God Invoked by Both Sides in Rhode Island Marriage Campaign

Hearings on marriage equality legislation are being held today in Rhode Island, the last state in New England that does not allow same-sex couples to be legally wed. Equality advocates hope to change that, and they have a lot of political supportersincluding President Obama and Gov. Lincoln Chafee. The speaker of the state House has called for a vote by the end of the month. 

Religious voices are prominent in the opposition campaign. Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin recently called same-sex marriage “immoral and unnecessary.” And anti-gay activists from the National Organization for Marriage and MassResistance joined a press conference held Tuesday afternoon held by the Faith Alliance to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage as Established by God. One of the group’s founders declares, “Marriage has been established and defined by God as a spiritual union between a man and a woman, and it is not to be altered by mankind or its government.”

Marriage equality advocates aren’t ceding God to NOM and its allies. Religious leaders associated with the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality are also taking a visible role in the marriage equality campaign. On Tuesday, Gov. Chafee stood with members of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage at a press conference at Central Congregational Church. Chafee invoked Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island and icon of religious tolerance. Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, chair of the Religious Coalition, declared that “same-sex marriage is part of God’s plan for humanity.”

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.