Remarks of Rev. William G. Sinkford: Respect for Marriage Act Press Conference

September 15, 2009, Washington, DC

My name is Rev. William Sinkford and I am the past President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. I am very pleased to be here since religious voices have been so prominent in the debate about Marriage Equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples.

Unitarian Universalists have welcomed loving LGBT couples and their families in our congregations for decades and since 1996 have formally called for legal civil marriage for these couples. We know these families are no threat, that in fact they are blessings to our communities. Unitarian Universalists choose to Stand on the Side of Love.

We believe that all people... gay and straight... have inherent worth and dignity. We believe that we are all children of God and that all of us should be treated equally by our government, that no class of citizens should be singled out for discrimination. DOMA does just that and we are strongly in support of its repeal. Other faith communities join us in that stance, the United Church of Christ and Reform Judaism among them.

But religious opinion about religious marriage is divided with some religious voices in opposition and many faith communities in active and animated discernment.

The distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage is critical. Religious marriage is governed by the beliefs and practices of particular denominations and faith communities. These practices vary considerably. The repeal of DOMA would change none of the rules and practices about religious marriage. No clergy person would be required to celebrate a marriage which her/his tradition does not affirm. No church, synagogue, temple or mosque would be required to welcome LGBT married couples.

Civil marriage, on the other hand, is an institution designed for all of "we the people" regardless of our religious beliefs. The rights and responsibilities that we have heard so movingly described today should be available to everyone. Civil marriage is a civil right.

I come from Massachusetts where marriage equality has been a reality now for more than five years. I'm pleased to report that the institution of marriage is alive and well in Massachusetts. Couples, both gay and straight, continue to love and commit themselves in marriage, they continue to raise children, to attend PTA meetings and soccer matches.

In fact, the most recent data indicates that the divorce rate in Massachusetts has actually dropped by almost ten percent. I'm not claiming that the ability of lesbian and gay couples to marry is the cause. But there is simply no indication that the institution of marriage has been harmed by the reality of civil marriage for these loving couples.

It is time for us to end the discrimination which DOMA enshrined in our laws. It is time for us to focus on the real threats to the institution of marriage... the long deployment of service people in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financial pressures caused by the recession, the contraction of support for early childhood education. It is time, my friends, for us to have the right conversations about marriage. It is time for us all to stand on the side of love.

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