The Illinois legislature is very likely to take up the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act in January, a bill that would establish marriage equality in the state (Illinois currently offers Civil Unions). Over 250 religious leaders in Illinois have signed an open letter in support of the bill. “Signatories of the letter said one of their motivations was to challenge the assumption that religion went hand in hand with opposition to same-sex marriage.”
“We dedicate our lives to fostering faith and compassion, and we work daily to promote justice and fairness for all,” the leaders wrote in the letter, which was released Sunday. “Standing on these beliefs, we think that it is morally just to grant equal opportunities and responsibilities to loving, committed same-sex couples.
“There can be no justification,” they continued, “for the law treating people differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
This is not the first time members of the clergy have endorsed same-sex marriage, but the public nature of the letter and the number of signatures made it an especially strong statement.
The timing is also significant: State Senator Heather A. Steans and State Representative Greg Harris, both Democrats, plan to introduce a bill next month to legalize same-sex marriage. Ms. Steans said they would not put the legislation, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, up for a vote unless they were confident it would pass. She added that the Senate, at least, was “definitely within striking distance” of the 30 votes needed for passage and that she hoped the letter would help persuade undecided legislators to support the bill.
Many of the 260 Christian and Jewish leaders who signed the letter said they had long supported same-sex marriage and were excited to make their views more public.
An Open Letter from Illinois Clergy and Faith Leaders on Marriage:
We represent people of faith from a variety of communities across our state, and we strongly support the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. We dedicate our lives to fostering faith and compassion, and we work daily to promote justice and fairness for all. Standing on these beliefs, we think that it is morally just to grant equal opportunities and responsibilities to loving, committed same-sex couples. There can be no justification for the law treating people differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
We accept our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and recognize that their families need equal recognition and protections. We believe all Illinois couples should have the same civil protections and urge our public officials to support measures to achieve equality.
There are differences among our many religious traditions. Some recognize and bless same-sex unions, and some do not. The important thing is that the Religious Freedom Protection and Marriage Fairness Act protects religious freedom and guarantees that all faiths will decide which marriages should be consecrated and solemnized within their tradition.
The sacred writings and traditions that we follow carry the messages of love, justice and inclusion. The very basis of marriage is to protect the family, strengthen our communities and advocate compassion. No couple should be excluded from that.
We want to promote the common good – that which is best for individuals, couples, families, children, and society. As people of faith and as citizens of Illinois, we ask you to stand for freedom for all of our citizens and support the freedom to marry. It’s not only a matter of equality – it’s a matter of conscience and justice.
Click here to view the list of signatories.