Press

Article of Faith: Multi-faith leaders stand in support of the freedom to marry

Date: 
October 30, 2008

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“In a time when war threatens and the economy teeters, do we really want to spend our time taking away the rights of two people who love each other enough to marry?”
— Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, National Religious Leadership Roundtable

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — Multi-faith leaders of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, gathered Oct. 20 on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, where they sent a strong and unified call of support for the freedom to marry. They were joined by local faith leaders to amplify the message of treating all California citizens equally under the law. Californians will vote Nov. 4 on Proposition 8, an initiative aimed at eliminating the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry. What follows is an Article of Faith recounting the multi-faith component of this gathering of faith leaders standing against a discriminatory measure.

Article of Faith
by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
National Religious Leadership Roundtable

It isn’t a usual occurrence for the steps of any city hall to be clad with clergy in their religious garb — yarmulkes, stoles, sacred scarves and jewelry. And it is most certainly not a usual occurrence in San Francisco. So to have over a hundred multi-faith leaders — rabbis, ministers, pastors, priests and priestesses — stand on the steps of the San Francisco City Hall and proclaim their opposition to California’s Proposition 8 was a profound moment.

What compelled many of those present were questions such as these:

In a time when war threatens and the economy teeters, do we really want to spend our time taking away the rights of two people who love each other enough to marry? In a world where hatred and violence claim the lives of countless children every day, do we really want to use our spiritual energy blocking people from acting on love and commitment?

Each of the religious leaders came to the same moral and theological conclusion: No we don’t.

Those African-American pastors amongst us — noteably the Rev. Dr. Bishop Yvette Flunder and the Rev. Kenneth Samuel — spoke of their rootedness in the Bible’s call to do justice, in their ancestors’ experience of slavery, and in their own involvement in the civil rights movement. Each of these compelled them — religiously and morally — to stand against taking away someone else’s rights.

Those Jewish rabbis amongst us — noteably Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan — spoke of the Torah’s command “Justice justice, we must pursue.” The text repeats the phrase justice, say the rabbis of old, to emphasize that this is the word of God. But, also, it helps us understand that if we act on behalf of justice for all, we act for justice for ourselves. He noted that we are approaching the 70th anniversary of the “Night of Broken Glass” (Kristallnacht) when the Nazis began to move more powerfully against Jewish citizens of Germany. Too many stood aside as the Nazis enacted all of their work in a perfectly legal way. In these United States, none of us can afford to make that same mistake, so we must not stand aside when some rights are taken away.

Those Asian American Pacific Islander pastors amongst us — noteably the Rev. John Oda — spoke of the pastoral implication of a passage of Proposition 8. What does it say to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of our congregations — and to their children and families — if we single them out to have some of their rights as citizens removed? What does it mean for the rights of loved ones to visit in the hospital? To be able to protect their children?

Those Protestant clergy amongst us — noteably Bishop Marc Andrus and Bishop Mark Holmerud — spoke of all of the people in the pews for whom they stood. Lutherans and Episcopalians, Presbyterians and members of the United Church of Christ, Methodists and Community of Christ members, members of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and many others stand for equality and justice and love.

This powerful moment on the steps of San Francisco City Hall highlights the importance of people of faith standing against that which is unfair, unnecessary and unjust.

About the Author: The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel is the Institute for Welcoming Resources and faith work director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.


For more highlights of this multi-faith event, please click here.

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The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is an interfaith network of leaders from pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faith, spiritual and religious organizations. We work in partnership with other groups to promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people within society at large and in communities of faith. We promote understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of faith paths and for religious liberty, and to achieve commonly held goals that promote equality, spirituality and justice.

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge. The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, D.C. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. (C) 2007 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force . 1325 Massachusetts Ave NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. Phone 202.393.5177. Fax 202.393.2241. TTY 202.393.2284. theTaskForce@theTaskForce.org.