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Posted at 1:31 PM ET, 10/16/2009

Marriage Equality's False Divides

By Stephen Stromberg

By Dennis W. Wiley and Robert M. Hardies

As the struggle for marriage equality moves to the nation's capital, the District of Columbia is debunking many of the myths surrounding this important human rights issue.

For instance, few would expect the two of us -- a straight, black Baptist minister from east of the Anacostia River, and a gay, white Unitarian minister from Columbia Heights -- to share the same position on same-sex marriage. Our solidarity exposes two of the myths perpetuated by opponents of marriage equality and by the media. Let's call these myths "God vs. gay" and "black vs. white."

Opponents of marriage equality would like us to believe that one cannot be both pro-God and pro-gay. Yet we lead a coalition of nearly 200 D.C. clergy who support marriage equality precisely because of our commitment to God's inclusive love and justice. Our clergy are black, white, Latino and from every ward in the District. We are Baptists and Jews, Catholics and Methodists, who have worked side by side for years on issues ranging from peace to affordable housing, and who now stand together again to raise a faithful voice for justice. Let us be clear: God vs. gay is a myth we reject. God vs. injustice is a truth we affirm.

Meanwhile, opponents of marriage equality have tried to use this issue to divide our communities along racial lines, and the press often plays into their hands. The gay community is repeatedly characterized as a group of well-to-do white folks, while all people of color are portrayed as heterosexuals who oppose gay marriage. This is the myth of "black vs. white." To suggest that the struggle for marriage equality in Washington affects only a small number of white people from Dupont Circle is an affront to the rich diversity of the District's gay and lesbian community, and it erases the lives of thousands of gay and lesbian people of color, some of whom are members of our churches.

Furthermore, D.C. leaders have built a diverse political coalition in support of gay marriage. The bill that D.C. Council member David A. Catania (I-at Large) introduced on Oct. 7 was co-sponsored by 10 of 13 of his colleagues, black and white, who represent a wide swath of the city. It enjoys the support of D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. The people of the District are standing together to declare that we will not be divided by this issue.

Last weekend, people from across the nation gathered here in the nation's capital to rally for full legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. If this struggle is to succeed, we must continue to work in ways that expose the myths of "God vs. gay" and "black vs. white." By celebrating and engaging the rich diversity of our LGBT communities, and by building solidarity across lines of race, class, culture and religion, we can win this important human rights struggle, as the moral arc of the universe continues its long but sure path toward justice.

The Rev. Dennis W. Wiley is pastor of Covenant Baptist Church. The Rev. Robert M. Hardies is senior minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian. Together, they co-chair DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality.

By Stephen Stromberg  | October 16, 2009; 1:31 PM ET
Tags:  lgbt, marriage, religion  
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Thanks, Revs!

What a great editorial. :)

Posted by: DCCharles | October 16, 2009 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Rev. Wiley and Rev. Hardies, what a powerful rebuke to those who are so intent on denying equality to same-sex couples that they are pushing hard to create and inflame divisions that will be destructive to our city in the long run (hello, Bishop Jackson). It's exciting and encouraging that so many of the city's clergy are joining the great majority of our elected officials to support marriage equality in the District of Columbia

Posted by: petemontdc | October 17, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Reverend.

Cheers, Joe Mustich, Justice of the Peace,
Washington, Connecticut, USA.

All summer long I officiated for couples who came to CT to wed from all across the country. Congrats to all.

And kudos to Iowa and most of New England for supporting marriage.

Posted by: cornetmustich | October 17, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

All know that Rev. Wiley has promoted homosexuality for decades. Well before it was considered "hip". Therefore it is not surprising that he also promotes marriage between two men, or two women. Whatever Rev. Wiley does in his church is his business. Just don't force me to acknowledge that which is an anathema to me, or force my church to recognize that which is against the religious convictions of the congregants.

Posted by: duonoir | October 17, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

"Just don't force me to acknowledge that which is an anathema to me, or force my church to recognize that which is against the religious convictions of the congregants."

No one is denying your to practice whatever kind of bigotry and ignorance you would like within the confines of your church. Unfortunately you are trying to force your backwards superstitions and mythological lies on the rest of us through the rule of law. And you aren't going to get away with it.

Posted by: emjsea1 | October 18, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

This article did not address any of the substantive moral, cultural, and societal issues. Simply recounting the characteristics of the people who share your opinion does not validate your opinion.

The fact is that there aren't any "human rights" at stake. Unlike the civil rights campaign to give voting rightsto blacks, homosexuals are not deprived of any rights to own property, vote, worship as they choose or not choose to, seek employment, go to school, or freedom of speech.

What they are seeking to do is to receive legal benefits that heretofore society intentionally bestowed on heterosexual families for encouraging them to procreate, educate, and socialize their children into our society.

If these laws which are intentionally proscribed, did not exist, the homosexual community would not be seeking "marriage" since there would be no laws for them to try to benefit from. Their civil or human rights not being at issue since they already enjoy the sames rights and privileges that every other man and woman in the United States enjoys.

The question that they have not answered is what are the fruits of homosexual "marriage" that so benefit society that these arrangements should be given preferential treatment? As a single person I receive no preferential treatment from marriage laws, should I then consider my civil rights as being violated, am I unequal?

Of course not since I have full consitutional participation as I choose to exercise.

Laws and the tax code are used by society with the intent to provide benefits to certain groups based on what society values. A civilization has not been shown to exist and survive where the family is not kept strong, and that family is a procreative nurturing one in which the father and mother are married and educate, and socialize the child. As a society we have the right to confer tax and legal benefits to those marriages exclusively for the express purpose of perpetuating our civilization. We are all alive today in this country because of this immutable fact.

Posted by: kthhken | October 18, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Please can someone get an answer for me. i am very complexed at this time. They are fighting for a Health Bill and the economy is strasy going in a downward spiral. The illegal immigrant issue is still un resolved. Yet they want to legalize gay marriages. Have they thought of the profound implications this would have? First it is established that Aids/HIV mostly are contacted through homosexual activities. Now they want to pass the health care bill. If Gay marriage is legalzd 1. this mean that billions of tax dollars will be lost because then they will be able to file as married and get a 10 thousand plus tax deduction; 2. if one or both partner have aids then it will be handled through the new health care bill; 3.what message is this sending to your children, grandchildren great grandchildren nieces, or nephews. Would you want your son or daughter in a war with someone who as identifys issues. i am confused has any of the leader look into this economical impact that this would have on the country. We are in a recession because they did not look at the effect illegal immigrant had on the medical and welfare of our country and this is what drover the recession. Please get me answers or am I the only one looking at the full picture and the imp0act all this would have on the average American citizen and the country as a whole.

Posted by: tweety12 | October 18, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

I was appalled at this article's misinformation, exaggerations, and flat-out lies.

The article preaches that it is good to be both "pro-God and pro-gay". It fails to mention that homosexual practices are directly opposed to God and the natural law. One needs look no further than the Bible (and the Torah) for proof of this.

Genesis 19 details the destruction of Sodom for its rampant immorality, specifically homosexuality.

In Leviticus 18:22, God tells the Israelites, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." Leviticus 20:13 goes a step further, saying they "shall surely be put to death."

Romans 1:24-32 details God's punishment of idolaters by giving them over to "degrading passions," where "their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

1 Corinthians 6:9 says that "passive homosexual partners [and] practicing homosexuals" will not "inherit the kingdom of God".

1 Timothy 1:10 and Jude 1:7-8 also condemn homosexual practice.

There are many other verses not mentioned here, but you get the point. To think that God views opposition to gay "marriage" as an "injustice" is a joke. The Washington Post should know better than to publish lies like this.

Posted by: ProudAmerican93 | October 18, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, and what other proscriptions does Leviticus contain?

Biblical translation and scholarship is complex, and such literal readings of the bible are a new phenomenon.

That one can be so myopic to pick out passages that may refer to homosexuality (the six big ones) and miss the overarching message of the bible (don't judge, love as god loves, forgiveness, good works) is beyond me.

Posted by: atz0 | October 19, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

"... First it is established that Aids/HIV mostly are contacted [sic] through homosexual activities."

So the gays are "contacting" AIDS/HIV? Is that by telephone? Or do they send emails?

First, it might be true only in the US but worldwide, AIDS is transmitted primarily through heterosexual contact (see World Health Organization, et al). Second, if the statement is taken as a basis to deny or allow something, then maybe only lesbians should be allowed to get married since they--as a group--have the lowest rates of HIV/AIDS.

Posted by: dcjhw1 | October 19, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

To Proud American 93, I respond that your interpretations first, go into the Old Testament. If you've read the Bible at all as a Christian, it's pretty clear that Christ died specifically to abolish the law and it's inappropriate as one to turn around and use it to judge others as you see fit. What's the point of your savior dying on the Cross if you want to revive the law as a standard under which to live? Next thing you know, you'll be protesting at Red Lobster because Leviticus 11 uses the same Hebrew word for abomination as used in your reference (see for more details). The law is not applicable to Christians and therefore, is pointless in your argument--unless you yourself follow the over 5,000 different laws at all times to the letter, which even St. Paul cited was impossible to do.

The Corinthians reference is clearly your choice of Bible--the original Greek word translated into your version of the Bible as homosexual in fact has no counterpart in modern English--closest would be soft or effeminate. As to the Romans reference, Paul's use of the word Pederastery in the original Greek should be telling. The prefix is the same one used for Pedophilia--something that's clearly not being approved of or discussed when it comes to modern homosexuality as we understand it today.

Thank you to the authors of this article for proving that not all Christians buy into the nonsense that gays are condemned Biblically.

Posted by: Cubby_Michael | October 19, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Great article. Love it.

Word around the country is that this bill is a slam dunk. Our prayers are with you, friends.

Posted by: MinNash | October 19, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

The Bible-based arguments against homosexuality have been well-addressed here. I would add that the Bible also condones the death penalty for all sorts of moral lapses, and allows for slavery. Furthermore, of course, the Bible is not the law of the land. This country was founded by people who detested that kind of governance; our traditions, laws, and legal findings have consistently upheld the basic concept of separation of church and state. So, the Bible, in its fine details, cannot be held as an absolute moral guide for modern times, and cannot be held as a guiding text for our laws. (Cue someone who will respond, "What about the Ten Commandments?" My response: go read them. Most of them are not laws in this country).

So then, what about the idea that marriage laws are intended to encourage heterosexual marriage and the benefits that it confers upon society? I would agree that any stable marriage between law-abiding and consenting adults benefits society. When you add children into the equation, you are introducing a test that is not applied to heterosexual couples. No one asks if they will have children, if they will make good parents, etc. So if you don't apply that test to hetero couples, you need a compelling state interest that overrides the equal protection due to any individual adult who wants to choose their own spouse. We have compelling interests to ban marriages involving children, and that limitation is applied to all citizens equally. You can't cite a compelling state interest that necessitates banning same-sex marriage. You can try saying that its tradition, it makes you uncomfortable, it threatens traditional marriage, etc. - none of which is enough to make the state deny equal protection. If tradition and feelings mattered, we could still justify anti-miscegenation laws, for example.

A few years ago, I'd have predicted we were 10-15 years away from resolving this question nationwide. Now, I'm more optimistic. Future generations will wonder what took us so long.

Posted by: DavidBCohen | October 20, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

To Proud American 93:

As you are quoting Leviticus, specifically, I assume that you keep kosher as Leviticus also addresses dietary laws? And as the previous poster pointed out, you are quoting old testament here. So, do you also stone adulterers?

Posted by: debs125751 | October 20, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for this article, and thanks to the other posters who have dealt with the misuse of scripture and the problems that come from allowing one set of religious people to impose their beliefs on everyone, regardless.

I think that one of the reasons my state, North Carolina, has avoided passing a DOMA law is because early on, clergy who were supportive of marriage equality for the LGBT community came together and talked to legislators. Clergy can make a big difference on this topic and so thank you again for being willing to stand against bigotry and injustice.

Posted by: separker02 | October 20, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

"Just don't force me to acknowledge that which is an anathema to me, or force my church to recognize that which is against the religious convictions of the congregants."

I was gladdened to read such a positive and uplifting editorial in the Washington Post. Being raised in a Christian home and certainly having the lessons I learned then part and parcel to my take on life now, I left the church and the doctrines of Christianity after at last being unable accept the repulsive dogma promulgated by the few but overly righteous. The above post smacks so loudly of this surfeit of passionate embrace of a truth someone has found in their life. So certain that they are so right, they are willing and ready to impose their convictions on everyone around them, while feigning that the opposite is actually the case. Do they truly not seem to realize that they can worship any way they please, but that does not empower them to impose their convictions on a secular society? After reading this editorial, my heart was lightened enough to actually consider returning to the church. Thanks.

Posted by: heron1 | October 20, 2009 8:24 PM | Report abuse

I have lived and worked in DC for the majority of my life and still do. There is not a thing that goes on in this city that is not politically driven - even this gay marriage thing. I consider myself only living here, I try not to break any laws but I consider myself as not being represented by any political or religious "leader" or figure. I react when a law threatens my family or myself. Since I do not have children that have to be raised here or go to school here I really don't care about this gay issue. This thing Catania said to Barry about if Barry's beliefs in this issue is different from his than they can't be friends is very childish and immature. I will tell a gay person my view in a second if they ask, hopefully they won't hate me for my answer. I only ask that they respect my lifestyle and I'll respect their's; we don't have to like each others lifestyle but we should respect each other. Meaning, don't push your morality on me and I won't try to push my morality on you.

Posted by: tazz2 | October 22, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

What in the world does it mean to be Pro-God?!

Don't we pray for God to be pro-Us?

Posted by: bill_baar | October 23, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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