Minnesota Atheists add nonsectarian viewpoints to a debate often dominated by religion

Minnesota Atheists has been fighting for decades to keep religion out of government, according to August Berkshire, the group's president.

When three same-sex couples were denied marriage licenses in Hennepin County for their sexual orientation, filed a lawsuit in March 2010 to strike down the Minnesota Defense of Marriage Act and then lost, the atheists took notice.

Once the couples appealed the decision of the Hennepin County District Court, Minnesota Atheists were able to jump in and help them out, said Berkshire. The group filed an amicus brief to bring their secular perspective to the discussion of marriage.

"We are going to get our arguments in there now to help them and do what we can to help, because this is an issue we've been supporting since the roots of our founding in 1984," said Berkshire, who was one of the founders of the Twin Cities chapter of American Atheists, which became Minnesota Atheists in 1991.

DOMA, which does not allow same-sex couples to get married, also prevents the out-of-state marriages of the couples in the case from being recognized in Minnesota, according to Berkshire.

The couples, who collectively form Marry Me Minnesota, a non-profit organization established in 2008 to prepare for the case, are seeking to abolish the state's "statutory ban on same-sex marriage," as the group's website states.

The amicus brief filed by Minnesota Atheists supports the couples in their effort to get rid of the law and argues the unconstitutionality of DOMA, noting the law's theological basis.

The Minnesota State Constitution, with clauses guaranteeing freedom of conscious and freedom of religion, and the U.S. Constitution, which establishes freedom of religion in the First Amendment and equal protection for all in the Fourteenth Amendment, are violated by DOMA, according to the brief.

Berkshire said the religious roots of the law are grounded in "conservative Christian" views and leave those who have differing beliefs out in the cold.

Read the rest of this article at lavendermagazine.com

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