Faith leaders praise Illinois marriage bill’s religious protections

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As the vote for marriage equality in Illinois approaches the House of Representatives, faith leaders are uniting behind the legislation, touting the bill’s strong protections of religious freedom for faiths that do not recognize same-sex marriage. They also laud the ability for faiths wising to extend marriage to all couples to have the freedom to do so, reports Equality Illinois. 

The legislation, known as the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (Senate Bill 10), has protections that include: “No church or religious institution could ever be required to solemnize a marriage in conflict with its beliefs. No church could ever be required to open its sanctuary, parish hall or fellowship hall to a same-sex wedding. Churches and religious institutions excercising these rights would be held immune from any civil claim or legal or administrative liability for these actions.”

Over 300 clergy from throughout Illinois have signed “An Open Letter from Illinois Clergy and Faith leaders on Marriage,” a 25 percent increase in signatories since the letter was first released in December. 

“There are differences among our many religious traditions,” says the letter. “Some recognize and bless same-sex unions, and some do not. The important thing is that the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act protects religious freedom and guarantees that all faiths will decide which marriages should be consecrated and solemnized within their tradition.”

Other statements have been released, including one directed to African-American faithful by  Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III and Rev. Dr. B. Herbert Martin of the Progressive Community Church of Chicago, and signed by 22 other clergy members. 

“We deeply respect the right of religious institutions to define marriage in accordance with their practices, beliefs, and doctrines, and this law in no way infringes upon that freedom, ” write Moss and Martin. “The religious exemption language in the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act is clear that members of the clergy or religious institutions are held legally harmless should they elect not to acknowledge any civil marriage that is not compatible with their religious beliefs.”

Another signatory, Rabbi Shoshana Conover of Temple Sholom in Chicago, told the press, “Some clergy will officiate at all weddings and some will not, yet we know that supporting full marriage equality through the Illinois legislature is our opportunity and sacred obligation to work with God to create a world of love and justice, compassion, peace, and pride.” 

Signatories represent a wide swath of faiths, including: Baptist, Catholic, Conservative Judaism, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Lutheran, Mennonite, Metropolitan Community CHurch, Mormon, Presbyterian, Reconstructions Judaism, Reform Judaism, Religious Science, Renewal Judaism, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and Unity Church, as well as unaffiliated congregations. 

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