Interfaith clergy coalition opposes gay marriage bill
State Government Illustration (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)
In the letter the bishops and ministers from about 1,700 congregations and ministries across Illinois say the attempt to alter the state’s definition of marriage threatens the fundamental institution of marriage that society counts on as the ideal environment for raising children and teaching adult men and women to depend on each other.
“The ongoing attempts to alter the definition of marriage in civil law are full of serious danger, primarily by degrading the cultural understanding of marriage to an emotional bond between any two adults,” the letter said.
State Sen. Heather Steans, a Democrat from Chicago, said she plans to introduce the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act to legalize same-sex marriage after the Senate reconvenes Wednesday.
She has said she is confident the legislation would pass the current General Assembly. A new set of lawmakers will be sworn in Jan. 9.
If passed, Illinois would become the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage, in addition to Washington D.C.
The letter warns that just because the law exempts religious institutions from consecrating same-sex marriages, the proposed legislation doesn’t protect the rights of churches and individuals to freely exercise their religious beliefs because they will have to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their business practices.
For example, they might be forced to provide health insurance to an employee’s same-sex spouse or to license a same-sex couple to adopt.
“The notion that the exercise of religious freedom is confined to the interior of churches, synagogues, temples or mosques or what one does on Holy Days is wrong and dangerous,” the letter says. “The freedom of religion also extends to the ministries of religious organizations and to the individual conscience. Thus, the real peril: if marriage is redefined in civil law, individuals and religious organizations – regardless of deeply held beliefs – will be compelled to treat same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries and operations.”
The Rev. Timothy Scharr, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s Southern Illinois District, said he’s optimistic that lawmakers will pay attention to the consensus against gay marriage.
“Our real concern is for the family, especially the traditional family of father mother and children that’s been rooted so much in our culture,” said Scharr, whose district covers 95 congregations south and southeast of Springfield. “We thought it important to preserve that as much as possible. Many things unforeseen to us could take place. We’re fearful.”
Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said abiding by the Quran’s definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman does not mean Muslims don’t support the gay community.
“Not supporting gay marriage doesn’t mean we discriminate against LGBT,” he said. “We just want the government not to interfere with this issue. I think it’s healthy for society itself to build consensus on this issue. Our policies should reflect the values of society at large.”