43 Arkansas faith leaders urge AR Supreme Court to rule for the freedom to marry

Today, more than 40 faith leaders from Arkansas came together to file an amicus brief in Smith v. Wright, the legal challenge to Arkansas’ constitutional amendment denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. The case is currently pending before the Arkansas Supreme Court. The “friend-of-the-court” brief outlines the urgency and importance of ending the exclusion of committed couples from marriage in Arkansas. The brief was coordinated by Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP and the Smith v. Wright legal team, with support from Freedom to Marry.

The landmark case, Smith v. Wright was filed in July of 2013 on behalf of 11 couples in Arkansas who were either legally married in other states and disrespected at home or were denied the ability to marry in their home state. This May, U.S. District Court Judge Chris Piazza ruled in favor of the freedom to marry, but the decision was stayed as the case was appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Forty-three faith leaders from more than 15 different towns in Arkansas, representing 10 different denominations, signed the amicus brief. Rabbi Barry Block, of Congregation B’nai Israel in Little Rock, explained why he wanted to sign on:

"God created us all, male and female, straight and gay and lesbian, all in the Divine image. By God's will, many of us have been granted loving partners for life. Each of those partnerships is equally blessed in God's sight, and I look forward to the day when Arkansas will again legally recognize all sanctified marriages.”

Reverend Grisham of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville spoke on the validity of all committed, loving couples:

“My wife and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary this year. I know loving gay couples who’ve been together longer than we have, and their relationships display the same fruits of the spirit. They deserve the same legal standing.”

Bishop Larry Benfield of the Episcopal Church of Arkansas elaborated on why marriage is an important tradition: 

"Marriage is not so much a right as it is a responsibility and an offer to demonstrate to the larger community what it looks like to be vulnerable, loving, and caring for another person. We grow as individuals and as a church when we see two people in such a committed relationship. This is the tradition that we hold on to, and we need to see same-sex couples as inheritors of that tradition as well."

 The brief underscores how American religions ultimately believe in the importance of treating all individuals equally:

"[T]he American religious panorama embraces a multitude of theological perspectives on lesbian and gay people and same-sex relationships. A vast range of religious perspectives affirms the inherent dignity of lesbian and gay people, their relationships, and their families. This affirmation reflects the deeply rooted belief, common to many faiths, in the essential worth of all individuals and, more particularly, the growing respect accorded within theological traditions to same-sex couples."

Read more about marriage litigation in Arkansas here.

Read the full brief here.