Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turning the Tables on the Bigots

Here is an interesting approach. Ronald Goetz, a "Proud PFLAG Dad" is proposing a lawsuit on behalf of clergy and churches whose rights are being violated because they cannot perform marriages for same-gender couples. This is a turn the tables approach on those Christians who argue that marriage equality somehow violates their freedom of religion. What do you think? Mr. Goetz is looking for advice and input.
"Proposed Class-Action Lawsuit on Behalf of Churches and Ordained Clergy Because of the Violation of their First Amendment Right to Free Exercise of Religion"

There are many denominations that are on record as supporting Marriage Equality and want to marry same-sex couples as a matter of religious faith.

There are thousands of Open and Affirming congregations nationwide that support Marriage Equality and want to marry same-sex couples as a matter of religious faith.

There are additional thousands of ordained clergy who want to marry same-sex couples because of their religious faith.

The first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Congress includes state and local jurisdictions, which cannot violate your civil rights either.

Thousands of churches and ordained clergy are being denied the free exercise of their religion in violation of their first amendment right.

I urge that this violation of the constitution be resisted through a class-action lawsuit, or some other appropriate vehicle. We are also guaranteed the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

I would like responsible parties (clergy, denominational officials, attorneys) and enthusiastic supporters to contact me. I need input, encouragement, and pro bono advice.

Please contact me at [at] hotmail [dot] com and let me know what you think. Thanks!

And please forward this to anyone you think might be interested.

Ronald Goetz
Proud PFLAG Dad


  1. Interesting, though this isn't something to do by oneself. There are plenty of LGBT legal organizations that could help with this, and I hope he's contacting them.

    (I suspect that the argument against this lawsuit is that clergy can perform any marriage they want, it just isn't necessarily recognized by the state.)

  2. Personally, I think that LGBTs ought to be advocating for tax exemption. If they cannot claim the benefits of citizenship that are extended to straight people, they ought not to have to pay taxes.

  3. I am sure this has been thought of before. If Ron is serious about this Lambda Legal would be a place to go.

    I personally think it is fun for the spectacle effect and for getting people to realize that the so-called "denial of religious freedom" excuse of the busybodies is as phony as a purity ring.

  4. It is a great idea. I believe it is time for liberal and moderate Christians to become very aggresive in countering their bigoted fundamentalist fellows.

  5. The Mormons have been trying this to no avail for a long time.

  6. I don’t think I like where this is going. Do we really want the government to influence our religious polity? How would this work? Will we have to file against the each denomination?

    Here is a little information that you might want to look at Vermont‘s Same-Sex Marriage law:

    “The Green Mountain State's new law says in its "Public Accommodations" section that religious groups "shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if the request . . . is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage." It also bars civil lawsuits against religious groups that refuse to provide goods or services to same-sex weddings.”

    As same-sex rulings that are being past more of these additions will be added to each states law.

  7. "I don’t think I like where this is going. Do we really want the government to influence our religious polity? "

    The government already does so by denying the rights of people to get married.

  8. Alan, I mean NOW they are being asked in, not just watching from the sidelines. And you know how the government works, once they're in, they won't leave.

    So this is about suing the Denominations then isn't it?

  9. I don't know this person, but I don't see anything about suing denominations in here at all, and I'm not sure where you're getting that.

    This is about suing the government for restricting religious freedom, not about forcing religious groups to perform marriages.

    There is nothing the government can do to force religious groups to perform marriages now (and that's been the case for a couple hundred years) so I'm not sure why anyone would imagine that could change without a constitutional amendment.

  10. And the government is not watching on the sidelines, Mary.

    The government specifically says who can and who cannot get married, and it gives tax benefits, social security benefits, tribal benefits, adoption rights, hospital visitation benefits, estate planning rights and benefits to those couples it finds suitable. The federal government gives over 1000 special rights to married heterosexuals on the basis of their lifestyle choice to get married. And that doesn't count any state or local tax or other benefits.

    So there is no sense in which the government is now, nor has been "on the sidelines" on marriage.

    All this gentleman is asking is that the government stop discriminating against those religious people who believe that marriage should not be restricted to heterosexual couples. In other words, equal protection under the law.

  11. Thought this was good in today's Daily Kos

    I understand, Dottie. Really, I do. So I'm here as a gay person to say to California and Maine and all of America: we're sorry that we've been so pushy in our quest to achieve the same civil rights that you have. We're new at this. We're clumsy. We're over-eager. We're addicted to Red Bull.

    But it occurs to me that there has never been a benchmark established for how long we should wait between votes for civil rights. So I have an idea. I think you'll love it because it'll put all this confusion to rest once and for all and allow us all to "get a life." In fact, it's so perfect it's already been put into motion:

    You're losing your marriage rights at midnight.

    Trust me---this isn’t some plot to get revenge on you for stealthily taking away our legally-granted marriage rights via the anonymous safety of the voting booth. Not at all. We simply want you (the majority) to show us (the minority) how long you would wait before you put your rights on the ballot. We know from the poll cited above that you'd want to go at least two years as a legal stranger to your husband wife spouse partner. Would you call for an election on the third year? The fifth? The tenth? You show us, and we'll follow your lead.

  12. That is a brilliant response! Since the majority, by definition, has never been without their rights, they can't really understand why the "now is not a good time" argument is, well, just so dismissive and hurtful.

    I, for one, would love to move on to something else, but, golly, until everyone is given the benefits and rights of the majority, I'm afraid I just can't!

  13. What an excellent idea! I sincerely hope that LAMBDA Legal or another similar group takes this as a basis for court action.

    One thing I like about the Maine No on 1 Campaign was that they didn't let the conservative anti-gay groups "own" the religion argument. This accomplishes that goal, and helps frame the argument in a more productive manner.

  14. "Decline to Sign" or "Demand the Right"

    Thanks to everyone for their feedback--it has given me the opportunity to think the issues through.

    First, let me say that pursuing a judicial option does not mean that the courts are the "best" way to go. There is no single best way, only ways that are best for certain people and certain groups. Working to enlighten people's hearts and minds as well as working through popular ballot initiatives are both still necessary. But all broad-based movements for change are composed of a variety of approaches and methods.

    Second, changes in the law can be incremental, and when it comes to the evolution of constitutional law, "new rights" (e.g. right to privacy) can be argued and articulated until they gain traction and become law.

    Third, the churches should approach this issue from their own perspective, given the special provisions granted to them under the equal protection clause of the first amendment. Others will, of course, address the issue of Marriage Equality from their perspectives and for their own reasons.

    Along these lines, if clergy are allowed to choose whom they will not marry, then it seems logical that clergy should be allowed to choose whom they will marry.

    I know that "common logic" is not legal logic, but things do have a way of working their way through the "courtroom of public opinion."

    Finally, whether or not my suggestion is taken up, what would help is if ordained clergy and their denominations began agitating for the right for the free exercise of their religion vis à vis same-sex marriage.

    “Decline to Sign” is a choice for some clergy, and “Demand the Right” is a choice for others.

    I see one as surrendering the field, and the other as engaging institutional injustice, including injustice within Christendom itself.

  15. they didn't let the conservative anti-gay groups "own" the religion argument.

    Exactly, Jonathan. We need to loudly proclaim that marriage equality and same-gender relationships in general are a positive good for society and a spiritual/religious calling for many. Celebrating and recognizing these relationships by the church and its clergy is an important expression of faith.

  16. Ronald,

    Thank you for commenting here and thank you for raising this exciting opportunity. This is the kind of conversation we need to have.

    Religion (esp. ordination and marriage) is the symbol of the good.

    That is what you are expressing here.

    Thank you!

    I hope folks will contact Ronald for ideas and input.

  17. It is important to time this appropriately. This should be filed immediately after the 2010 election or another congressional election, so that it does not become a political issue of distraction.

  18. The timing of this should be appropriate and be filed immediately after 2010 election or another congressional election. Otherwise, it will become a political issue of distraction and may be used to harm efforts for marriage equality. Clearly, I agree though, that government should not be the arbiter of religious doctrine and should recognize all religious marriages between two persons.