New address: 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409.
My name is Robert Hardies and I'm the senior minister of All Souls
Church, Unitarian here in Washington, DC. The Unitarian Universalist Association
of Congregations unequivocally supports same sex marriage, and for many years,
now, our ministers have blessed same sex unions with the same rituals as
It's my belief that the church's calling is to bless ALL that is holy. And what is more holy than the mutual love between two
human beings? We affirm that the nurturing and fulfilling love that same sex
couples find in their relationships is, indeed, one of the innumerable
expressions of God's love.
But I want to do something a little different
this morning, and put a human face on this issue for a moment. A few months ago
at All Souls Church we celebrated the 40th anniversary of two members of our
congregation, Steve and Barbara. For Steve and Barbara, 40 years was no small
milestone. You see, Steve is white and Barbara is black and when they tried to
get married 40 years ago in the state of Virginia they were told they couldn't.
They were told that a white person marrying a black person "violated the
sanctity of marriage," not to mention the state's anti-miscegenation
Steve and Barbara - like so many couples back then - had to cross over
the state line into the District of Columbia in order to get married. Pretty
soon they moved to the District so as not to be rousted out of bed and arrested
like other interracial couples were. When Steve and Barbara watch TV and see gay
couples travel to other jurisdictions to obtain a marriage license, they can
relate. They see in this struggle a parallel with their own efforts to have
their love for one another recognized by the state.
Kevin and Paul are another couple in my church. They're celebrating a milestone, too. Last month
they welcomed their adopted baby girl into their home, and a few Sundays ago
they brought her to church for the first time. Well, you should've seen the
crowd that surrounded them after service. Dozens of would-be aunts and uncles gathered around, clamoring to hold the little newborn. Kevin and Paul are
thankful for the love and support of our church community, because the state
still doesn't recognize their relationship as legitimate.
When I look at
Steve and Barbara and Kevin and Paul, and reflect on the struggles they've had
to build their families, I'm reminded that- so often - the human heart is a better judge of love than either the church or the state.
Finally, let me say this: For all the talk about the separation of church and state, there is one
thing that politicians and preachers have in common. Something we both do very
well. And it's not something that either of us should be proud
History shows that leaders in both religion and politics have a
dangerous tendency to exploit people's fear, prejudice and hatred, for their own
gain. This moral failing can be found among all political parties and all
I don't want to impugn the integrity of any particular sponsor of
this legislation, because I KNOW people of good faith differ on the issue of gay
marriage. I know because some of them are my parishioners, and in the privacy of
my church study, I've helped them struggle to find moral clarity on this
But I know something else. There is not anyone in this room or on
this Hill, who, if they examined their hearts closely, can deny that the
introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment during a presidential election
year is anything but a politically motivated effort to pit society against a
particular group of people.
Now, you'll say to me, "Well, Rob, that's politics." In Washington we call proposals like this "tossing red meat to your
base." Right? Everyone energizes their base with legislation that excites their
passions and gets them out to the polls. But when that red meat is another human
being - and their worth and dignity and love - then the stakes become much higher,
and what politics calls "energizing your base" is called something else from the
perspective of nearly every world religion. It's called a sin. Denigrating a
human being for selfish gain is a sin.
And that's why so many religious—no matter what we believe about gay marriage—nonetheless oppose this
amendment. Let's not enshrine this sin in the Constitution of the United States
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Last updated on Wednesday, August 22, 2012.
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