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IB: Religious groups object as legislators consider marriage bill

IL Baptists join other groups in making defense of traditional marriage known

By Lisa Sergent, contributing editor

Springfield, Ill. | Proponents of same-sex marriage still see Illinois as the likely tenth state to make gay marriage legal, despite a setback in state legislature’s lame-duck session last week. Meanwhile, advocates for traditional marriage, including a variety of religious groups, are using the time before a new bill is introduced to make their opposition to the possible law known.

A push by progressive lawmakers to make same-sex marriage legal passed in committee, but failed to go to a vote by the General Assembly before newly elected lawmakers were to be sworn in.  Sponsors of what is called the “Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act” hope to bring it back before the assembly as early as February.

The act has received much media attention, including lobbying by celebrities in Springfield and Chicago, and rare comment on local legislation by a sitting U.S. president.

White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told the Chicago Sun-Times, “As [President Obama] has said, his personal view is that it’s wrong to prevent couples who are in loving, committed relations, and want to marry, from doing so. Were the president still in the Illinois State Legislature, he would support this measure that would treat all Illinois couples fairly.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn have also voiced their support for the measure. But faith leaders across the state have been expressing their opposition to the proposed act. The head of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, Robert Gilligan, told the Washington Times that “strong, grassroots opposition” to the legalization of gay marriage will continue.

Last week that meant writing lots of letters addressed to the state capitol.

The Catholic Conference of Illinois, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Anglican Church in North America, and individual Baptist and Evangelical churches were among the Christian among 1,700 religious bodies and leaders that spoke out against the legislation.

Cardinal Francis George wrote to legislators, “The ongoing attempts to alter the definition of marriage in civil law are full of serious danger, primarily by degrading the cultural understanding of marriage to an emotional bond between any two adults and by giving rise to a profound interference with the exercise of religious freedom for those persons and religious institutions whose faith and doctrine recognized the spiritual foundation of marriage as an authorized union between a man and a woman.”

Another letter from Thomas More Society, which advocates for the legal interests of religious bodies, advised lawmakers, “The discriminatory act will declare Illinoisans who support traditional marriage to be bigoted and prejudicial.”

Illinois Baptists respond

State legislators also received a letter from IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams citing Illinois Baptists’ ongoing support of traditional marriage, most recently in passage of “The Resolution on Reaffirmation of the Defense of Marriage Act” at the 2011 IBSA Annual Meeting in O’Fallon.

“Elected messengers,” he stated, “unanimously passed the attached resolution, which both affirms the Defense of Marriage Act and affirms the Biblical ‘belief that marriage is to be defined as exclusively between one man and one woman’ as described in Genesis 2:18-25; Genesis 2:34; Matthew 19:4-6; and Hebrews 13:4.

The resolution also calls on Illinois Baptists to “voice that belief publicly wherever and whenever appropriate, especially to those politicians seeking our vote for election.” Citing the resolution, Adams wrote, “I feel a responsibility to inform you of our church members’ Biblical and moral convictions on the nature and definition of marriage.”

He urged legislators to “to do everything in your power to defeat legislation that seeks to redefine marriage.”

Later Adams told the Illinois Baptist his reasons for speaking out at this time. “I have not been quick to speak on behalf of all the churches of IBSA when it comes to legislative or political issues, because of our Baptist polity of local church autonomy, and because on any given political issue Illinois Baptists may have a diversity of opinions. However, messengers from the churches of IBSA spoke with unity and clarity on the issue of marriage in their resolution at the 2011 Annual Meeting.

“This gave me a strong, written statement I could share with confidence on behalf of IBSA churches to the General Assembly,” Adams said, “and I pray it will have Godly influence on those facing this legislation, and help them understand where members of our thousand-plus churches stand on this Biblical and moral issue.

Proponents of legislative action would be starting from scratch with a new bill after the new Illinois General Assembly was sworn in January 9 to make same-sex marriages legal. Only a simple majority is needed to pass a law in Illinois, meaning 30 votes in the senate and 60 in the house.

In the meantime, court action on two pending lawsuits could have the same effect.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and New York-based Lambda Legal have each filed suit on behalf 25 couples who were denied marriage licenses in Cook County. If either suit were to succeed, Illinois would join Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa where gay marriage recognition was court-ordered.

In all, same-sex marriage is legal in eight states and the District of Columbia. Action is pending or predicted in at least four more states in 2013.

Last Published: January 10, 2013 4:36 PM
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