Thursday, November 02, 2006

Christian, Jewish Leaders Say "Vote No"

An article by Bob Gibson in this morning's Daily Progress begins:

Rabbi Dan Alexander sports a bumper sticker on his car that reads: “My Faith Says Vote ‘No’ on #1.”

He is one of about 20 Charlottesville area Christian and Jewish leaders who gathered Wednesday to discuss why they plan to vote against Question No. 1, a proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution to add a definition of legal marriage to the Bill of Rights.

“I almost never put bumper stickers on my automobile,” said Alexander, rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel on East Jefferson Street.

In the upcoming election on this question, however, he said he believes strongly that the amendment runs counter to “the core American ideal whereby government is meant to ensure and protect the rights of individuals rather than to impose itself on them.”

Ministers from Westminster Presbyterian Church and Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church on Rugby Road, Wesley United Methodist Church on Thomson Road and several other churches applauded Alexander and offered their own objections to the amendment.

“There is no need for this amendment to the Virginia Constitution,” said the Rev. Jim Baker of Westminster Presbyterian. “Obviously, marriage is in trouble, and yet the greatest threat to marriage comes not from homosexuals. It comes from heterosexuals who find it difficult to remain married to one another.”
Those twenty Charlottesville-area clergy are not alone in their concerns. As I indicated earlier today, at a press conference in Richmond this morning, Christian and Jewish religious leaders gathered to announce their opposition to Ballot Question No. 1, the Marshall/Newman amendment.

A statement explaining their reasons for opposing the proposed amendment was signed by 280 priests, ministers, and rabbis from all corners of Virginia.

The statement begins with an epigraph from the prophet Micah (chapter 6, verse 8):
God has told you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
The text continues:
As Clergy from across Virginia, we oppose Ballot Question #1 and encourage people of faith in this Commonwealth to vote "no" on this amendment on November 7.

We come from many different traditions, faiths and denominations, yet we all agree that Ballot Question #1 violates the call to justice and fairness that is a moral imperative shared by our faith traditions. Ballot Question #1, though called "the marriage amendmnent" by some, will not protect any marriages. It will cause undue hardship and harm to the families of unmarried couples in Virginia.

As religious leaders, we affirm the dignity of all persons and value the welfare of all loving and committed families regardless of their legal status. This amendment undermines those principles. Even those of us who believe that the state should reserve legally sanctioned marriage for unions between a man and a woman agree that this amendment goes too far.

Ballot Question #1 would create two categories of families: one headed by married couples enjoying expansive rights and legal protections and one headed by unmarried individuals banned from any legal recognition. For the latter, the discrimination is severe. Family courts may not be able to protect victims abused by unmarried partners under domestic violence laws. Child custody and visitation agreements between unmarried people may not be enforceable. Medical directives naming a loving partner to make critical healthcare decisions may not be recognized. State agencies, universities, and hospitals may not be able to grant an employee bereavement leave after a life partner dies or offer health benefits to an employee's domestic partner or the partner's children. Family courts may not be able to act in the best interest of a child if her parents are not married. Families in crisis will face the threat of years of legal quagmire while judges sort out their legal rights.

As Clergy, we pray with, counsel, and support families in times of crisis. We know the pain that such crises inflict, and we know that such pain does not discriminate based on whether or not the state has granted a marriage license. Married or not, the anguish of losing a lifelong partner is the same. Married or not, children and loved ones get sick and need medical care. Married or not, the crushing physical and emotional blows from an abusive partner require protection.

Our faith traditions teach us that God desires justice, kindness, and mercy. There is no place within our faith communities or within our Commonwealth for an amendment that punishes unmarried couples and their children. Ballot Question #1 will not protect marriage, but it will harm families. As religious leaders, we urge Virginians to vote "no" on Ballot Question #1. It is the moral choice.
The signatories include members of the clergy from the Baptist, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, and Presbyterian traditions, as well as from Jewish and Unitarian Universalist congregations.

I suspect more news will appear on TV and radio today and at the Commonwealth Coalition web site and Blogging the Amendment.

Update: Andrew Sullivan has linked to this article from his well-read blog, The Daily Dish, leading to a tremendous traffic increase.

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