As the battle for Marriage Equality heats up in Maryland, we are seeing some of the typical (and deeply troubling) rhetoric and fear tactics from those who are opposed to Question 6. Most of the funds have been pouring in from out of state and have drawn on previously successful tactics of bigotry, marginalization and intimidation. All of this stems from a deeply-held (and problematic) assumption that religious people are against Marriage Equality because of their faith, but some are willing to jettison or ignore their beliefs in order to uphold the wall of separation between church and state.
Perhaps the best example is the effective and moving testimony from my colleague Rev. Delman Coates in this MME spot which has been aired repeatedly on Maryland television. I applaud Pastor Coates for his courageous stance For Question 6, the subtext of which is the following: though he opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds and would not officiate at a gay marriage, he feels strongly that the state ought to treat all people “equally under the law.” Many who share his religious views are taking the opposite position, subjecting gays and lesbians to their narrow understanding of God/Church/Synagogue and advocating for people of faith to vote against the referendum. These include my Hareidi colleagues who penned this recent op-ed to the Baltimore Jewish Times.
Those of us involved in pro-Marriage Equality advocacy, meanwhile, have attempted to demonstrate through our presence and words – at press-conferences, in ads and (earlier this year) our testimony – that religious people are hardly monolithic in our beliefs. Just last week, I spoke at a press conference where the thrust of my remarks – broadcast on 3 television networks – was the fundamental need for fairness and justice in a free society.
I must confess, though, a lingering fear that we are sacrificing something important in order to win the day – namely the good name of religion. From the beginning, I have tried to make a religious case FOR same-sex marriage. Aside the substantive augments which I believe emerge from a place of deep faith and introspection and that the Reverend Andrew Foster Connors and I outlined in our program on the topic, I feel strongly that we limit religiosity (and God) when we allow certain less-tolerant voices to monopolize the “authentic religious position.”
As we near the finish line, the two sides are becoming increasingly polarized. Voters are left with one, un-nuanced (and in my mind incorrect) conclusion: either you are against Question 6 because you believe a few passages from the Bible are the “Alpha and Omega” on this subject or you are for Question 6 because you believe in fairness, equity and the right to love whomever you wish.
My concern is the voters who believe deeply in justice, fairness and equity but can’t shake the feeling that they would betray their faith (the Bible and God) to vote for the referendum. In other words, they’re being asked to make a what amounts to a false choice because no one has bothered to tell them that their understanding of the Bible (including Leviticus 18:22), God or tradition might be, well, wrong. Faith is a funny thing, though, and I’m not sure it’s fair or reasonable to ask your average God-fearing person to do what Governor O’Malley has done: essentially to ignore his faith’s leaders on this issue.
If Question 6 passes, surely all will be forgiven and those of us who officiate at same-sex unions will have ample opportunities to make a religious case for our decision to do so. We will work to restore religion’s good name. But if (God-forbid) it fails, we may be left wondering – did we miss an opportunity to tell a better and truer story?