This week in Springfield, Illinois, the statue of Abraham Lincoln was draped in a rainbow flag as thousands held a rally and marched for marriage equality in the state capitol. Supporters were advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 10, known as the “Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.”
Lincoln better take a hand, because the struggle for marriage in equality in this state that calls itself “The Land of Lincoln” may be frustrated once again by what the Chicago Tribune calls “political reality.”
A vote on marriage equality in Illinois may be delayed until after January out of fear by some lawmakers that their vote could be used to mount a challenge against them. A vote “now would leave a month or so for challengers opposed to it to gather enough signatures to get on the March primary ballot,” noted the Chicago Tribune.
Against these kinds of “political realities,” Lincoln would ask, in fact did ask in The Gettysburg Address, if the nation, or “any nation” can “long endure” if it does not honor its founding in “Liberty.”
Many faith leaders were present at the rally, and several spoke passionately about their religious freedom and their faith commitment to marriage equality. Rev. Rachelle Brown of the Metropolitan Community Churches proclaimed from the podium, “We are standing on the side of love and justice” and “we are doing this in the name of God.” When I spoke to Rev. Brown after the rally, she expanded on what she had said, and emphasized, “This struggle for marriage equality is about religious freedom. To me, that means justice for people of faith who are same gender loving.”
“Love” and “Standing on the Side of Love” were all over the banners carried by marchers. These people of faith have plainly read their bibles, especially the text in 1 John that says plainly, “Perfect love drives out fear.” (4:18)
Where legislators hold back, fearing political realities, some faith leaders are leading. African American clergy are coming together to support marriage equality in Illinois, and counter the critical messages of some of their fellow clergy.
A powerful witness was given at this week’s rally in Springfield by Bishop Carlton Pearson, the founder and spiritual director of New Dimensions Chicago. The Bishop echoed a theme being heard and seen more and more at Pride rallies and other places, an explicit apology to the gay community for the prejudice of some in the churches.
Bishop Pierson said, “I need to apologize, as a clergyman, and as a Bishop in the Lord’s church, for the arrogance and ignorance and the obstinance that we have had for so many years,” Pearson said. ”For the abuse, the mistreatment, the demeaning attitude we’ve had toward gay people.
“I apologize on the behalf of millions who may not feel the courage to say ‘I’m sorry.’ We did not treat you right. We have not treated you right — and that day is stopping now,” he said.
As a citizen of Illinois who is committed to marriage equality for all, I applaud Bishop Pearson and other faith leaders who courageously spoke out in favor of religious freedom and marriage fairness.
Now, could we have a little courage from our legislature?