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Respect Marriage, Don't Defend It
Rev. Alice Hunt, President of Chicago Theological Seminary
As the Respect for Marriage Act is introduced in the House and Senate today in an effort to repeal DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), the time has come for religious leaders, and all people of faith, to do what we are called to do, to speak the truths of our tradition, to acknowledge that love should be celebrated wherever it is found. I, as a person of faith, a minister, and a biblical scholar, support the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons to marry the people they love.
One of our wonderful students at Chicago Theological Seminary became a mom this fall. Her spouse had a baby, a beautiful little girl who will be loved and cherished in a home marked by compassion and faith.
But our student, in order to become a legal parent to her daughter, with all the rights and protections that entails, had to adopt her own daughter! Our student and her spouse are a lesbian couple. And while many of our churches would bless this marriage, they are denied the legal privileges of marriage by laws that would define love in only the narrowest way. Is this the kind of society we want, a society where a loving parent must adopt her own daughter?
But the real issue at hand is this: there is a perception in our society that there are two choices—the moral, religious point of view that is against gay rights and the secular view that is pro-gay—but this is not the case.
There are actually many points of view and we need to hear them all. I am not alone as a person of faith, a minister, and a biblical scholar in my support of the right of all people to marry the people they love. People of faith MUST speak in support of justice and the message of the gospel.
The case I want to make here is that now is the time to speak. It is incumbent upon people of faith to speak the truths of their tradition. We have no choice—we have to speak the truth—to do otherwise is a sin out of failure to act.
Of course, there is a cost in speaking the truth. Consider Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail, challenging ministers to speak instead of remaining in their comfortable but suffocating silence. Perhaps they were silent out of fear.
But we are reminded by Audre Lorde in her Sister Outsider that “Your silence will not save you.” And the truths of our traditions call people of faith to love and inclusion.
We can argue until we are blue in the face about what the Bible says, and how it says it, but if you look at the central message of the gospel, the only thing you will find is LOVE: Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself.
People of faith must speak! Are we going to stand silently by and watch our society continue to marginalize people because of who they love? Or are we going to stand up and speak? What history shows us is that when people of faith speak, we can and do change history and save lives.