An amicus curiae brief, filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a transgender teen wishing to use the school bathroom of his gender identity, included references to Presbyterian Church (USA) policy and was signed by two PCUSA affinity groups and approximately 191 Presbyterians.
The Covenant Network of Presbyterians and More Light Presbyterians, were among the 15 religious organizations and approximately 1,800 people who signed on to the brief filed in the case of Gloucester County School Board vs. G.G.
The case involves a high school senior – Gavin Grimm of Virginia – who was born female, but now identifies as male. He was seeking the right from the court to use the boys’ bathroom in his school.
On Monday, the United States Supreme Court sent the case back to the court of appeals, (FoxNews article; CNN article) citing the Trump Administration’s reversal of federal guidance issued by the Obama administration which required public schools to allow students to use the bathrooms/locker rooms matching their gender identity.
Those from the PCUSA signing the brief in support of Grimm included the Co-Moderators of the PCUSA, Rev. Jan Edmiston and Rev. Denise Anderson; two PCUSA related seminary presidents, Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary and Rev. Dr. James McDonald, president of San Francisco Theological Seminary; several seminary professors; and a host of PCUSA pastors and elders.
Merrian-Webster defines an amicus curiae as a brief filed in a court case by a person or organization that is not a party to the litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question.
The brief states that is comes from “faiths that have approached issues related to gender identity in different ways over the years, but are united in believing that the fundamental human dignity shared by all persons requires treating transgender students like Respondent Gavin Grimm (‘Gavin’) in a manner consistent with their gender identity. [They] also believe that, in our diverse and pluralistic society, the civil rights of transgender persons must be addressed according to religiously neutral principles of equal protection under the law.”
It continues that “Faiths embracing the fundamental dignity of transgender persons participate in the mainstream of American religious observance. They include denominations such as the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the United Church of Christ; portions of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Judaism’s Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reform movements; and countless individual religious believers from faiths ranging from Roman Catholicism to Islam who today celebrate and embrace equal dignity for transgender persons.”
The brief includes denominational statements which it believes bolster its case:
- The Unitarian Universalist Church “which long as proclaimed a ‘commitment to the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, including … transgender individuals.’”
- The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies “affirmed in an open letter to their church ‘the civil rights and God-given dignity of transgender people.’”
- United Church of Christ “publicly reaffirmed its own longstanding commitment to transgender inclusion.”
- The United Methodist Church “deplore[s] acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on … gender identity.”
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America “also has urged respect for gender identity difference.”
- The Presbyterian Church (USA) “asserted over a decade ago that ‘the love of God is not confined to the people … of one gender or gender orientation.’”
- One Meeting (among others) of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has formally stated its “understand[ing] that God, who loves all people unconditionally, is leading the Meeting to honor the gender identity of each person, as that person determines it.”
- Muslims: “… On the basis of the Quranic teaching that ‘God enjoins justice, kindness and generosity toward one’s fellow humankind’ (Qur’an 16:90), Muslims for Progressive Values advocates for ‘a future where Islam is understood as a source of dignity, justice, compassion and love for all humanity and the world,’ and ‘affirm[s] the equal worth of all human beings, regardless of … sex, gender, [or] gender identification.’”
The brief mentioned a study by the University of Cambridge which confirmed how “a growing number of Christian denominations, particularly within Protestant traditions are … embracing trans people as congregants and ministers,” with “[m]uch of the progress ha[ving] taken place in the United States.” The study highlighted that, in 1996, Presbyterian Rev. Erin Swenson of Greater Atlanta became the first religious leader of a mainline Christian denomination to retain her post following her gender transition. Since then groups such as the Presbyterian Church USA (in 2010/11) and the Episcopal Church (in 2012) have removed barriers to ordained ministry of transgender persons.”
It also cited the PCUSA’s San Francisco Theological Seminary, founded in the late 19th century, which “abides by a Statement of NonDiscrimination that includes protections on the basis of gender identity.”
Another amicus curiae brief was filed on behalf of the Gloucester County School Board by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations; National Association of Evangelicals; Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod; and Christian Legal Society.
A list of Presbyterians signing the amicus curiae brief filed in support of transgender student Gavin Grimm can be found here.