UCC pastor rejoices as Illinois lawmakers approve marriage equality
Written by Emily Schappacher November 6, 2013
The Rev. Rex Piercy
Same-sex couples and their supporters across Illinois are rejoicing as their state is set to become the 15th to approve marriage equality for all. The legislation was passed by Illinois lawmakers Nov. 5 and is now before Governor Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign the bill into law by the end of the month.
"We are very pleased that Illinois has stepped over the line onto the right side of history and, along with 14 other states and Washington, D.C., has granted full marriage equality to all persons," said the Rev. Rex Piercy, pastor of Congregational United Church of Christ of Arlington Heights in Arlington Heights, Ill. "It has taken a lot of work to get to this point and we are just grateful that there were sufficient votes to enact the legislation and we rejoice that we were on the prevailing side."
Piercy and members of Congregational UCC of Arlington Heights are some of the advocates who contributed to the work that got this legislation passed. Among other efforts, the church conducted postcard mailings and letter-writing campaigns, and has a banner proclaiming the need for marriage equality hanging outside its building. Piercy and others attended a marriage equality rally last month in the capital of Springfield that coincided with the beginning of the state legislature's veto session. In October, the congregation displayed an exhibit in honor of LGBT History Month that documented the historical progression of LGBT rights in the UCC, and also hosted a public witness of heterosexual individuals and couples who proclaimed their support of marriage equality for all.
"We wanted to counter the other side's often-cited challenge that marriage equality will somehow destabilize marriage," Piercy said. "These people stated why it is no threat to them and why they embrace it for others."
Once signed by the governor, the law would go into effect June 1, 2014, and is said to be Quinn's latest step in taking Illinois in a more liberal direction. In the past three years under the Democratic governor's leadership, the state has banned the death penalty, legalized medical marijuana, provided driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and approved civil unions. Congregational UCC of Arlington Heights has been performing civil unions since they became legal in 2011, and Piercy said the church plans to begin hosting same-sex weddings once the marriage equality law takes effect. He expects many of the couples who have entered into civil unions will want to "step it up to marriage," so he is gratefully preparing for that day to come.
"We already do civil unions here, so marriages are just the next step," Piercy said. "Certainly all same-sex couples who come to our church will be fully entitled to a ceremony."
Illinois joins 14 other states, along with Washington, D.C., that permit same-sex marriages: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. With legislation already in the works, Hawaii and New Mexico are likely to be the next states to legalize same-sex marriage.
The UCC has a long history of affirming and working for equal rights for LGBTQ persons. At its 2005 biennial General Synod – the main deliberative body of the UCC – the denomination passed a resolution affirming equal marriage rights for all couples, regardless of gender.