- (Reuters/Robert Galbraith)
A letter signed by over 250 pastors and rabbis in Illinois says they are in support of a bill to allow gay marriage that will most likely be voted on in early 2013.
"An Open Letter from Illinois Clergy and Faith Leaders on Marriage" was released on Sunday in support of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. It calls on the state to recognize same-sex marriage and that not doing so would be unfair because people would be treated differently based on their sexual orientation.
"We accept our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and recognize that their families need equal recognition and protections," reads the letter. "We believe all Illinois couples should have the same civil protections and urge our public officials to support measures to achieve equality."
The current Illinois legislative session runs until Jan. 9, when recently elected lawmakers will be sworn in and start a new term. Legislators are hoping the bill can be voted on before then.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic lawmakers Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris would allow same-sex marriage and would allow religious institutions to choose when they want to consecrate such weddings.
"We believe all Illinois couples should have the same civil protections and urge our public officials to support measures to achieve equality," the statement said.
The letter does state that those who signed the letter, including several those from the Unitarian, First Congregational, Methodist, Episcopal, and Lutheran church bodies as well as Jewish rabbis did so as individuals and that their signatures do not necessarily represent the views of their congregations.
However, notably absent from the list of faith leaders were Catholics and ministers who lead predominately black congregations.
The Chicago Tribune spoke with Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, who said a separate letter would soon be issued outlining their opposition to the proposed law.
He also noted that opposition to homosexual marriage is not only a part of biblical teaching, but part of basic human nature as well.
"The reason we're so vocal about laws that unite more than man and woman in marriage is it's [contrary] to human nature," Gilligan said
However, the Rev. Kevin Tindell, a black minister who pastors the nondenominational New Dimensions Chicago on the city's south side, said his moral principles led him to support the proposed law.
"We all deserve the human right to be happy," Tindell told the Chicago Tribune. "It has nothing to do with natural order and everything to do with support, family and love."
Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr., an evangelical black minister and leader in Maryland who fought unsuccessfully to overturn his states recent law allowing gay marriage, says same-sex marriage is an oxymoron and he would never perform a marriage for two people of the same sex.
"You can't use the word marriage when talking about two people of the same sex trying to unite in the same way that a man and a woman marry," Jackson told The Christian Post in an interview in mid-December. "Marriage predates government and is intended only to advance God's kingdom. Two men or two women seeking to unite does not achieve that result."