California bishops call for defeat of proposition that would ban same-sex marriage

September 10, 2008

Bishops of the six dioceses in the state of California issued a joint statement on September 10 calling for defeat of Proposition Eight, a ballot initiative approved for inclusion in the November 4 election that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

In addition, the bishops of Los Angeles and the bishops of the dioceses of California and Northern California held press conferences at which they called for defeat of the proposition, which is supported by some religious groups, and opposed by others.

The group statement, signed by bishops of the dioceses of Northern California, California, El Camino Real, San Joaquin, Los Angeles and San Diego, said, “We do not believe that marriage of heterosexuals is threatened by same-sex marriage. Rather, the Christian values of monogamy, commitment, love, mutual respect and witness of monogamy are enhanced for all by providing this right to gay and straight alike. Society is strengthened when two people who love each other choose to enter into marriage, engaged in a lifetime of disciplined relationship building that serves as a witness to the importance of love and commitment.”

The bishops acknowledged that the Church is not of one mind on the blessing of same-sex unions, but said they are “adamant that justice demands that same-sex civil marriage continue in our state,” and noted that a resolution passed at the 2006 General Convention opposed any civil initiative that would make same-sex marriage unconstitutional on a state or national level.

At a press conference on September 10, Bishop Marc Handley Andrus and Bishop Steven Charleston, both of the Diocese of California, and Bishop Barry L. Beisner of the Diocese of Northern California stood together on the steps of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to show their support for same-sex marriage and denounce Proposition 8.

Beisner stated that it was a matter of "fundamental fairness to allow all couples to have accees to civil marriage in the state of California." Charleston said that to him, as a person of color, the equality recognized by the California Supreme Court "resonates deeply like a bell of freedom." Andrus said, "Living like Jesus means standing in solidarity with the marginalized of our world. For me, voting no on Proposition 8 is a way I can stand in solidarity with the marginalized, in this case with LGBT brothers and sisters, and continue my journey with Christ."

At the Los Angeles press conference, held at the diocese’s Cathedral Center of St. Paul, Bishop Diocesan J. Jon Bruno said, “Our state legislature has spoken twice on this matter. Earlier this year the California Supreme Court opened the way for both same-gender couples and heterosexual couples to have equal protection as married partners under the law. Proposition Eight would eliminate this equality for same-gender couples and rescind their rights as married partners. Therefore Proposition Eight must be defeated.

“I must vote “no” on this effort to re-write our state constitution with language of exclusion,” he said.

Bruno was flanked by Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton, Bishop Assistant Sergio Carranza, and the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, an organization of gay and lesbian Episcopalians, in addition to clergy and lay representatives of congregations from all over the six-county diocese. Several individuals and couples—gay, lesbian and heterosexual—spoke of their conviction that the benefits of legal marriage should be made available to all Californians.

The statements by the California bishops and Bruno follow.

 


 

Statement on Proposition Eight by the Bishops of the Episcopal Dioceses in California

As Episcopal Bishops of California, we are moved to urge voters to vote “No” on Proposition Eight. Jesus calls us to love rather than hate, to give rather than to receive, to live into hope rather than fear. On Tuesday, November 4, voters in California will be given the opportunity to vote for or against Proposition Eight, which would amend the state’s constitution to reserve marriage as only between a man and a woman. Since the California Supreme Court’s ruling in May that civil marriage should be provided to all of the state’s citizens whether the genders of the couple are different or the same, faithful gays and lesbians have entered into marriage as the principal way in which they show their love, devotion and life-long commitment to each other. Furthermore, marriage provides these couples the same legal rights and protections that heterosexual couples take for granted.

Proposition Eight would reverse the court’s decision and withdraw a right given. Proponents of Proposition Eight have suggested that this amendment to the Constitution would protect marriage. We do not believe that marriage of heterosexuals is threatened by same-sex marriage. Rather, the Christian values of monogamy, commitment, love, mutual respect and witness of monogamy are enhanced for all by providing this right to gay and straight alike. Society is strengthened when two people who love each other choose to enter into marriage, engaged in a lifetime of disciplined relationship building that serves as a witness to the importance of love and commitment.

As bishops, we are not of one mind regarding how our Church’s clergy should participate with the State in same-sex marriage. Some of us believe it is appropriate to permit our clergy to officiate at such marriages and pronounce blessings over the union; others of us believe that we should await consent of our General Convention before permitting such actions. Nevertheless, we are adamant that justice demands that same-sex civil marriage continue in our state and advocate voting “No” on Proposition Eight.

General Convention 2006 in Columbus passed Resolution A095 that said, "Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That the 75th General Convention reaffirm the Episcopal Church's historical support of gay and lesbian persons as children of God and entitled to full civil rights; and be it further Resolved, That the 75th General Convention reaffirm the 71st General Convention's action calling upon municipal council, state legislatures and the United States Congress to approve measures giving gay and lesbian couples protection[s] such as: bereavement and family leave policies; health benefits; pension benefits; real-estate transfer tax benefits; and commitments to mutual support enjoyed by non-gay married couples and be it further Resolved, That the 75th General Convention oppose any state or federal constitutional amendment that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions."

We believe that continued access to civil marriage for all, regardless of sexual orientation, is consistent with the best principles of our constitutional rights. We believe that this continued access promotes Jesus’ ethic of love, giving, and hope.

The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California
The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Assisting Bishop, Diocese of California
The Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop of Northern California
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Chester L. Talton, Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Sergio Carranza, Bishop Assistant of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of El Camino Real
The Rt. Rev. Jerry A. Lamb, Provisional Bishop of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, Bishop of San Diego

 


 

Statement by the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles:

We are here today to affirm that all Californians have the same access to civil marriage under the laws of our state.

Our state legislature has spoken twice on this matter. Earlier this year the California Supreme Court opened the way for both same-gender couples and heterosexual couples to have equal protection as married partners under the law.

Proposition Eight would eliminate this equality for same-gender couples and rescind their rights as married partners. Therefore Proposition Eight must be defeated. I must vote “no” on this effort to re-write our state constitution with language of exclusion.

I join with my sister and brother bishops of all six Episcopal Dioceses in California in our unanimous statement: “We believe that continued access to civil marriage for all, regardless of sexual orientation, is consistent with the best principles of our constitutional rights. We believe that this continued access promotes Jesus’ ethic of love, giving and hope.”

As bishops, we have said that “we do not believe that marriage of heterosexuals is threatened by same-sex marriage. Rather the Christian values of monogamy, commitment, love, mutual respect and witness… are enhanced for all by providing this right to gay and straight alike.”

For these reasons, we are compelled to protect the fundamental dignity, freedoms and fairness of all Californians. I urge you to search your conscience as you review Proposition Eight, and vote No.

Janet Kawamoto is associate editor of Episcopal Life Online. She is based in Los Angeles. Sean McConnell, communications officer of the San Francisco-based Diocese of California contributed to this story.