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Timothy Cahn is an intellectual property litigator and partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, where he co-chairs the firm's copyright practice. Since 2001, Mr. Cahn has dedicated much of his professional pro bono effort to addressing the struggle for LGBT equality in the institutional churches. At the time, churches were lagging far behind the civic culture in extending full equality, dignity, and relationship-recognition to LGBT folk. There was a growing sense that, for sexual orientation minorities to continue their momentum toward full civic equality, some measure of progress in the churches needed to be achieved. Tim joined up with several affinity organizations to lend his substantial support as a litigator toward such efforts.
Over the succeeding ten years, Mr. Cahn has represented LGBT persons and their allies in more than fifteen cases in connection with ecclesiastical investigations and trials of persons who were either seeking to become church ministers or to extend religious marriage recognition to same gender couples. In 2002, he represented Rev. Katie Morrison, the very first openly gay or lesbian person to achieve, and retain, ordination as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Rev. Morrison was brought up on church charges based on her sexual orientation, and, with Cahn's help, the charges were dismissed and Morrison's status as a minister secured.
In 2006, at an ecclesiastical church trial in Northern California, Mr. Cahn represented Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr, a Presbyterian minister who was charged with violating church law by performing weddings for same gender couples. From the early 1980's, Rev. Spahr has been a tireless advocate for LGBT inclusion and civil rights. With Cahn's help, Rev. Spahr was acquitted at her 2006 trial, where she was facing the potential sanction of exclusion from ordained ministry. Mr. Cahn represented Rev. Spahr all the way up to the "Supreme Court" of the Presbyterian church, where Rev. Spahr's acquittal was sustained.
In 2008, when a group of conservative churches in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania sought to institute a categorical rule that would have absolutely prevented LGBT persons from seeking to become ministers, Mr. Cahn brought a case in Pennsylvania challenging the discriminatory rule and ultimately succeeding in nullifying it.
In connection with California's 2009 Prop 8 case, Mr. Cahn prepared an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court of California, on behalf of over twenty religious leaders, churches, and synagogues who argued in support of the religious freedom to marry same gender couples.
Most recently, in the Spring of 2011, Mr. Cahn again represented a gay minister charged with violating church law. He obtained the acquittal of Rev. Erwin Barron at a church trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota of charges stemming from Rev. Barron's having legally married his husband. The church authorities who brought the case against Rev. Barron had sought to compel him to divorce his legal husband. Following the trial, Rev. Barron's status as a minister, and his marriage, were both fully in tact.
Mr. Cahn also has been significantly involved with the institutional church on a national level drafting and evaluating guidelines for use by ministers to perform religious ceremonies that bless a civil same-gender marriage, as well as guidelines to enable openly GLBT minister candidates to become ordained.
Mr. Cahn's involvement in these matters comes naturally. He is the son of Presbyterian minister and lifelong church member who himself has struggled with the question of what it means to be "out" as a gay man within a religious organization that at times foments anti-gay discrimination. His extensive pro bono activities in support of LGBT equality in the churches have helped Mr. Cahn partially answer that question for himself.