Religious leaders celebrate Supreme Court decision upholding marriage equality

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Photos by Rebecca Bowe

While proponents of the now-unenforceable Proposition 8 might have pointed to scripture to justify opposition to same-sex marriage, a group of religious leaders from throughout the Bay Area came together this afternoon to celebrate an historic Supreme Court ruling upholding marriage equality.

Clergy from a variety of faiths including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and the Church of Latter Day Saints gathered on the steps of Grace Cathedral on San Francisco’s Nob Hill on June 26 for a buoyant press conference held in celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Prop. 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“The lies of separate but equal have no place on this holy hill,” said the Rev. Marc Handley Andrus of Episcopal Bishop of California. “Gay marriage is marriage, gay parents are parents, and all people are people.”

“For 20 years I’ve been marrying gay and lesbian couples, because in the eyes of God, that love and commitment was real, even when it wasn’t in the eyes of the state,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Beyt Tikkun Synagogue. “We as religious people have to apologize to the gay community,” he added, for religious texts that gave opponents of gay marriage ammunition to advance an agenda of discrimination.

He added that the take-home message of the long fight for marriage equality is, “don’t be ‘realistic.’ Thank God the gay community vigorously fought for the right to be married – because they were not ‘realistic,’ the reality changed. Do not limit your vision to what the politicians and the media tell you is possible.” Their message caught on, he said, because “The theme of love touched people who had stony hearts in other respects.”

Mitch Mayne’s presence was especially significant.“I am an openly gay, active Mormon,” he explained to the crowd. “I am an optimist. I think you have to be, to be a gay Mormon,” he added, eliciting some chuckling from the crowd. “As a gay man, and as a Mormon, I believe Prop. 8 was one of the most un-Christlike things we have ever done as a religion,” Mayne stated. But he said he’d witnessed an unexpected outcome as a result. “Out of this troubling time has come a mighty change in heart from inside the Mormon community, with greater tolerance than ever before,” he said, adding that many Mormons had marched in solidary with gay and lesbian couples.

Rev. Kamal Hassan, pastor of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian in Richmond, said, “I am glad that DOMA was struck down, because it did not defend marriage – it exclusivized it, and defended heterosexual privilege.” But Hassan, like many other clergy members who spoke, seized on the Supreme Court’s decision striking down part of the Voting Rights Act the day before its ruling on same-sex marriage as yet another civil rights cause that needed to be fought.

“The work is not finished – it continues until the rights of all people are protected and defended,” he said. Referencing the famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King that the arc of history is long but bends toward justice, Hassan said, “We’ve got to be some arc drivers. We should not be as patient as we’ve been so far. We have to push in order for these things to move forward.”