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December 4, 2007
Local religious leaders affirm support for gay marriage
Journal photo / Steve Szydlowski
The Rev. Eugene Dyszlewski, of the Riverside Congregational United Church of Christ, left, speaks to the press about an advertising campaign including RIPTA bus signs, while the Rev. Charles P. Barnes, of the Rhode Island Conference of the United Church of Christ, looks on.
PROVIDENCE -- Religious leaders from several denominations reaffirmed their support for same-gender marriage today and announced an advertising campaign intended to get that word out and to dispel any impression that religion doesn’t support the policy change.
"We wanted to make the point that there are religious folks who are in favor of same-gender marriage," said the Rev. Eugene T. Dyszlewski, pastor of the Riverside Congregational United Church of Christ and chairman of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Same-Gender Marriage.
"It’s a different kind of pulpit," Dyszlewski said of the advertising campaign. "We want to put a public face on it."
A dozen religious leaders and supporters showed off their signs on buses at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority headquarters on Elmwood Avenue this afternoon. The advertisements will run on 10 RIPTA buses for a month, the agency said. The advertisements depict two dozen religious leaders and carry the message, "Rhode Island Religious Leaders Supporting Same-Gender Marriages."
He and other religious leaders said that they wanted to dispel any impression that religion opposes same-sex marriage and is "anti-gay."
"That’s not true," he said.
More than 100 Rhode Island religious leaders from several denominations have signed a declaration in favor of permitting same-gender marriage, he said.
-- Journal staff writer Bruce Landis
Dyszlewski also said he opposes attempts to give religious sanction to discrimination against gays and lesbians.
"We are opposed to the use of any sacred texts to support any kind of prejudice," Dyszlewski said. "There’s nothing pathological or wrong about homosexuality."
The Rev. Diane Christopherson, interim pastor at the Beneficent Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Providence, said the coalition wants to "offer a public face and voice to the fact that there are religious leaders in Rhode Island who support marriage equality in this state."
Legislation to legalize gay and lesbian marriage has regularly failed in the General Assembly. Dyszlewski said he expects similar bills will be filed again in the legislative session that begins in January. If so, he said, "We’ll be there" to support them.
The Rev. Charles P. Barnes, the conference minister for the Rhode Island Conference of the United Church of Christ, said the exclusion of gays and lesbians from marriage inflicts "an incredible amount of pain" on them by denying them the support and rights marriage gives to most.
He said denying marriage to all conflicts with supporting critical social values. He said that society ought to give the message, "We are committed to having people committed."
"It doesn’t make sense to have a society that says, ’We don’t want to see you committed to each other,’" Barnes said. "In our church, marriage is very important, but we regard it as a social contract or blessing," he said, where the church says, "We respect and honor your commitment."
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