couples in affirming civil marriages.

Shalom, Arthur

If you wish to join in the amicus brief, please respond to Attorney Ted Jacobs at -

Background information follows, from Chris Cormier

Last month, many of you offered your names in support of marriage equality in an open letter to New Yorkers. Since then my inbox has been flooded with responses from all across the state and the country from people who thanked us (you!) for presenting a supportive religious perspective on civil marriage.

Today I am asking you to go one step further and to lend your name to a "friends of the court" brief in the marriage case that will be decided by the NYS Court of Appeals.

Below you will find a message from Ted Jacobs of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. He is looking for leaders of faith who are willing to sign this brief (to be issued in a few weeks). Please read his email and contact him if you:

    1) are a member of the clergy and you want to lend your name in support.
    2) are a congregational representative and you want to help get your congregation to sign on.
    3) want to help other communities of faith sign on.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me, otherwise you can contact Ted directly at 212-859-4000 or

This is an exciting opportunity for you and for Pride in the Pulpit to influence how the religious aspect of this discussion will play out. Through this amicus brief, you have the power to clarify that supporting civil marriage for same-sex couples is different from (and often not in contradiction to) how your denomination approaches marriage.

With hope!

PS- Just so you know, I have not shared your information or lent your names to this brief. I am sending this to you and you can choose to get involved as an individual or as a congregational representative.

Chris Cormier
Community Organizer
Empire State Pride Agenda
16 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10010
(T) 212-627-0305
(F) 212-627-4136

Please reply to Ted Jacobs

Re: Equal Marriage Rights For Same-Sex Couples In New York

We write to ask you and other people of faith to support equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian citizens of New York. Your voice can be heard by signing a legal brief to be filed in New York state courts on behalf of a diverse array of individual clergy, religious leaders, congregations and religious organizations that support civil marriage between same-sex couples.

Specifically, we are gathering the names of clergy, congregations and representatives of religious organizations who are interested in lending their support in this important civil rights struggle.

As you may know, there are three cases addressing the rights of same-sex couples to marry making their way through the New York State court system. We believe that two of the cases may soon be heard by the state's highest court; the other one is pending in an intermediate appeals court.

In an historic and groundbreaking decision, a court in New York City most recently ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry. The link to this decision is:

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a preeminent national LGBT civil rights organization, is helping to coordinate the filing of "friend of the court" briefs by groups that support marriage between same-sex couples. Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP has offered to prepare the "friend of the court" brief that will be submitted on behalf of religious groups. This brief is very important - it will show the courts that clergy and religious organizations from many different denominations support the right of gay men and lesbians to marry, and it will shatter the common misconception that religious organizations are lockstep in their opposition to marriage between same-sex couples.

We anticipate that our brief will make the following general arguments:

    * Although marriage has both a religious and a civil meaning, it is civil marriage that establishes legal status and conveys the entitlements that New York provides to married couples. A wide and diverse array of religious individuals, groups and organizations support the right to civil marriage for same-sex couples.
    * The law of New York State firmly supports the separation of church and state and requires that the question of marriage between same-sex couples be decided as a civil matter, not a religious matter, and without reference to any religious tradition.
    * Civil marriage in this context is a legal status conferred by the State. As such, allowing civil marriage between same-sex couples will not intrude on the rights of religious groups to decide whether to confer religious marriages to same-sex couples within the meanings of each of their own religious traditions.
    * The diversity of religious thought relating to the issue of marriage between same-sex couples makes it especially inappropriate for the issue to be decided on anything but civil grounds, as determining the question by reference to religious principles would favor one set of religious groups over others. The court should therefore not consider the views of the religious groups that are opposed to marriage between same-sex couples when it is deciding the cases.

We expect that the preparation of our brief will take between 4 and 6 weeks. We will circulate the brief to those groups who have expressed an interest in joining the brief for their review and final approval. When that process is completed, we will file the briefs in the relevant courts. We expect to have our brief finalized by early May.

Our brief will be filed in all three of the New York state cases described above. We are in the process of approaching religious groups like yours to ask you to join the brief. In addition, we would like to discuss with you other religious groups that you might be able to identify who would want to join your and our efforts.

Fried Frank has a long tradition of pro bono work such as this and is bearing the full cost of the brief; there will be no charge to any individual, congregation or group to join the brief.

"Joining" the brief simply means that you or your organization agrees to have its name listed as one of the "friends of the court" that is submitting the brief; no further work is required.

If you would like to see an example our brief will look like, the same kind of brief was filed in a similar case that is currently before the Washington Supreme Court. The link to this brief is:

If you are interested in joining our efforts, please respond to me (Ted Jacobs of Fried Frank) by email at Please do not hesitate to call me at (212) 859-8715 or contact me by email if you have any additional questions. Even if you decide not to join the brief, we would be interested in talking to you about other groups that might be interested of learning of our efforts and joining the cause.

Thanks very much for your consideration.

Ted Jacob

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
One New York Plaza,
25th Floor
New York, NY 10004-1980
Fax: 212-859-4000