[ENS] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the US based Episcopal Church has put his name to a document going before the Supreme Court, as it examines the issue of transgender bathroom use. President Curry and a leading Episcopalian, the Revd Gay Clark Jennings, are the lead signatories on an amicus – or “friend of the court” brief – which is a legal document filed by non-litigants with a strong interest in the subject matter; the briefs advise the court of relevant, additional information or arguments that the court might wish to consider.
The case involves a teenager who took on male gender identity and was allowed by his school to use the boys’ bathroom for two months. But then, after some parents objected, he was offered a private bathroom instead. He has argued that the practice marks him out as different, isolates him and exposes him to “serious psychological harm.”
Bishop Curry and Revd Jennings say they have taken the decision to be “lead signers” in the theological understanding that all people are created in the image of God and thus entitled to protection under the law. The brief has also been signed 1,800 clergy and religious leaders. Rev Jennings is President of the House of Deputies, one of the two Houses of the governing body of the Episcopal Church.
The signatories urged the high court to see that the ability to live in a country that guarantees transgender equality is a religious freedom issue. They said their faith communities have approached issues related to gender identity in different ways, but are “united in believing that the fundamental human dignity shared by all persons requires treating transgender students in a manner consistent with their gender identity.”
The signatories urged the court to address the civil rights of transgender persons according to religiously neutral constitutional principles of equal protection under the law. Doing so, they said, “will not impinge upon religious belief, doctrine, or practice” and instead will adhere to the Constitution’s prohibition against favouring one religious viewpoint over any others.
Bishop Curry anchored his support of the brief in Genesis 1:26-27, which declares that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God: “This divine decree proclaims the inherent sacredness, dignity, worth, and equality of every human person, by virtue of their creation imago Dei,” he said. “The way of love for God and our neighbour that Jesus taught is the way to honour the sacredness, dignity and worth and equality of each person. For this reason, we work for the equality and dignity of transgender people, who, like the rest of us, are created in God’s image and likeness.”
Revd Jennings said Jesus tells his followers to love God and love their neighbour as themselves. “And, he tells us not to be afraid. The Episcopal Church affirms the victory of love over fear by supporting local, state and federal laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression,” she said. Revd Jennings noted that church policy is to encourage Episcopalians to work against legislation that discriminates against transgender people and for legislation that prevents such discrimination, and to communicate the church’s position to courts, policymakers and others across the United States. “For the two of us to sign this amicus brief, that’s not a leap at all,” Jennings said. “We’ve already said as a church that’s what you do.”