Gay marriage in the ‘Land of Lincoln’: Faith, freedom and frustration

 This week in Springfield, Illinois, the statue of Abraham Lincoln was draped in a rainbow flag as thousands held a … Continued

 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?

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • mitchw7959

    Thank you, Susan, for your support and noting the breadth of the pro-equality faith community. An engaged and visionary coalition of clergy and leaders from many faith traditions is essential to countering the fundamentalist conservative talking points about gays and demonstrating that rather than being permanently cast as polar opposites, LGBT people are indeed welcomed and supported by a number of denominations and religions. Such a public witness was a critical component of bringing same-sex marriage rights to the District of Columbia, Maryland, and New York.

    Illinois already has civil unions, but since the federal government does not recognize those arrangements as marriage, lawfully married Illinois same-sex couples are denied the same benefits as were the plaintiffs in New Jersey. Sooner or later, equal justice under law and marriage equality will come to every state, even those such as Virginia, Michigan, and North Carolina, which are extreme in denying legal protections to LGBT families and their children. If the legislators don’t show the requisite courage to enact civil marriage for otherwise eligible gay and lesbian couples, then I am confident that federal and state judges and justices will get the job done, and I’m fine with that, too.

  • mitchw7959

    Thank you, Susan, for your support and noting the breadth of the pro-equality faith community. An engaged and visionary coalition of clergy and leaders from many faith traditions is essential to countering the fundamentalist conservative talking points about gays and demonstrating that rather than being permanently cast as polar opposites, LGBT people are indeed welcomed and supported by a number of denominations and religions. Such a public witness was a critical component of bringing same-sex marriage rights to the District of Columbia, Maryland, and New York.

    Illinois already has civil unions, but since the federal government does not recognize those arrangements as marriage, lawfully married Illinois same-sex couples are denied the same benefits as were the plaintiffs in New Jersey. Sooner or later, equal justice under law and marriage equality will come to every state, even those such as Virginia, Michigan, and North Carolina, which are extreme in denying legal protections to LGBT families and their children. If the legislators don’t show the requisite courage to enact civil marriage for otherwise eligible gay and lesbian couples, then I am confident that federal and state judges and justices will get the job done, and I’m fine with that, too.

  • Joel Hardman

    If anyone needed proof that political power corrupts, here it is: politicians (including President Obama) are willing to deny civil rights to Americans for political gain.

  • Joel Hardman

    If anyone needed proof that political power corrupts, here it is: politicians (including President Obama) are willing to deny civil rights to Americans for political gain.

  • Joel Hardman

    If anyone needed proof that political power corrupts, here it is: politicians (including President Obama) are willing to deny civil rights to Americans for political gain.

  • Joel Hardman

    If anyone needed proof that political power corrupts, here it is: politicians (including President Obama) are willing to deny civil rights to Americans for political gain.

  • SJames6621

    tthats kinda wierd since Obama supports gays marrying.

  • SJames6621

    tthats kinda wierd since Obama supports gays marrying.

  • Truthbetold3

    Re: “may be delayed until after January out of fear by some lawmakers that their vote could be used to mount a challenge against them”

    Political expediency should NEVER usurp people’s rights and freedoms.

    Shame on them for acting “out of fear”.

  • Truthbetold3

    Re: “may be delayed until after January out of fear by some lawmakers that their vote could be used to mount a challenge against them”

    Political expediency should NEVER usurp people’s rights and freedoms.

    Shame on them for acting “out of fear”.

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