Religion and Same Sex Marriage

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An Interfaith Commitment to Marriage Equality

“As a straight woman and as a Protestant minister, it takes nothing away from me for
people to have rights in a loving relationship.”

— Pastor Lorraine DeArmitt Southold United Methodist Church
Quoted in the Suffolk Times (NY), December 18, 2003

“Everywhere I look and mingle among friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, I hear
from same-sex couples desires to have a home and a job, to pay taxes, raise children
together, take meaningful roles in communities, enjoy mingling among their
neighbors…take care of their elders, work in their welcoming churches, have dogs and
cats, bake birthday cakes, take care of their lawns…the list goes on and on. The theme is
clear, they want freedom to be part of the things that make for rich and stable shared life.
They want what marriage, at its best, represents, a format for love, family,
neighborliness, and participation in the larger community. Legal marriage for same sex
couples will strengthen the social institution of marriage for everyone.”

–Rev. Thomas J.S. Mikelson, First Church and First Parish
of Cambridge-Unitarian Universalist Church in Cambridge, Mass.

“Each individual’s journey through life is unique. Some will make this journey alone,
others in loving relationships – maybe in marriage or other forms of commitment. We
need to ponder our own choices and try to understand the choices of others. Love has
many shapes and colors and is not finite. It can not be measured or defined in terms of
sexual orientation.”

–From the Statement of Affirmation and Reconciliation by the Quakers

“Change is always hard, and when it comes to something as personal and seemingly
“eternal” as marriage, new ideas and practices can be perceived as threatening. Such
disquiet is fed by what has become a steady assault by some religious and political
leaders on gays, lesbians, our partnerships and our families. These assaults not only seek
to invalidate our important relationships, but also often blame us for everything from
rising divorce rates to inner-city poverty. It remains unclear to me how any loving
relationship would lead to the breakdown of another person’s marriage, or why a
commitment between two men or two women would cause heterosexual folks to flee
their familial responsibilities. Yet this is what we are being told, day after day, even by
people who profess no ill will towards gays and lesbians.”

–Toba Spitze, rabbi at Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, Mass.

Many religious organizations, including some that do not recognize religious same-sex
marriage, either directly support civil marriage for same-sex couples, support equal rights
for same-sex couples, or are opposed to the denial of equal rights for same-sex couples.
These include ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, American Friends Service
Committee, California Council of Churches, Central Conference of American Rabbis,
Church of Religious Science, Ecumenical Catholic Church, Hawaii’s Council of
Churches, Interfaith Working Group, Pacific Congress of Quakers, Reconstructionist
Rabbinical Association, Unitarian Universalist Association, and Universal Fellowship of
Metropolitan Community Churches.

Differences Between Civil and Religious Rituals of Marriage

“What many people seem to forget is that the rights of civil marriage and the religious
ritual of marriage are two different things. Because we have freedom of religion in this
country, houses of worship can always decide for themselves which rituals they will
perform. Our government, however, has an obligation and a responsibility to treat all
people equally regardless of sexual orientation or gender. It is not the government’s task
to enshrine one religious definition of marriage into the Constitution, thereby
undermining the Establishment Clause and destroying our country’s most basic tenet of
religious liberty.”

–Laura Montgomery Rutt, Director of Communications for Soulforce

Although there are religious and spiritual elements to marriage, when we talk about equal
marriage we are specifically referring to the civil aspects of marriage. Heterosexual
couples have the choice of exercising both the legal and the religious aspects of marriage.
However, same-sex couples do not have the choice of exercising the civil aspects of
marriage and therefore do not have the legal protections and benefits that marriage can
afford. This inequity relegates LGBT people and their families to a second class status.
Treating marriage as exclusively a religious issue is a way to continue to deny LGBT
people and their families access to the 1,138 federal benefits and legal protections civil marriage
can afford. It also blurs the line between the separation of church and state. This is a
violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution which protects religious liberty and
freedom for all of us.

The Separation of Church and State

Unlike many countries, the United States Constitution is supposed to guarantee full
religious freedom for all of its citizens. Each individual gets to decide for themselves
what faith, if any, they want to follow. These principles foster religious freedom and
expression in the United States.

The Federal Marriage Amendment-just as with any interference on the part of the U.S.
government in matters of faith-blurs the line between the separation of church and state.
Using religion as a justification to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution puts all
of us in jeopardy and sets a very dangerous precedent. All of our civil rights efforts over
the past century could be rolled back-including our reproductive rights, immigration
laws and important gains in civil and human rights.

Writing Discrimination into the U.S. Constitution is a Feminist Issue

Part of living in a democracy is ensuring fairness and equality for all. Although we have
come a long way in our struggles for civil and human rights, we all know that we still
have a long way to go on every front.

Without a doubt, the Federal Marriage Amendment adds a new and very serious twist to
our efforts to organize for justice. Writing discrimination into the U.S. Constitution puts
all of us — especially women, children, people of color, disabled people, immigrants and
LGBT people — in jeopardy. Much that we have fought for and still must fight for could
be put at risk with this one act. The stakes for all of us are high if we do not defeat the
Federal Marriage Amendment.

Action Steps Feminists Can Take

  • Familiarize yourself with the facts about civil marriage for same-sex couples;
  • Actively track whether your state is planning on introducing a ban on same-sex
    marriage. If so, work with your NOW chapter to develop a strategy for working
    against it.
  • Organize a discussion series on same-sex marriage between your NOW chapter
    and local faith groups.
  • Organize an equal marriage coalition meeting between your NOW chapter and
    local LGBT organizations. Develop collective talking points and a communitywide
  • Monitor your local newspaper for opportunities to respond to any articles that are
    discriminatory and which use religion to relegate same-sex couples to second
    class status;
  • Write Letters to the Editor;
  • Lobby in your state capitol for equal marriage.