An Open Letter to State Senator Greg Ball About Marriage Equality and Religion

Dear Senator Ball --

You, my state senator, are now among the last holdouts prohibiting me from legally marrying my fiancee at our religious Jewish ceremony in September. If this bill fails to pass, the State will be restricting my religious freedom. I know you may not have heard the issue described this way, so please allow me to explain.

Religion, you see, is on both sides of this issue. The first flaw God finds in creation is that "it is not good for man to be alone." (Gen 2:18) The Bible tells us that "Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8) I am aware that some religious people believe that a strict, expansive reading of Leviticus 18:22 and Romans1:27 is more important than these fundamental values. But they do not speak in the name of all religious people. I, for one, believe these values require us to read these obscure handful of verses narrowly. In my understanding of religion, they do not apply to loving same-sex relationships.

By insisting on carve-outs not only for religious organizations but for religious individuals who wish to discriminate against me, you are choosing some religious values over others. What about the rights of this religious person to follow the dictates of my religion and marry the person I love? Shouldn't the state respect my religious freedom as well, and recognize that union as valid? Or should the state favor some people's interpretation of religion over others? Is that really what we want our government to do: arbitrate among religious opinions, and tell people which one is right?

To be sure, while I think the state should not get involved in such disputes, I personally believe that anti-equality folks are religiously wrong. Can you provide a Scriptural citation for the right to discriminate? I can't find one. On the contrary, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) If the "love" that some religious people feel dishonors me, then according to St. Paul, it is not truly love.

"Justice -- justice, shall you pursue," demands Deuteronomy 16:20. This is the Hebrew Bible's call: not to oppress the stranger, to set up just courts that judge people fairly, to "proclaim liberty throughout the land." (Lev. 25:10) And it is echoed by the prophet Isaiah, quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, for God has anointed me to preach good news to the humble, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captive, and liberation to the prisoner." (Isaiah 51:1) And by Micah, who tells us to "act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

What is just about favoring an individual's desire to discriminate over my sincere belief that marrying my fiance is a positive religious act? Where is the justice, mercy, and humility there?

But my main point is not that I am right and that they are wrong. It is that the state should not decide that. Religious freedom is impacted whichever way the marriage equality vote goes. Religion is not on one side of the issue. Indeed, there are thousands of religious people in your district who support the values of equality, justice, and love. And we will hold you accountable if you do not do the right thing and vote for the time-honored religious values of justice and fairness to all -- especially those who have been marginalized and discriminated against in the past. They -- we -- are the strangers in our midst, whom we all, according to Leviticus 19:34, have a religious obligation to love.