Be not afraid: Same-sex marriage a matter of justice and righteousness

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It is time to begin to correct the injustices that have been established in law against the LGBT community by approving the same-sex marriage bill currently under consideration in the Hawaii State Legislature.

While civil unions have been a step in the right direction, only marriage allows the full rights and protections for all consenting adult couples at both the federal and state level. As a Christian pastor, I am convinced that discrimination, even when advocated under the guise of religious obligation, is always wrong  —  morally, spiritually and scripturally.

Those who advocate exclusion and inequality have consistently found themselves on the wrong side of history. Throughout time, religious writings and teachings have sometimes been used to oppose the abolition of slavery, the rights of women and the protection of minority groups. For 300 years in America, interracial marriage was unlawful. A cursory glance at history demonstrates that the objections to this practice were just as wrong then as objections to equality for gay persons are now.  

Interracial marriage was called “unbiblical,” “unnatural” and “contrary to God’s will.” We can use religious texts selectively to do all sorts of harm in God’s good world. The core values of most faith traditions encourage justice, fairness, equality, compassion and love. As we have come to understand, the majority has been wrong in the past about slavery, the role of women in the workplace and government, the rights of minorities and interracial marriage. Thankfully, we were able to move forward.

Now, people throughout the United States and the world are realizing that we have been just as wrong about gay marriage. It is the Holy Spirit that changes our minds and moves our hearts to be more righteous, just and loving. I believe it is now time to legally treat our LBGT brothers and sisters as full-fledged members of our state. Personally, I know them already to be fully part of the human family and, thankfully, of my faith tradition.

I am proud that the Episcopal Church has consistently advocated for equality for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. I am proud of our Episcopal Bishop of Hawaii, the Rt. Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick, for stating recently, “It is because marriage is a public institution sanctioned by the state and afforded unique legal protection that the extension of the right to same-sex couples is an issue of justice.”  

I am proud of our Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, who recently compared his advocacy for LGBT persons to his fight against apartheid: “I am as passionate about the ‘Free and Equal’ Campaign to promote the fair treatment of LBGT persons throughout the world as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”

Opponents of equality are now tossing around ugly, divisive rhetoric that is harmful, uninformed and misguided, sowing seeds of fear, misunderstanding and intolerance. As I know the truth, God is love and God loves us all — including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons. I am proud to stand with them and support them on this issue in the name of justice and righteousness and in the name of Jesus Christ. whom I serve. For, until we understand and appreciate that diversity is a gift, we will never understand and appreciate the God who created it.

• The Rev. William Miller is the Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Lihue.

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