|AJC Resolution Supporting Marriage Equality|
AJC strongly supports legislative and judicial efforts to establish civil marriage equality for same- sex couples.
As a matter of simple justice, AJC believes that all individuals regardless of sexual orientation are entitled to the same rights and freedoms. Whatever else that principle may entail, it certainly means that same-sex couples who choose to enter into domestic arrangements should be afforded the same legal rights, benefits, protections and obligations as are conferred upon heterosexual couples who enter into marriage. The only means for this equality to be achieved is the legalization of full marital status for same-sex couples.
I. Marriage equality is a matter of combating discrimination
AJC has a long history of opposing discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodation on such invidious bases as race, religion, national origin, sex, and sexual orientation. The denial of equal marital rights—including recognition of same-sex domestic arrangements that amount to “everything but marriage”—is nothing less than an unacceptable form of discrimination against LGBT Americans.
Measures that fall short of full marital status—such as civil unions and domestic partnerships—deny LGBT couples the benefits, rights and privileges associated with 1,138 federal statutory provisions and the various state-level provisions that come into play once two individuals enter into marriage—including provisions related to taxes, insurance, inheritance and survivor benefits, immigration, hospital visitation rights, and much more.
Further, the lack of full marital status associated with state-by-state recognition of varying and inconsistent domestic arrangements means that LGBT Americans are discouraged from living in states where they will not receive the rights accorded married citizens.
II. Marriage as a Civil Institution and Protection of Religious Liberty
Marriage has historically been core to defining the relationship between two individuals. AJC believes that the extension of marital rights and privileges by the state does not dilute the concepts and definitions of marriage held by religious groups. Civil and religious aspects of marriage are linked only at the point that religious clerics are authorized to perform a civil marriage concomitantly with a religious ceremony. We oppose legislation preventing equal access to the civil institution of marriage—even as we are adamantly opposed to the state imposing that civil definition on religious authorities. AJC believes that any legislature extending full marriage rights must allow religious institutions to make their own determinations about performance and recognition of marriage.
The proper resolution of conflicts between religious liberty and the rights of parties to same-sex marriages will need to be worked out case by case, depending on, among other things, the nature of the claim, the availability of alternative suppliers of a service, and the nature of the religious institution. In this last respect, and without resolving how these issues will be addressed for religiously affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities, when an institution is pervasively religious (that is to say, it is an institution that cannot or does not clearly separate its religious activities from secular activities— typically, houses of worship and religious schools), religious liberty interests should prevail.
In sum, our goal should be to maximize both equality and religious freedom, neither subservient to the other. And we believe that no religious institution should lose its tax exemption because of its views on same sex marriage.
In conclusion, AJC
(1) Affirms its support of same-sex civil marriage equality.
(2) Affirms its support for protecting the religious liberty interests of pervasively religious institutions for which performance and recognition of same-sex marriages is contrary to their religious tenets. In so affirming, AJC leaves for consideration at another time, and on a case- by-case basis, the treatment of religiously affiliated institutions, such as hospitals and universities.
Adopted by the Board of GovernorsDate: 10/15/2012 12:00:00 AM
October 15, 2012