By Rev. Susan Smith
[Article featured in Rev. Smith's weekly column for The County News, a newspaper reaching Caldwell, Catawba, Rowan, Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties, on the recent faith press conference sponsored by Equality NC.]
Acts 10:27-28 (NIV)
“While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”
Last week I was invited to join other faith leaders from across the state at a press conference in Raleigh to stand together in opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act which would prohibit all forms of legal relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. We were from different denominations and faith traditions, serving the one God who is in all, and through all.
Faith-based condemnation against gay and lesbian people is at the root of the legalized discrimination they face in our country today. Those who quote scriptures chapter and verse continue to rail against the growing demands for full and equal civil rights for gay, lesbian, bi- sexual, transgender, and questioning people. “We cannot allow them to marry because we are standing on the word of God!” say those who are fighting to stop them.
The case to deny full and equal civil rights to others based on religious arguments is an old one. Standing on the word of God was used to justify and defend slavery, deny women the civil right to vote, and deny people of different races the civil right to marry. Scripture was used to justify and defend segregation. The KKK holds Bibles in their hands while they burn crosses. It is a tragedy that the good news of Jesus Christ has been such bad news historically in the struggle for full and equal civil rights for all of God’s children.
In Acts 10, Peter was a Jew called to a Gentile’s house by God. His faith tradition required him to reject them as unequal, but God gave him a revelation that expanded his spiritual consciousness. He said to them, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”
So it is today with faith leaders who have had a revelation about sexual orientation. Science has proven conclusively that it is seated in the brain, not the genitals. People do not choose minority sexual orientations to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning. They have the same normal desires for family and marriage as heterosexuals.
Marriage in America is a civil right giving legal protections for committed couples in important areas such as family law, insurance coverage, property ownership and much more.
In the landmark 1967 civil rights case Loving v. Virginia; the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided that the State of Virginia denying marriage between people solely on the basis of racial classifications violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
I believe that the civil rights movement for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning people is moving in the same direction, and will be won for the same reasons. People of faith may continue to be divided on this for a long time. Some still use religious arguments to condemn interracial marriage, but they cannot deny the civil right of marriage to interracial couples.
Just like Peter, many faith leaders today have had a revelation. God has shown us that gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, and questioning people are his children, and that we need to accept them as equals before God just like Peter did with the Gentiles. Humanity is advancing, and our God consciousness is expanding. Faith leaders who do not agree will sooner or later have to accept their civil right to marry.