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Religious Tolerance logo

Recognition of same-sex marriage (SSM) & LGBT equality

Part 22: Alabama: 2015-FEB-12:
Politicians & religious leaders respond to SSM.
Presbyterian Church presbytery votes on SSM.
SBC leader advocates obedience to the laws
favoring same-sex marriage .

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In this web site, the acronym "SSM" refers to same-sex marriage. Also, "LGBT"
refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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LGBT symbol More political and religious leaders expressed their views on the situation in Alabama (Cont'd):

  • Politico attempted to interview Republican politicians, some of whom are considered likely contenders as the GOP candidate for the presidency in 2016. Some additional responses:

    • Gregory Angelo, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans -- a LGBT-positive group within the Republican party said:

      "There’s an understanding that a focus on the marriage equality fight is ... not a winning issue."

    • Richard Socarides, a former Clinton administration adviser and a gay rights advocate said:

      "You’ll see more and more Republicans, like [ex-Governor] Jeb Bush [R-FL] recently, trying to carve out some middle ground."

    • The office of Ex-Governor Mike Huckabee [R-AR] did not respond to requests for information. 6

  • Evangelist Franklin Graham, who heads the Samaritan's Purse charity and is the son of Billy Graham, said:

    "The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state of Alabama must recognize same-sex marriages -- in spite of that state's overwhelming vote [in 2006] to prohibit same-sex unions. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is defying that order, asking state probate judges not to issue licenses to gay couples. I applaud Justice Moore and the many Alabama [probate] judges who are upholding the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman.

    No earthly court has jurisdiction over the infallible Word of God." 7

Webmaster's comment (bias alert):

There appears to be a consensus among everyone involved in the SSM debate that states have the sole responsibility to define who is eligible to marry within their borders. However, few of those opposed to same-sex marriage ever go further and comment on whether a state's laws are required to follow the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These clauses require the federal, state, and local governments to treat people -- and thus couples -- equally. This, of course, is the key factor in the marriage equality debate.

A second area of concern relates to the Bible's six or so "clobber passages" which some people believe condemn all same-gender sexual behavior. There is a general consensus on what the Bible says on these matters in their original Hebrew or Greek autograph copies by their original authors. But there are wide differences of opinion among Christians about the accuracy of these passages' translations into English, and about the exact interpretation of these passages. Too often, Christian will remark: "The Bible says...." instead of "My interpretation of what the Bible says is ..."

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2015-FEB-12: A presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) votes on same-sex marriage:

This month is probably the one time in the history of Alabama, when passions towards the LGBT community are most highly inflamed. Yet, it was also this time that a presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) [Acronym: PC(USA)] held a meeting and a vote on whether to approve an amendment to the Church's Constitution governing marriage.

Background: One of the very first movements within the PC(USA) towards greater acceptance of the LGBT community occurred during the fall of 2000. It was at meeting of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, a conservative reform group. In what most Alabamians would regard as a radically liberal move, a Covenant speaker stated that:

"Scriptural condemnations of homosexuality merely reflect biblical authors' cultural biases and are not among the 'essential' messages of the gospel."

Several speakers at that conference said the Bible's condemnations of same-gender sexuality call to mind other scriptural passages used in past centuries to justify slavery and to keep women from participating fully in the life of the church -- on the basis of long-held interpretations that are largely abandoned today." 10

Speaker William Placher from Wabash College, told the meeting that interpreters of the Bible must:

"... draw a line between cultural conventions and the truths that Bible stories convey, ... [and always] keep in mind the assumptions the author brought to his time and place."

He said the apostle Paul, for example, lived in a patriarchal culture where it was:

"... socially acceptable to treat homosexuals with contempt." 10

A decade later, during 2010, the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church (USA), passed a resolution to reword Section G-6.0108 of the Book of Order. The amendment would allow lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in covenanted relationships to be considered for ordination within the denomination as deacon, elder or minister. All of the PC(USA)'s 173 U.S. presbyteries were asked to discuss and vote on the decision. A major breakthrough happened in 2011-MAY-10, when The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area voted 205 to 56 in favor of the resolution. Their's was the 87th affirmative vote among the denomination's presbyteries and resulted in the resolution being ratified. 11

During mid-2014, the General Assembly voted to take the next step: to recognize marriage equality and allow their clergy the freedom to choose whether or not to marry same-sex couples. The assembly voted to revise the denomination's constitution's definition of marriage which has been:

"... a civil contract between a woman and a man."

Delegates voted 429 to 175 in favor of rewording the Book of Order to state that:

"... marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman."

This change has been sent to each of the Church's 172 presbyteries for discussion and a vote. Again, 87 presbyteries must pass the revision, in order to implement the change.

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The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley is composed of a group of PC(USA) congregations in central Alabama. During the debate on the revision:

  • The Rev. Ed Hurley, pastor of South Highland Presbyterian Church opposed the measure. He said:

    "We really don't need to jump ahead of the Episcopalians on this issue."

The Episcopal Diocese of Alabama has taken an intermediate position. They will not allow their congregations to actually marry any same-sex couples. But they will be able to bless same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere.

  • Rev. Shannon Webster, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham said:

    "I'd just like to be able to do my job and marry couples when the state of Alabama says okay." 12

  • Rev. Terry Newland, a executive from the Synod who was present at the meeting said:

    "You can be a faithful Presbyterian on either side of the issue. Churches and ministers have never been required to do gay marriages and they still aren't required to."

Delegates voted 75 to 39 in favor of approving the revision to the Book of Order. They are approximately the 38th presbytery to pass the revision out of about 52 that have voted to date. It appears that the measure will be authorized by the presbyteries sometime later in 2015.

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2015-FEB-12: Southern Baptist leader expresses an unexpected opinion on SSM:

Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He spoke at the Commission's quarterly luncheon. He was asked during the question period about the same-sex marriage in Alabama. He said that they should not "wring their hands" over it. He continued by saying:

"We've had moral decadence since Eden, and that decadence shows up in various ways at various times. We also have the light of Christ that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

So if you have a group of Christians who are wringing their hands and thinking we're in a situation where we just can't go forward, then you also have a group of Christians who don't understand the power of the Gospel."

When asked whether state officials -- which presumably included Probate Judges -- who are Christians should practice civil disobedience over the legalization of marriage by same-sex couples, he said that if they cannot obey the new laws in good conscience, they may have to resign and continue their battle as private citizens.

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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. Kim Chandler, "Alabama's stand against gay marriage crumbles," Yahoo! News, 2015-FEB-13, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  2. Richard Fausset, "Fresh Challenge to Gay Marriage Increases Confusion in Alabama," New York Times, 2015-FEB-18, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  3. Kyler Geoffroy, "Alabama Supreme Court to consider Liberty Counsel's petition to stop issuance of same-sex marriage licenses," Towleroad, 2015-FEB-14, at: http://www.towleroad.com/
  4. Kent Faulk, "Alabama Supreme Court to consider petition seeking halt to same-sex marriage licenses," Alabama Media Group, 2015-FEB-14, at: http://www.al.com/
  5. Kelsey Stein, "Nonprofit asks Alabama Supreme Court to dismiss petition seeking to uphold same-sex marriage ban," Alabama Media Group, 2015-FEB-13, at: http://www.al.com/
  6. Jonathan Topaz, "The GOP's gay marriage dodge: The latest dispute in Alabama? That’s a topic they’d rather avoid," Politico, 2015-FEB-14, at: http://www.politico.com/
  7. Leada Gore. "Franklin Graham on gay marriage in Alabama ...," Alabama Media Group, 2015-FEB-14, at: http://www.al.com/
  8. Campbell Robertson, "Most Alabama Judges Begin to Issue Licenses for Same-Sex Marriages," New York Times, 2015-FEB-13, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
  9. "Sanctity of Marriage Alabama," Facebook, at: https://www.facebook.com/
  10. "Anti-homosexual passages in Bible reflect authors' biases, speakers say,"  PCUSA News #00397, issued 2000-NOV-9
  11. LBGT and Poly Information. "The Big Eight" at: http://www.imsa.edu/
  12. Greg Garrison, "Presbyterian group in central Alabama votes to approve gay marriage," Alabama Media Group, 2015-FEB-12, at: http://www.al.com/
  13. Mike Andrew, "Southern Baptists wave white flag over marriage - Judge Roy Moore vows to fight on," Seattle Gay News, 2015-FEB-12, at: http://www.sgn.org/

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    Site navigation: Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > Menu > Alabama > here

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-FEB-14
Latest update: 2015-FEB-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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