Coalition of clergy backs gay marriage in Massachusetts

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 06 2003 11:00 PM ET

A coalition of Massachusetts clergy, mostly from Jewish and Protestant denominations, has come out in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples, saying laws sanctioning the practice would not threaten anyone's religion. The clergy members, who met at Boston's Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters on Thursday, said that more than 350 clergy statewide support same-sex unions.

"Everyone on the list is in agreement that the right of gay and lesbian couples is a matter of civil, and not religious, law," said Rabbi Devon Lerner, cochair of the Religious Coalition for Freedom to Marry. "We see how harmful it is to gay and lesbian families not to have the rights of a civil marriage."

Thursday's pronouncement came about a week after the state's four Roman Catholic bishops wrote a letter to parish priests urging them to remind parishioners that the Catholic Church opposes equal marriage rights for gay couples and to ask parishioners to support a proposed state constitutional amendment that would define marriage strictly as a union between one man and one woman. "We ask everyone in the church to write, call, or E-mail your state senator and state representative and to get your friends to do the same," the letter read. The statement was signed by Bishop Richard G. Lennon, interim head of the Boston archdiocese; Worcester bishop Daniel P. Reilly; Springfield bishop Thomas L. Dupre; and Fall River bishop-elect George W. Coleman. The statement came at a time when the same-sex marriage issue is pending in both the state's highest court and the state legislature.

The supreme judicial court is considering whether the Massachusetts constitution allows same-sex couples to marry. The legislative amendment would be "no more in the interest of society to deny legal status to same-gender marriages than it would be to abolish heterosexual marriage," said Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel in Boston, a Reform congregation that performs same-sex ceremonies.

The goal of the coalition is to let the public know that not all religions oppose same-sex marriage. "The citizens of Massachusetts and our state legislators need to know that there are many religious people from many religious traditions in our state who support the right of same-sex couples to marry," said the Reverend William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

A recent poll showed that a slim margin of Massachusetts residents favor allowing same-sex couples to marry.

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