A diverse group of religious leaders have asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold a lower court's ruling declaring the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

On May 9, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down the state's 10-year-old voter-approved constitutional amendment and a 1997 law prohibiting gay couples from marrying. Roughly 500 gay and lesbian couples, most of them in Pulaski County, exchanged vows during the 6 days that transpired before the state's highest court put the ruling on hold pending an appeal by the state.

In a friend of the court brief filed this week, the Rev. Bishop Larry R. Benfield, the thirteenth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas, argues that “eliminating discrimination in civil marriage will not impinge upon religious doctrine or practice.”

“All religions would remain free – as they are today with nineteen states and the District of Columbia permitting same-sex couples to marry – to define religious marriage any way they choose,” Benfield states in the brief. “Nor would affirmance interfere with religious institutions' or individuals' constitutionally protected speech or activities. Any 'religious liberty' concerns implied by this case appear to relate to conflicts that already can and sometime do arise under public accommodations laws whenever religiously affiliated organizations operate in commercial or governmental spheres. Courts know how to respond if civil rights law enforcement infringes First Amendment rights.”

Groups joining the brief include the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, Mormons for Equality, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA), Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities, Union for Reform Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Affirmation, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Concerns (FLGBTQC), Methodist Federation for Social Action, More Light Presbyterians, Presbyterian Welcome, Reconciling Ministries Network, Reconciling Works: Lutherans for Full Participation, Religious Institute, Inc., and nearly 100 leaders of Arkansas religious communities.

The Roman Catholic Church, however, remains opposed to marriage equality.

Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock argued in a separate brief that allowing gay couples to marry would undermine an institution that is the bedrock of society and lead to unions of “couples such as mother and daughter, sister and sister, or brother and brother.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest LGBT rights advocate, denounced the church's brief.

“In a state with a history of oppression, we would hope that religious leaders above all would understand that defending freedoms under the Constitution protects people in the margins – those who have rarely been protected by popular vote,” Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives at the HRC Foundation, said in a statement.

“Bishop Taylor’s language is not only un-Christian, but so utterly offensive that it only serves to undermine his integrity and the already-untenable notions contained in his anti-marriage equality brief,” Rivera added.