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ARTICLE OF FAITH: Love, integrity and justice for all

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    from the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force... ARTICLE OF FAITH Love, integrity and justice
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2007
      from the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by
      the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force...

      Love, integrity and justice for all
      By the Rev. Debra W. Haffner and Timothy Palmer

      Two years ago, for a brief few months, marriage equality seemed like
      it would become a reality across the United States. In response to the
      2003 decision in Massachusetts, brave local officials and clergy began
      performing wedding ceremonies from San Francisco to Oregon to tiny New
      Paltz, N.Y.

      One of us had the privilege of performing weddings in New Paltz, under
      the watchful eyes of police and pro-bono attorneys. The importance of
      religious marriage rather than civil unions became clear that day. Two
      men in their sixties who had been together more than 30 years stood
      before a minister on a cold March day and exchanged marriage vows. One
      of their mothers - a woman well into her 90s - stood beside them,
      softly crying. "I've waited my whole life to see my son married," she

      In those extraordinary days in 2004, when same-sex couples responded
      by the thousands to the opportunities to have marriages performed for
      them, Americans learned that the movement for marriage equality is
      about more than securing legal rights and recognition for same-sex
      couples. There is no question that civil protections are essential,
      but there is also a soul-pressing need for equal access to religious
      rites of passage. The religious call for marriage equality is an
      appeal for justice, rooted in both our innate desire for right
      relationship and our scriptural mandate. As a holy covenant, marriage
      lies at the heart of our religious responsibility to encourage
      faithful, loving relationships, strengthen families, promote social
      stability and ensure the well-being of the communities we serve.

      Opponents argue that same-sex marriage defies biblical tradition. But
      depending on which book you read, the biblical standard for marriage
      embraces polygamy, forbids divorce, allows surrogacy, forbids
      interfaith unions, regards women as property and makes adultery
      punishable by death. Much more relevant to today's debates, both the
      Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scripture call us to "love our neighbor
      as ourselves" and be just and compassionate. Scripture neither
      commends a single marriage model nor commands all to marry, but rather
      calls for love, integrity and justice in all relationships.

      Fortunately, growing numbers of religious leaders and denominations
      are answering this call. A few denominations - the Central Conference
      of American Rabbis, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United
      Church of Christ and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan
      Community Churches - have passed resolutions supporting marriage
      equality and their clergy perform marriage rites for all. Others,
      including the American Baptist Churches, the Disciples of Christ, the
      Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA), leave the decision
      to perform same-sex unions to their clergy, congregations and local
      governing bodies. Many clergy in other denominations bravely risk
      their credentials to solemnize the relationships of same-sex couples.

      Each religious group must surely have the right to discern who is
      eligible for marriage in its own tradition. But equally important, all
      clergy should be free to perform marriages without state interference
      or second judgments on the right to form a family acknowledged by the
      faith community.

      Two years ago, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice,
      and Healing published An Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage
      Equality, outlining the religious foundations for securing the freedom
      to marry for same-sex couples. Created by a group of theologians from
      the Christian, Jewish and Unitarian Universalist traditions, the Open
      Letter argues that "good marriages express the religious values of
      long-term commitment, generativity, and faithfulness. In terms of
      these religious values, there is no difference in marriages between a
      man and a woman, two men, or two women." The Open Letter has been
      endorsed by hundreds of faith leaders, and many more continue to sign on.

      It is time that these religious voices are heard in public debates
      about marriage equality. It is time for states to recognize that many
      religious traditions already perform marriages and unions for same-sex
      couples and to recognize those rites. It is time for relational
      justice for all.

      The Rev. Debra W. Haffner is co-founder and director of the Religious
      Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing and a member of the
      steering committee of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable.
      Timothy Palmer is an intern minister with the Religious Institute.

      Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members

      "Someone wise once said that marriage is the intersection of society
      and the soul. It is not just a certificate or a quest for benefits.
      Marriage is a right of two hearts made one. It is a spiritual
      recognition and a state confirmation. Therefore, the Religious Affairs
      Program of the National Black Justice Coalition strongly supports
      equal marriage between committed couples. We believe that marriage
      rights should be extended to lesbians and gay men as a simple matter
      of justice. We support this Article of Faith, because we believe in
      equal justice for equal souls."

      - Sylvia Rhue, Ph.D.
      Director of Religious Affairs and Constituency Development
      National Black Justice Coalition

      "Marriage is a covenant between two people embodying and reflecting
      their love and commitment to each other irrespective of gender, race,
      class or sexual identity. The nadir of ecclesiastical responsibility
      are those churches and clerics who refuse to consecrate the nuptials
      of same-sex couples. The concept of marriage as solely a heterosexual
      enterprise is antithetical to Jesus' mandate in both Matthew 19:6 and
      Mark 10:9 that says, 'What God has joined together, let no one put
      asunder.' And handcuffing marriage to a one-woman, one-man family
      values platform not only chokes its possibility of ever flourishing
      and lasting, especially as we are coming to understand the fluidity of
      gender expressions and sexual identities, but it also desecrates the
      wonderfully different and diverse configurations of God's human family."

      - Rev. Irene Monroe
      Harvard Divinity School

      "At least five synods (regional units) of the Evangelical Lutheran
      Church in America have passed formal statements approving blessings of
      same-gender relationships by clergy in those synods. As the author of
      the first two of those resolutions, it has been a joy to see more and
      more Lutheran congregations move toward not only blessing those
      relationships, but affirming the equality of couples who worship and
      live faithfully within those relationships in Lutheran churches."

      - Bob Gibeling, Lutheran
      National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member

      "As an openly gay imam of the Islamic faith and provider of religious
      services for the LGBTQ Muslim communities worldwide, I support this
      Article of Faith. As a scholar of Islamic Law and Quranic
      Interpretation, marriage equality is strongly supported by Quran
      because the Quran calls for all Muslims and members of the Book (Jews,
      Christians and other faiths) to have their 'comfort and cloak,'
      meaning each person has both a need for sexual intimacy and protection
      from the ravages of society.

      "Though some Muslims will publicly state that marriage equality, as it
      relates to Muslim women, is an important legal concept covered by the
      Quran, even to the extent that women have certain inalienable rights
      within a marriage that cultural adaptations cannot ignore or deny.
      Yet, few Muslims are willing to publicly state that this standard
      holds true for LGBTQ Muslims. Why this is so, is because many are
      unsure of what Quran says or does not say about same-sex marriages.
      Some believe the Quranic stories about Lut/Lot is definitive on
      same-sex relationships, while others believe the Quran is allegorical
      and that each person has the right to have a monogamous marriage
      regardless of their sexual orientation. I say to those who believe and
      hold that LGBTQ Muslims should be denied marriage equality are
      misguided, shortsighted and misunderstand human rights tenets with the
      Holy Quran. Further, to apply such narrowly-proscribed tenets within
      the context of American society - where they are able to manifest an
      Islamic life free of legal, political and cultural restraints -
      definitely falls short of the freewill Allah/God provides all of His
      creation to live happy and meaningful lives as Muslims. I therefore
      call upon all Muslims to support marriage equality for all."

      - Imam Daayiee Abdullah
      Board Member, Al-Fatiha, Washington, D.C.

      "It is time for people of faith and society to come to terms with the
      truth that gender is not a defining characteristic for whether a
      couple is able to live the vocation of marriage, and that
      same-gender-loving couples are equally able to live the vocation of
      marriage as are heterosexual couples. Marriage is about relationships
      and the movement toward marriage equality has come in large measure
      because same-gender-loving relationships have been made increasingly
      real and visible.

      "What moves us forward in this movement toward equality are those who
      are willing to make clear who is bearing the cost of marriage
      discrimination in the U.S. The stories of how this form of
      discrimination affects our families, friends, colleagues, neighbors
      and their children make a difference. Through these stories more and
      more people come to know that marriage discrimination is not only
      costly and unfair, it is unjust and inconsistent with the values of
      life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we hold dear as a
      nation and project to the world. These stories help all of us to
      realize that those of us who are struggling for equality are right to
      be impatient. Regardless of where you are on the political continuum -
      conservative, liberal, progressive - there are good, strong and
      compelling grounds to support marriage equality now."

      - Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer
      Minister for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
      Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ

      "It is significantly important that the truth of longstanding
      recognition and support of same-sex couples by religious leaders and
      their denominations be included in the dialogue. Furthermore, an
      appreciation for the ongoing discussion within denominations and their
      various approaches to honoring sincere differences can only advance
      broader understanding instead of stilted thinking. This Article of
      Faith is a welcome addition to the resources available for thoughtful
      consideration by each person of faith."

      - Rev. Cedric A. Harmon
      Washington, D.C.

      "Marriage is a legal act by which certain civil privileges accrue. In
      religious terms, it is a way communities of friends and family affirm
      and bless love relationships. In a legal democracy and in religious
      traditions that affirm human equality there is no justification for
      preventing any two consenting adults from marrying. While marriage is
      not necessarily the best or only way to organize a society, as long as
      it continues to be legally and religiously normative it must be
      available across the board or not at all."

      - Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D.
      Co-Director, WATER
      Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

      "Survey after survey shows that in the Catholic Church, people in the
      pews are eager and willing to bless same-sex relationships. Catholic
      theologians, similarly, have no problem with the idea of extending the
      sacrament of matrimony to same-sex couples. Catholic bishops need to
      listen to the call of the Holy Spirit, which is busy in the hearts of
      millions of Catholics and the discerning minds of the church's

      - Francis DeBernardo
      Executive Director
      New Ways Ministry

      "Marriage matters. I am blessed that I am part of a denomination
      (Reform Judaism) that has struggled with the question and said that
      yes, same-gender-unions are holy and should be recognized as such with
      the appropriate religious ceremony performed by our clergy. I met my
      son when he was four and a half years old. He called me Joel and his
      father was Papa. When he was seven years old, I married his father in
      a large religious ceremony that he had an active part in. About a week
      before the ceremony, he started calling me 'Dad' and it was Dad this
      and Dad that in every sentence and question. A few days after the
      ceremony, as we sat around the table, he said, 'Dad, remember when I
      used to call you Joel?' as if it was years ago and not just two weeks.
      I said yes and asked what had brought about the change. He looked at
      me as if it were the most obvious thing in the world and said, 'You
      got married to Papa.' I smiled and thought about what had created
      family for my young son. Marriage matters."

      - Joel L. Kushner, Psy.D.
      Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation
      Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion


      Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
      (Office) 646.358.1479
      (Cell) 787.602.5954


      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.
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