Tuesday, June 2, 2009

D.C. ministers back same-sex marriage

Courtesy of Washington Blade

D.C. ministers back same-sex marriage More than 130 sign ‘marriage equality’ declaration!

More than 130 clergy representing dozens of churches and at least two synagogues in the District of Columbia released a joint statement Tuesday expressing support for legalizing same-sex marriage in the city.

"We declare that our faith calls us to affirm marriage equality for loving same-sex couples," says the statement, which the signers call a "Declaration of Religious Support for Marriage Equality."
The declaration was released during a news conference at Covenant Baptist Church, a mostly black congregation in Ward 8, a section of the city that same-sex marriage opponents say would vote against a same-sex marriage law should it be placed on the ballot in a referendum.
Nearly 50 of the signatories to the declaration attended the news conference, standing at the pulpit behind the church's husband and wife pastors, Revs. Dennis and Christine Wiley.

"The black church and the black community have been characterized by some as being united in opposition to same-sex marriage," Christine Wiley said in reading a joint statement with her husband.

"This could not be further from the truth," she said. "Black people are not monolithic. We are diverse just like all other human beings."

Dennis Wiley added, "And because Covenant Baptist Church is a beloved community with a long history of celebrating the richness of our diversity, we have gathered here today to reaffirm, in the immortal words of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., that 'injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"

Others speaking at the news conference in support of same-sex marriage were Rev. Louis Leon of St. John's Episcopal Church at Layfayette Square across from the White House, which is known as the Church of the Presidents; and Rev. Alton Pollard, dean of the Howard University School of Divinity.

Also speaking was Rev. Abena McCray of Unity Fellowship Church and Bishop Rainey Cheeks of Inner Light Ministries. Both have mostly black gay congregations.

At least four of the signatories to the declaration are ministers with the Washington National Cathedral, the nation's largest Episcopal church.

"One of God's greatest gifts to us is our human capacity to love one another," says the clergy members' joint declaration. "The ability of two people to enter into relationships and form families of love and care is one expression of this gift.

"We therefore affirm the right of loving same-gender couples to enter into such relationships on an equal basis with loving heterosexual couples."

The statement comes one week after Rev. Harry Jackson Jr., pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., filed papers with the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics calling for a citywide referendum to overturn a proposed city law that would recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.

The D.C. Council passed the law and Mayor Adrian Fenty signed it last month. The measure is undergoing a required review by Congress and is expected to take effect the first week in July if Congress takes no action to block it.

Jackson, who is a D.C. resident, and his supporters must obtain about 21,000 petition signatures before the congressional review period for the proposed law is completed in order to place the measure on the ballot for a referendum. Activists supporting same-sex marriage said they are hopeful that the signature gathering and other legal hurdles would be too great for Jackson to overcome.

When asked at Tuesday's news conference if they believe members of their respective congregations would support or oppose same-sex marriage in a voter referendum, none volunteered to offer an answer. Instead, some said they oppose holding such a referendum.
"I personally don't support the notion that it should be put to a referendum," Dennis Wiley said, "because I think the point is very clear that the rights of a minority should never be subject to a vote of the majority."

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