Long-time evangelical Left leader Jim Wallis, founder and CEO of Sojourners, has changed his position on government recognition of same-sex marriage. He announced his support in a Friday interview with The Huffington Post.
Wallis said he is worried about the decline of marriage and wants to strengthen it, but believes that same-sex couples should be included in that endeavor.
"I think we should include same-sex couples in that renewal of marriage, [but] I want to talk marriage first," Wallis said. "Marriage needs some strengthening. Let's start with marriage, and then I think we have to talk about, now, how to include same-sex couples in that deeper understanding of marriage. I want a deeper commitment to marriage that is more and more inclusive, and that's where I think the country is going."
The statement was prefaced by saying, "We are losing marriage in this society. I'm worried about that – among low income people, but all people. How do we commit liberals and conservatives to re-covenanting marriage, reestablishing, renewing marriage?"
When The Huffington Post asked Wallis to clarify if that meant he specifically supports same-sex marriage, Wallis answered, "yes."
A spokesperson for Sojourners confirmed with The Christian Post on Monday that this was the first time that Wallis has publicly stated that position. Wallis was stating what he believed from a "civil legal perspective" what the law should be, but was not stating a theological position about whether churches should endorse same-sex marriage, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson could not say whether or not Wallis believes homosexuality is a sin.
Wallis' new position also comes with strong support for the religious liberty of churches that hold the traditional view of marriage in states that have redefined it, and a deep concern for the decline of marriage more generally.
Wallis added that those who oppose government recognition of same-sex marriages should not be called "bigots" for holding that position.
"On the issue of gay marriage, you can be supportive of same-sex couples being able to have the same benefits that straight couples have, but you can also be in favor of religious freedom for faith communities to figure this out in their own time, in their own scriptures, their own way. I don't think they should be called 'bigots' if they are struggling with what the Bible says about this, or might we lose marriage because of this. ... But calling each other names, we've got to stop doing that."
Wallis had previously favored civil unions for same-sex couples but believed that marriage should not be redefined to include same-sex couples.
"I don't think the sacrament of marriage should be changed. Some people say that Jesus didn't talk about homosexuality, and that's technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it's not gender-neutral," Wallis said, for instance, in a 2008 interview with Christianity Today.
After President Barack Obama changed his position on same-sex marriage last year, Sojourners issued a statement calling on Obama to seek "common ground" on the marriage issue.
"We believe the best path forward is a legal system that respects the rights and responsibilities of all couples, gay or straight, and also respects the religious liberty of faith communities to define marriage consistent with their theology and scriptural understanding," Sojourners said.