Welton Gaddy Calls for a New National Discussion on Marriage

July 31, 2009
weltongaddyThe Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, set off a firestorm of commentary in the Newsweek-Washington Post, “On Religion” blog, after putting out a call for a new kind of national discussion on extending marriage protections to same-sex couples. The blog post introduces the newly released paper “Same Gender Marriage & Religious Freedom,” wherein Gaddy lays out perspectives on marriage and recommends direction for the future. His first suggestion: leave religion out of it. Dialogues about religion will not forge national consensus on any sociopolitical issue or serve as a source of national unity. The population of our nation is too diverse and the religions in our nation are too different for that to happen. Individual religious traditions are divided from each other externally and, internally, adherents within each of these traditions are divided from each other. Citing recent studies that show a range of opinions among clergy and members of evangelical and mainstream churches, Dr. Gaddy suggests that law and not religious views (SHOULD)_be the starting point for any discussion on the government’s regulation of marriage: Law, not scripture, is the foundation of government regulations related to marriage in our nation. Presently, the United States government recognizes marriage on the basis of a properly authorized, government-issued marriage license. This Interfaith Alliance paper by Dr Gaddy invites a national conversation on the marriage.  He cites Executive Director of Freedom to Marry, Evan Wolfson’s stance that marriage inequality results in second-class citizenship, but is clear that the country should protect the right of religious groups to define marriage for their own members: All citizens should have equal access to civil marriage and to the benefits of marriage provided for citizens in this government. Couples who desire religious marriage can seek a house of worship in which to receive that blessing. But, as is the case now, no house of worship would be legally obligated to provide marriage for a couple whom it does not want to bless. All houses of worship should be free to advocate for, defend and perpetuate the view of marriage that is consistent with their religious traditions and convictions. While wanting to sort out religion from government, Dr. Gaddy disagrees with  Jonathan Turley in his USAToday op-ed which recommends that all couples have state-sanctioned “civil unions” while religious groups do “marriages.” Gaddy writes, “Civil marriages and religious marriages have existed side by side for an untold number of years.  Both…have been respected and treated equally in our society.  I see no reason for that situation to change.” In this effort to invite more conversation Gaddy is hoping for a civil and respectful dialogue. “The subject of marriage equality merits our best thoughts and influential actions as United States citizens, whether or not we are religious people or individuals who adhere to no religion.” As part of our overall work with communities of faith, GLAAD will continue to stay in regular contact with the Interfaith Alliance to lift up progressive faith voices that promote LGBT equality.