Island religious leaders sign on for marriage equality

A diverse community of Bainbridge Island churches have come together and authored a letter promoting marriage equality.

The letter, signed by 10 of the island's religious leaders, supports marriage equality and comes just two months before a statewide vote on Referendum 74 which will either affirm or reject Washington's recognition of same-sex marriages.

"Marriage equality is a justice issue which is why United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference support the passing of R-74," said the Reverend Robert Henre of Seabold United Methodist Church.

For the various signers of the letter, it was important to offer a different voice on the issue than what has previously been heard.

"I think that a lot of the Christian community in particular are against gay marriage, and have strong convictions about one man and one woman," said the Reverend Dee Eisenhauer of  Eagle Harbor Congregational Church. "But my colleagues and I think of it more in terms of equality and equal access to the privileges and obligations of marriage."

"We wanted to remind people that not all religious people are against it," she added.

In fact, Eagle Harbor Congregational Church held a vote on the issue at its Sunday, Sept. 16 congregational meeting. Of the members who attended, the church voted unanimously to support marriage equality.

It also voted unanimously to support a "yes" vote on Referendum 74 and uphold the state's acceptance of same-sex marriages.

Eisenhauer noted that as a democratic church, their vote doesn't mean every member of the church feels the same way on the matter. But for those who attended to vote, it was unanimous.

Others in the island's religious community share Eisenhauer's thoughts.

"We are trying to say that this is about human beings making a commitment to build families," said the Reverend Barbara ten Hove of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church, who also signed the letter.

"We think family is an important part of the world that we live in," she added. "Part of what this bill will do is help gays and lesbians have stable families. It feels like a no-brainer to us."

While the letter doesn't strictly instruct how to vote on Referendum 74, it does encourage equality for all on the issue.

The letter begins by quoting the seal of the United State, "E Pluribus Unum," meaning "out of many, one," and expands upon the value of the variety of cultural groups within the country. It draws from the nation's history of battles over equality from religious freedom to the civil rights movement.

"This fall, the citizens of Washington will be asked to vote on our historic commitment to support equal rights for all citizens, this time endorsing the actions already taken by our elected representative regarding marriage equality," the letter states. "Referendum 74 will continue the actions taken by our state legislature and will deepen out nation's commitment to equality for all citizens."

"We pray that all citizens will examine the issues, reflect on our nation's commitment to real equality for all, and let the world know that "E Pluribus Unum, is still our motto," it adds.

The letter is signed by the Reverends Barbara and Jaco ten Hove of Cedars Unitarian Church, the Reverend Dr. Dennis S. Tierney of Saint Barnabas Episcopal Church, the Reverend D. Dee Eisenhauer of Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, Rabbi Mark Glickman of Congregation Kol Shalom, the Reverend Marin Shelton-Jenck of Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church, the Reverend Emily Tanis-Likkel of Tapestry Church Northwest, the Reverend Bill Harper of Grace Episcopal Church, and the Reverend Robert Henre of Seabold United Methodist Church.


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