Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Standing up to be counted

I discovered recently through Box Turtle Bulletin that a number of clergy and church leaders in Iowa signed a petition asking the legislators to overturn the Supreme Court's decision that Iowa law and Constitution required same-sex partners the ability to legally obtain civil marriage.

I downloaded the petition and saw, to my dismay, that a church I attended on weekends while visiting my family during college had 5 signatories on the list. Tonight I finally decided to do something about that. So I located the email addresses of 4 of them (the fifth eluded me) and I typed up the following email in an effort to let them know that their signatures as church staff has consequences for those in their congregation. It read:

Dear (staff member),

I'm (Topher), a graduate student currently at the University of Illinois. I'm originally from the Iowa City area, where I often visit my dad and mom and sisters. I spent many Sunday mornings at (church name) during weekends at home during my undergraduate at Iowa State University, and my family has often visited as well.

I was dismayed to learn, however, that recently you were a signatory of the "petition to the Iowa legislature from Iowa clergy and church leaders" that advises legislators to establish the legal definition of civil marriage as between a man and a woman. I and other gay persons I know from college have directly benefited from the ability to have same-sex marriage in the state of Iowa. This includes the entitlement to medical information in an emergency, sharing health insurance through their employers, and a stable legally-binding relationship to support their adopted children. But most of all, these people are Christians who are now legally permitted a relationship already sanctioned by their churches.

I hope that you, having stated your opposition to the Court's position have undertaken your civic duty to understand why the court reached its conclusion. If you have not read any of the Court's opinion, I have attached a summary released by the Court last spring. In particular, I would ask that you read the section "Religious opposition to same-sex marriage" in the document, which reads:

Recognizing the sincere religious belief held by some that the “sanctity of marriage” would be undermined by the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples, the court nevertheless noted that such views are not the only religious views of marriage. Other, equally sincere groups have espoused strong religious views yielding the opposite conclusion. These contrasting opinions, the court finds, explain the absence of any religious-based rationale to test the constitutionality of Iowa’s same-sex marriage statute. “Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring government avoids them . . . . The statute at issue in this case does not prescribe a definition of marriage for religious institutions. Instead, the statute, declares, ‘Marriage is a civil contract’ and then regulates that civil contract . . . . Thus, in pursuing our task in this case, we proceed as civil judges, far removed from the theological debate of religious clerics, and focus only on the concept of civil marriage and the state licensing system that identifies a limited class of persons entitled to secular rights and benefits associated with marriage.”

In the future, I hope that you would strongly reconsider attaching the name of (church name) and your staff position behind your individual petition signature. For while it may momentarily seem to increase the strength of your signature, it also demonstrates that because of political beliefs, rather than theological beliefs, that I, my parents, and my sisters are not welcome in your congregation.

Thank you for your time.


I will let you know if and when I hear back from any of them.

(Day 731)


Jon Trouten said...

I'll be curious what you find out.

I contacted one of the other local (Iowa City) churches on the petition (Trinity Episcopal) to find out what's up. They have a reputation for being gay-affirming, so their inclusion on that petition made no sense. Turns out that one of their members signed the petition and listed that church on the petition without authorization. Their church leadership is now working to get their church OFF the petition. (jontrouten.blogspot.com/2010/06/anti-gay-churches-petition-ia.html)

D.J. Free! said...

Chris (and Jon), I am so proud of you! You are so bold and active, without being being obnoxious stereotypical "activists". It's inspiring! I do hope that some of them respond to you! Keep us updated!

Topher said...

The update is that, as of this afternoon, nobody at that church has written back. Perhaps they have nothing to say in response ...

Jon Trouten said...

Topher: I'm pretty certain I know which church you're talking about. I know they have some wonderful members (including my oldest son's best non-disabled friend, who incidentally came to my wedding with his father and has been a great influence on Les), but it doesn't surprise me that they're on the list or that they haven't bothered to contact you. That church isn't the best friend to families like ours' unfortunately.