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Article of Faith: Multi-Faith Leaders Stand in Support of the Freedom to Marry


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.

The National LGBTQ Task Force advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people. We are building a future where everyone can be free to be their entire selves in every aspect of their lives. Today, despite all the progress we've made to end discrimination, millions of LGBTQ people face barriers in every aspect of their lives: in housing, employment, healthcare, retirement, and basic human rights. These barriers must go. That's why the Task Force is training and mobilizing millions of activists across our nation to deliver a world where you can be you. Join us!