Clergy members from several Valley churches and church groups say marriage equality is a basic tenet of their beliefs, contradicting the vocal opposition to same-sex marriage by numerous religious groups.
They met Tuesday in Phoenix to illustrate that numerous religious leaders support marriage equality, as opposed to vocal opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and others.
The gathering, put together by Why Marriage Matters Arizona, a group attempting to promote marriage equality in the state, took place at the office of the United Church of Christ, the first Christian denomination to permit gay clergy and marriages in states where it is allowed.
Arizona is one of 20 states where gay marriage is either not permitted or where bans have not been struck down in the courts. Several cases are in the works challenging Arizona’s 2008 constitutional amendment declaring marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman.
Speaking were representatives of the UCC, Reform Judaism, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
“People of faith believe strongly in the freedom to marry,” said the Rev. John Dorhauer, conference minister for the Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ.
“As people of faith, we can often come across as monolithic,” Dorhauer said. “We hope that we can begin to help people understand that within all of the traditions represented here there is clear and strong support for marriage for same-sex couples. We hope we can help our communities see that our clear support for the freedom to marry derives from the teachings of our faith and our sacred writings, and is not arrived at in opposition to those teachings.”
A key argument of those who oppose marriage equality is that the Bible has numerous verses that condemn the practice. Religious leaders who support same-sex marriage argue that the verses are taken out of context, misunderstood as the result of poor translations or simply refer to other practices, not committed same-sex relationships.
Other speakers included the Rev. Troy Mendez, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix, Dean Shapiro, rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Tempe, Susan Frederick-Gray of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, the Rev. Stephen Govett of Asbury United Methodist Church and others who also met Tuesday in Tucson and Flagstaff.
Why Marriage Matters Arizona used the gathering to introduce the Rev. Debra Peevey as liaison to religious groups. Her title is faith director.
She said her first duty would be to contact all of the 50 or so clergy members who attended the gathering, hoping to build an expansive list of marriage equality supporters.
“Support for this cause grows as more and more people realize they know gay and lesbian people,” she said.