United Church of Christ celebrates Prop 8 ruling
Written by Barb Powell
February 7, 2012
Leaders of the United Church of Christ today (Feb. 7)
applauded the ruling handed down by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
calling California’s “Prop 8” unconstitutional.
"We are thankful for the important step that has been
taken toward marriage equality with the overturning of Proposition 8," said the
Rev. James Moos, executive minister of the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries. "While we still have work to do, we can proceed with renewed vigor in our quest
In the introduction to the ruling, the court recognized
that the legislation does not take away religious freedoms. It further implied
that all Prop 8 did was discriminate against same-gender couples. "Proposition
8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and
human dignity of gays and lesbians in California," the court said.
Both points were key elements of an amicus brief filed by
the United Church of Christ against Prop 8. A 2008 ballot measure in California
that limited marriage to one man and one woman, Prop 8 was struck down in a 2-1
decision by a panel of the Court.
"I applaud the court’s ruling. It honors all families in
our communities and is an important step for equality and justice for
everyone," said the Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, the UCC's executive for LGBT
concerns. "This ruling is not about what religious institutions have to do, it
is about the role of the state to treat all of its citizens fairly and equally,
and the importance of respecting religious liberty. Same-sex couples should
have the right to marry because it is the only way to honor religious liberty.
Many of our United Church of Christ pastors and congregations perform religious
marriage rites for same-sex couples, and do so out of their theological
convictions. This in no way inhibits others from refraining to do so out of
their own convictions. It is not the role of government to interfere and deny
anyone this basic right based on gender."
Although proponents of Prop 8 vowed to appeal, the ruling
clears the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on same-gender marriage,
possibly as early as next year.
"As progressive people of faith, we celebrate this ruling
that strikes down a law that would have continued to discriminate against
members of our community who deserve the right to get married," said the Rev.
Patricia de Jong, senior minister of First Congregational UCC in Berkeley,
Calif. "Love is a powerful moral force in our world and is to be celebrated not
De Jong's comments were echoed in United Church of Christ
congregations across California.
"As a pastor of an Open and Affirming congregation in the
United Church of Christ, I celebrate the news that the 9th Circuit has upheld
the ruling which supports equal rights for all people," said the Rev. Petra
Mallei-Sternberg, pastor of First Congregational UCC in San Bernardino, Calif. "I look forward to the joyous day when all couples who wish to be married will
be afforded the same legal benefits, and in the meantime, our pastors and
congregation will continue to offer a sacred blessing in weddings for all
couples who desire to celebrate their love and covenant commitment."
"I have been doing same gender weddings for over 20 years
and I am delighted that the court ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional. This is
a case about equal rights under the law –– nothing else. Proposition 8 is
blatantly discriminatory and needs to be overthrown –– I hope the Supreme Court
will affirm the Circuit Court's opinion," said the Rev. Jerald M. Stinson,
senior minister of First Congregational UCC of Long Beach, Calif. "Marriage is
about committed loving relationships and those relationships exist in gay
couples as well as straight couples."
In 2005, the UCC's General Synod approved a resolution
that affirmed its support for same-gender marriage equality. The UCC's Southern
California-Nevada Conference and Northern California-Nevada Conference were
among the earliest advocates for the General Synod action. Both Conferences had
actively opposed Prop. 8.
In November 2008, the UCC purchased full-page ads in
three of California's largest gay community publications after voters there
approved Prop 8. The ads appeared in the “Bay Area Reporter” in San Francisco,
“Frontiers” in Los Angeles and “Gay & Lesbian News” in San Diego, and
expressed support for same-gender marriage.
In 2010, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the
ban on same-gender marriage amounted to unconstitutional discrimination and
should be immediately struck down.
"Justice is served when we end discrimination and
provide equal protection under the law for everyone," the Rev. Geoffrey A.
Black, UCC general minister and president, said at the time. "I join those
in our churches and the communities we serve who also praise this decision for
what it means to them, their families and our society."