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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriages (SSM) & civil unions in Illinois.

2012-DEC: Religious groups' support/criticism of SSM.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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2012-DEC: Open letter in support of SSM by 250 mainline and liberal Illinois clergy:

On Sunday, 2012-DEC-23 a group of 250 moderate and liberal clergy in Illinois -- mostly Protestant and Jewish -- circulated an open letter in support of SSM. They said that one of their motivations was to challenge the assumption that religion went hand in hand with opposition to same-sex marriage. 1 The letter states:

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.

"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. 2

Reporter Maggie Astor of the New York Times commented:

"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." 3

Among the signatories:

  • The Rev. Kevin E. Tindell, an openly gay United Church of Christ minister said:

    "It€™s not a religious right €" it€™s a civil right. It€™s a matter of justice, and so as a Christian, as a citizen, I feel that it€™s my duty."

  • The Rev. Kim L. Beckmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said she was drawn into the movement:

    "... as my gay and lesbian parishioners were welcomed into our congregation. ... I have participated in blessings of these unions for longer than we€™ve even been talking about marriage. I€™m thrilled to take this step." 3

Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of Chicago for the Episcopal Church, USA was quoted on an MSNBC program as saying:

    "Opponents of the current legislation would have to present compelling evidence that marriage equality will harm our state so deeply that we must continue to deny same-sex couples the rights that opposite-sex couples freely claim for ourselves." 4

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2012-DEC: Opposition to SSM by a spokesperson from the Illinois Family Institute:

Laurie Higgins is a cultural analyst for the Illinois Family Institute -- a conservative Christian group that opposes marriage equality on theological grounds. She objects to the references to "equality" and "inclusion" in the open letter. She regards marriage as being defined only as a voluntary union of one man and one woman. Any gay or lesbian may enter the institution of marriage by simply selecting a spouse of the opposite sex who is willing to marry them. Of course, there would be no feeling of sexual attraction on the part of the gay or lesbian in such a marriage. Past experience has shown that such marriages are almost always doomed to fail.

She wrote:

"All adults, regardless of their sexual proclivities, are entitled to participate in the sexually complementary institution of marriage. Those who identify as homosexual choose not to participate in it." 3

She appears to believe that adults get to choose their sexual orientation rather than discover it. That is a belief followed by a vanishingly small percentage of psychiatrists, psychologists, other therapists, and human sexuality researchers. However, it is still believed by many religious conservatives.

She is here describing a definition of marriage that is being promoted by many religious conservatives. It overlooks two facts:

  • Liberal and some mainline clergy generally believe that the many biblical passages calling for justice and equality require access to same-sex marriage for sexual minorities.

  • In addition to religious marriages, there are also civil marriages that are solemnized outside of a religious setting, and which are open to any couple with a marriage license.

Referring to the open letter signed by 250 clergy, she said that it:

"... is signed quite obviously by faith leaders who have adopted radical, ahistorical, heretical theological views. Their views are informed not by careful exegesis, but by personal desire and political convictions." 3

By "careful exegesis" she presumably means a thoughtful analysis of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (the Old and New Testament). But by restricting marriage to one man and one woman, she is herself ignoring dozens of biblical passages. There are eight marriage types described in the Bible, and her definition only matches one of them -- the nuclear family composed of Eve and Adam as first mentioned in Genesis 2:24, and subsequent marriages of one male and one female. She overlooks seven other marriage types in the Bible including polygany. That is the most popular version of polygamy that involves one man and multiple women. The Bible mentions many such marriages including:

  • Lamech with two wives.
  • Esau with 3 wives;
  • Jacob: 2;
  • Ashur: 2;
  • Gideon: many;
  • Elkanah: 2;
  • David: many;
  • Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth along with 300 concubines, which were a type of lower-status wife;
  • Rehaboam: 3;
  • Abijah: 14.
  • Jehoram, Joash, Ahab, Jeholachin and Belshazzar also had multiple wives.

None of these marriages were criticized in the Bible except for Solomon's. His were condemned not for the number of his wives, but because they were mainly pagans who had come from other cultures and worshiped multiple deities.

Also, from the historical record, it is known that Herod the Great (73 to 4 BCE) had nine wives.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Strong Faith Support for Marriage Equality in Illinois," More Light Presbyterians, 2012-DEC-26, at:
  2. Maggie Astor, "Illinois Clergy Members Support Same-Sex Marriage in Letter Signed by 260," New York Times, 2012-DEC-23, at:
  3. "An Open Letter from Illinois Clergy and Faith Leaders on Marriage," Chicago Tribune, at:
  4. "Illinois same-sex marriage bill passes Senate committee." MSNBC video, 47 s. into the video, 2013-JAN-04, at:
  5. "Editorial: All we need is love €" and marriage," Chicago Sun-Times, 2012-DEC-25, at:

Copyright 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2012-FEB-13
Latest update: 2012-JAN-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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