When news came last week that the Nevada State Senate stood up for the freedom to marry, I was overjoyed. As bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, I support marriage equality.
I support marriage equality not in spite of my religious beliefs, but because of them. As Christians, we are committed to cultivating love and compassion within our church and community. The moral imperative to respect and care for other people compels us to insist on their right to form loving relationships sealed in the legal bond of marriage. That right is part and parcel of being human.
Our ability to fall in love, commit ourselves to another person and build a life together is a gift of God. However different churches may view same-sex relationships, we should all agree that the state has no right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples the way it once did against mixed-race couples. A basic sense of justice, found in all religions, stands against such discrimination.
I respect my fellow Christians who do not believe a same-sex relationship can be a sacramental marriage. They have a right to their convictions. But this law is not about sacraments. It is not about what constitutes a “Christian marriage.” That is a question for churches, not the state, to decide. This is about civil law. It is about the right to enter into the legal relationship of marriage. That right is fundamental and should not be denied to gay and lesbian citizens who are as capable of maintaining stable family relationships as straight couples.
Lawmakers took extra steps to ensure that this bill protects religious freedom. Let me make this crystal clear: Allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry will not change how each religion defines marriage. This proposal specifically protects the rights of clergy and religious organizations that choose not to perform marriages for same-sex couples.