'Stand with us' on marriage, leaders urge

WASHINGTON (BP)--Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land and other religious leaders Dec. 6 urged Americans to stand together in protecting the traditional understanding of marriage for the good of society.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and representatives of 25 other religious organizations issued an open letter affirming their commitment to marriage as the union only of a man and a woman. They also explained in the three-paragraph letter such a view of marriage benefits all people, not just people of faith.

"The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all," the letter said. "Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

The letter was released on the same day the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard oral arguments in a case regarding the definition of marriage. The court is considering an appeal of federal Judge Vaughn Walker's August invalidation of California's 2008 voter-approved constitutional amendment that protected the traditional definition of marriage. If the case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and Walker's ruling stands, then every state could be forced to recognize "marriage" between homosexuals.

Among those joining Land in signing the letter were Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of New York; George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God; Harry Jackson, bishop of the Fellowship of International Churches; and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Others endorsing the letter included leaders of the Anglicans, Congregationalists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Wesleyans, General Baptists, Jews, Mormons and Sikhs.

Opponents of "gay marriage" warn that its legalization will negatively affect all of society, impacting everything from the tax-exempt status of religious organizations to the way private businesses are operated to what is taught in elementary schools.

Following is the full text of the letter, which is titled "The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment:"

"Marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.

"As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensable place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.

"Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society in innumerable ways. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all. Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

The document and the list of signers may be accessed online at www.usccb.org/defenseofmarriage/shared-commitment.shtml.


Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Michael Foust, an assistant editor of Baptist Press, contributed to this article.

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