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Kramer Levin Files Briefs in Historic Supreme Court LGBT Rights Cases

February 28, 2013

Kramer Levin has filed a pair of amicus briefs on behalf of a broad-based coalition of religious organizations in the historic LGBT rights cases now pending in the U.S Supreme Court. One case, U.S. v. Windsor, concerns the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defines “marriage” for all purposes under federal law as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” The other, Hollingsworth v. Perry, concerns the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which extinguished the right of same-sex couples to marry under the California Constitution.

Kramer Levin’s clients, who represent a diverse array of faiths, are all united in the belief that particular religious views or definitions of marriage should not be permitted to influence who the state permits to marry or how legally married couples are treated by the federal government. They include the Bishops of the Episcopal Church from California and the states that permit same-sex couples to marry; the Manhattan Conference of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Unitarian Universalist Association; the United Church of Christ; representatives of Judaism’s Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative Movements (including, among others, The Rabbinical Assembly, The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, The Union For Reform Judaism, and The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism); and groups representing members of the Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, and Quaker faiths.

Confronting and rebutting arguments by religious supporters of DOMA and Proposition 8 purporting to state a uniform religious position on marriage, the briefs document the growing range of religious traditions that respect the dignity of lesbian and gay people and their families; solemnize or otherwise honor their relationships; and support civil marriage equality. And stressing the distinction between religious and civil marriage, the briefs make clear that respecting the marriage rights of same-sex couples will not impinge upon religious beliefs, practices, or operations, but rather will prevent one set of religious beliefs from being imposed through civil law.

The briefs conclude that “civil recognition of same-sex relationships, including through marriage, is fundamentally consistent with the religious pluralism woven into the fabric of American law, culture, and society” and that striking down DOMA and Proposition 8 would “recognize the creative tension inherent in religions’ interface with our own pluralistic, changing society while confirming that all, regardless of faith, are entitled to equal protection under the law.”

The Kramer Levin team that drafted the two briefs includes litigation partners Jeffrey S. Trachtman and Norman C. Simon and associates Joshua Glick, Jason Moff, and Kurt M. Denk. Kramer Levin has played a leading role in pro bono LGBT rights litigation for nearly two decades. The firm has previously submitted amicus briefs in Boy Scouts v. Dale and Lawrence v. Texas, two landmark LGBT rights cases before the United States Supreme Court, and served as co-counsel in Hernandez v. Robles, which sought equal marriage rights under the New York constitution.

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