Clergy Come Out In Support Of Michigan Same Sex Couples

By Jason Michael

In the wake of the ruling in favor of marriage equality by Judge Bernard Friedman in the DeBoer v. Snyder case March 21, a number faith-based expressions of inclusion were released by local clergy. This is reaffirming to the LGBT community, and even though the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals has issued a stay on Friedman's ruling for the moment, it's still good news just in time for the Ultimate 2014 LGBT Wedding and Anniversary Expo sponsored by Between The Lines and slated for April 12.

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan issued the following joint statement on March 22:

"As Christians and leaders in the Episcopal Church, we applaud Judge Friedman's decision to overturn Michigan's ban on equal marriage as a step on the right side of history," the statement read. "As the case of DeBoer v. Snyder continues to work its way through our judicial system, it is our hope that future judges will continue to find that the denial of marriage to same-sex couples is a denial of human dignity and a denial of rights under the law. We look forward in hopeful anticipation to the day when we can recognize all faithful and covenantal relationships between any two people regardless of sex, both within the Church and within our society."

The statement was signed by the Rt. Rev. Wendell Gibbs, Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, Rt. Rev. Todd Ousley, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Michigan, Rt. Rev. Rayford Ray, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan and the Rt. Rev. Whayne Hougland, Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Michigan.

Even before the ruling was released, statements of support emerged. In an open letter to the LGBT community of Michigan, Rev. Deborah Dean-Ware, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd - United Church of Christ, apologized for the pain caused by anti-gay church leaders.

"I apologize for the harm that has been and continues to be done in the name of Christ," the letter read. "I apologize for your deep pain inflicted upon you by the weaponizing of the Bible. I apologize for the political and theological rhetoric that gives subtle - and not-so subtle - permission for violence. I apologize for the years, the decades, of warfare that Christianity has waged against you. Most importantly, I apologize for choosing silence much too often while you and the people you love have been demonized and marginalized."

Dean-Ware actually attended much of the DeBoer v. Snyder trial and performed same-sex marriage ceremonies in the wake of Friedman's ruling outside the Washtenaw County courthouse. In addition to Dean-Ware's letter, Rev. Dr. Michael C. R. Nabors, senior pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Detroit, penned an op-ed for BTL.

"I am coming out of the closet as a heterosexual, male pastor, with all the privileges this has afforded me in more than 30 years of ministry, to say that I do believe in gay rights," read a part of Nabor's column. "I also believe that if gays love each other in the way I love my wife, in the way that any man-husband loves his woman-wife, it is perfectly fine for them to be married."

In addition to clergy, ceremonies were also performed by elected officials, including East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett and Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown and Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter, Washtenaw County Clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum and Muskegon County Clerk Nancy Waters.

Welcoming congregations exhibiting at the Ultimate LGBT Wedding and Anniversary Expo April 12 are MCC Detroit, Grace Episcopal Church, Northwestern Unitarian Universalist Church, Blessed John XXIII Community Church and Community of Christ the Good Shepherd.

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