WASHINGTON - October 29 - Faith leaders of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, are issuing a strong and unified call of support for the freedom to marry in Maine. Roundtable members joined with faith leaders in Maine earlier this month to call for equality. What follows is an Article of Faith about that experience.
Article of Faith by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
National Religious Leadership Roundtable
The scene was not the usual campaign one: the Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Portland, Maine, draped with the liturgical stoles of those lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who had lost their ordination due to homophobia and heterosexism, peopled with both clergy and lay leaders from a variety of different religious traditions and backgrounds. They had come for two reasons: they wanted to hear the Rt. Rev. Eugene V. Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire and they want to defeat Question 1, a referendum on the marriage equality law that passed the Maine Legislature and was signed by the governor this past spring.
They got what they wanted. While Bishop Robinson was not clad in his religious garb, he preached a Christian gospel of extravagant hospitality, expansive justice and overflowing love. He spoke about interfaith work and he articulated a secular-religious partnership. He inspired several standing ovations as he made crystal clear that working for justice in civil society is one manifestation of a life of faith.
Three days after this gathering, over one thousand people of faith marched from their houses of worship to two different rallies in Portland and in Bangor that called for the defeat of Question 1.
While only a small example that might seem unimportant when compared to the larger No on 1 effort, these three events represent a critical lesson that our pro-LGBT movement continues to learn and re-learn. Because those who would oppose the moral, ethical and legal equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do so using religious language, religious communities and religious methods, the pro-LGBT community must continue to recognize its religious members and its religious allies. And the pro-LGBT community must continue to support, lift up and make space for pro-LGBT religious work that draws on the strengths of religious communities.
The campaign in Maine seems to have understood this lesson, and people of faith seem to have stepped up to the plate. The No on 1 kickoff featured a press conference with religious leaders articulating a message of justice-seeking, love-supporting religion and organized support. And both of the above events were sponsored by the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry in Maine (and numerous co-sponsors, including the National Religious Leadership Roundtable).
The campaign in Maine, if won, will be the first time a vote by the people has extended marriage equality to same-sex couples. This will be cause for jubilant celebration. And, in particular, it will be cause for celebration that the work that we do as pro-LGBT advocates and activists - whether in the secular or religious realm - is deeply spiritual, deeply transformative work.
About the Author: The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel is the Institute for Welcoming Resources and faith work director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.###