Christian Clergy Rally on Opposite Sides of Gay Marriage Debate

Less than a week after a group of clergy and Christians asked for a referendum to keep same-sex marriages from being recognized in the nation's capital, another coalition of clergy has declared support for "marriage equality."

"We declare that our faith calls us to affirm marriage equality for loving, same-sex couples," said the Rev. Dennis Wiley, pastor of Covenant Baptist Church, at a gathering on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.

Wiley is among more than 100 clergy from various faiths who launched a declaration, affirming same-sex marriage as "holy and good."

"Our religious traditions and scriptures teach us that wherever love is present, God is also present," the coalition, called D.C. Clergy United for Marriage and Equality, states. "We therefore affirm the right of loving same-gender couples to enter into such relationships on an equal basis with loving heterosexual couples."

Last month, the Washington, D.C. Council voted 12-1 to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The legislation heads to Congress for approval and some council members are expected to introduce a bill to allow gays and lesbians to marry in the District.

In stark contrast to the interfaith group, conservative clergy have made public cries, committing themselves to fight any attempts to redefine marriage.

The Stand 4 Marriage D.C. clergy, who include Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr., of Hope Christian Church, believe homosexual behavior is not in line with Scripture.

In a letter to Mayor Adrian Fenty and the city council last month, the conservative coalition reminded them that homes without a mother and a father are often broken and that traditional marriages and families are "happier, healthier, and more prosperous."

They also argued that the same-sex marriage proponents' claim that marriage is an issue of civil rights is "offensive to those of us who have been standing up for true civil rights all our lives."

"Racial discrimination has always been not only wrong but irrational, because race is a characteristic which is inborn, involuntary, immutable, innocuous, and in the Constitution. None of those criteria apply to the choice to engage in homosexual relationships," they stated.

The division among Christian clergy on the marriage issue is seen across the nation as more states debate same-sex marriage bills.

In southern California, where the state Supreme Court recently upheld a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Christian leaders on both sides of the debate have become increasingly vocal and active.

On Monday, religious leaders in San Diego held an interfaith service to voice their support for same-sex marriage while lamenting the high court's ruling.

The day before, Christians from several San Diego megachurches and pro-family organizations celebrated the court's ruling on Proposition 8 but were reminded that the battle wasn't over.

Cautioning the crowd not to let their guard down, Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute told them to be ready for ongoing battles on marriage.

Gay and lesbian couples have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 as well as the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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