In the midst of the impassioned debate surrounding gay marriage, a group of around 200 Ohio faith leaders voiced its support for marriage equality in an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
The brief was part of a mass of filings submitted throughout the past week in response to the Supreme Court’s announcement that it will hear arguments for a case questioning gay marriage equality in Ohio and three other states.
Although religion is an important part of arguments to uphold gay marriage bans, some faith leaders believe their religion actually can accept the LGBT community.
“There is evidence of the goodness of God’s creation everywhere, and I can say with confidence that same-sex couples and their families are further proof of such goodness,” said Reverend Jason Alspaugh of First Baptist Church of Dayton in Why Marriage Matters Ohio’s press release. “They are a blessing to our congregations and communities — more than we know — and there is much we can learn from their steadfast love for one another.”
Support for gay marriage has significantly increased in many demographics across the state since 2004, when Ohioans passed a measure to make gay marriage unconstitutional, said Christopher Geggie, campaign manager for Why Marriage Matters Ohio.
“The tides really have turned as people have been having conversation,” Geggie said.
According to a poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan organization that researches the intersections of religion, values and public life, 53 percent of Ohioans now support marriage equality.
In addition to faith leaders, several Ohio-based Fortune 500 companies including Procter & Gamble, Cardinal Health and Nationwide also submitted briefs supporting marriage equality, claiming complexities that come from the need to differentiate treatment of employees based on marriage laws hurts employee-employer relations.
Geggie noted that the questions raised by this court case — whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to allow same-sex marriage and whether the same amendment also requires states to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages — would only impact civil marriages and have no hold over religious institutions.
“We’re really fighting to make sure people’s religious freedoms are protected,” Geggie said.
In summer 2013, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, giving same-sex and heterosexual couples the same federal benefits, such as Social Security survivors’ benefits, if the same-sex couple was married in a state that allowed gay marriage. However, it didn’t address the overall issue of same-sex marriage legality and left questions surrounding the specifics of the DOMA ruling.
Oral arguments for the upcoming case, Obergefell v. Hodges, will be heard April 28.
Geggie said he hopes people who support same-sex marriage will continue to talk about the topic and encourages those who oppose same-sex marriage to be receptive to a conversation.
“We’re also very diverse in our opinion,” Geggie said. “The more that we can share our voices and our stories…the more that encourages conversations with other people, and then we can unlock hearts and change minds.”