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Testimony of the Rev. Rob Hardies on the Federal Marriage Amendment
June 18, 2004
My name is Robert Hardies and I'm the senior minister of All Souls Church, Unitarian here in Washington, DC. The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations unequivocally supports same sex marriage, and for many years, now, our ministers have blessed same sex unions with the same rituals as heterosexual marriages.
It's my belief that the church's calling is to bless ALL that is holy. And what is more holy than the mutual love between two human beings? We affirm that the nurturing and fulfilling love that same sex couples find in their relationships is, indeed, one of the innumerable expressions of God's love.
But I want to do something a little different this morning, and put a human face on this issue for a moment. A few months ago at All Souls Church we celebrated the 40th anniversary of two members of our congregation, Steve and Barbara. For Steve and Barbara, 40 years was no small milestone. You see, Steve is white and Barbara is black and when they tried to get married 40 years ago in the state of Virginia they were told they couldn't. They were told that a white person marrying a black person "violated the sanctity of marriage," not to mention the state's anti-miscegenation law.
Steve and Barbara - like so many couples back then - had to cross over the state line into the District of Columbia in order to get married. Pretty soon they moved to the District so as not to be rousted out of bed and arrested like other interracial couples were. When Steve and Barbara watch TV and see gay couples travel to other jurisdictions to obtain a marriage license, they can relate. They see in this struggle a parallel with their own efforts to have their love for one another recognized by the state.
Kevin and Paul are another couple in my church. They're celebrating a milestone, too. Last month they welcomed their adopted baby girl into their home, and a few Sundays ago they brought her to church for the first time. Well, you should've seen the crowd that surrounded them after service. Dozens of would-be aunts and uncles gathered around, clamoring to hold the little newborn. Kevin and Paul are thankful for the love and support of our church community, because the state still doesn't recognize their relationship as legitimate.
When I look at Steve and Barbara and Kevin and Paul, and reflect on the struggles they've had to build their families, I'm reminded that- so often - the human heart is a better judge of love than either the church or the state.
Finally, let me say this: For all the talk about the separation of church and state, there is one thing that politicians and preachers have in common. Something we both do very well. And it's not something that either of us should be proud of.
History shows that leaders in both religion and politics have a dangerous tendency to exploit people's fear, prejudice and hatred, for their own gain. This moral failing can be found among all political parties and all faiths.
I don't want to impugn the integrity of any particular sponsor of this legislation, because I KNOW people of good faith differ on the issue of gay marriage. I know because some of them are my parishioners, and in the privacy of my church study, I've helped them struggle to find moral clarity on this issue.
But I know something else. There is not anyone in this room or on this Hill, who, if they examined their hearts closely, can deny that the introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment during a presidential election year is anything but a politically motivated effort to pit society against a particular group of people.
Now, you'll say to me, "Well, Rob, that's politics." In Washington we call proposals like this "tossing red meat to your base." Right? Everyone energizes their base with legislation that excites their passions and gets them out to the polls. But when that red meat is another human being - and their worth and dignity and love - then the stakes become much higher, and what politics calls "energizing your base" is called something else from the perspective of nearly every world religion. It's called a sin. Denigrating a human being for selfish gain is a sin.
And that's why so many religious—no matter what we believe about gay marriage—nonetheless oppose this amendment. Let's not enshrine this sin in the Constitution of the United States of America.