Seattle Times, March 24, 2004
Clerics demonstrate in support of same-sex marriage
By Lornet Turnbull
Seattle Times staff reporter
They stood shoulder to shoulder, men and women, gay and straight,
their robes blending to represent the colors of the rainbow.
Dozens of religious leaders from various faiths and denominations
gathered yesterday in downtown Seattle in a show of support for gay
At Plymouth Congregational Church they sang "We Shall Overcome" and
later marched, placards bobbing through the streets, to the King
County Administration Building. There they presented a statement of
support for same-sex marriage that was signed by 158 religious
leaders from across the state.
"Who would have guessed, even six months ago, that a chain of events
would have occurred in our nation, spurred by a Supreme Court ruling,
by state legislatures and mayors, and by gay couples that would bring
us to this ... opportune time to address equal rights for all
couples, regardless of sexual orientation?" said the Rev. Stephen
Jones, coordinating pastor of Seattle First Baptist Church on First
"We come together across the widest variety of religious expressions
The actions of yesterday's religious leaders -- Christian, Jewish,
Buddhist -- were in contrast to a demonstration more than a week ago
by another group of clergy, who gathered downtown to denounce gay
Marriage, those religious leaders said, is between a man and a woman
and should not be redefined.
Few other social issues have divided this nation's religious
community as has the issue of same-sex marriage.
Jones, a heterosexual man, married with children, said of the
dichotomy, "We've come to the conclusion that we're now in a new
place. We can't expect everyone to arrive in the Promised Land at the
While one group in yesterday's demonstration presented its signed
statement to Dean Logan, King County director of Records, Elections
and Licensing, another group was presenting the statement to Seattle
Mayor Greg Nickels, along with a message of thanks for his support on
Earlier this month, Nickels issued an executive order saying the city
will recognize gay marriages -- a move for which he later was sued.
At the same time, six gay and lesbian couples sued King County
Executive Ron Sims, at Sims' urging, after they were denied marriage
Clerical leaders yesterday said they also will deliver statements
supporting same-sex marriage to Gov. Gary Locke and legislative
Pete-e Petersen and her partner of 27 years, Jane Abbott Lighty, were
energized by the support of such a diverse group of religious
leaders. "This is an historic moment," Petersen said as the two women
joined marchers to the county building.
The women have resisted going elsewhere to marry, holding out -- as
Lighty put it -- for being able to marry someday in Seattle.
"People are realizing that gays have been oppressed and denied their
rights for so long," Lighty said. "We're finally righting longtime
injustices. You cannot deny love."
Clerics yesterday urged lawmakers to repeal the state's 1998 Defense
of Marriage Act and to denounce a proposed U.S. constitutional
amendment that would ban gay marriages.
"We stand today to say we oppose any effort to change the beloved
Constitution to make discrimination the law of the land," said the
Very Rev. Robert Taylor, dean of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in
The Rev. Shayné Flowers, pastor of spiritual development at All
Pilgrims Christian Church, said that for many religious leaders, the
issue of gay marriage is a very personal, not an abstract political
"Whom we choose to love and how that love is bonded for life should
not be the subject of political debate," she said. "We must speak out
against one of the greatest potential injustices of this country and
that is the legalization of hatred."
David Strong, a pastor at Community Church of Joy in Seattle, said
those who oppose gay unions echo ghostly reminders of a past era.
As a black man, he said, he remembers the searing images from the
civil-rights movement, "bigots on TV talking about the destruction of
the social fabric, the destruction of society, destruction of the
country as we know it."
"Historically, people have used the Bible as a weapon of oppression,"
he said. "I read the Bible and I see my freedom."