My name is Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong and I am an Interfaith Organizer here in Orange County for California Faith for Equality. I am also a Board Member of the California Council of Churches. You may not know this, but there are close to 100 congregations in The OC who are supportive of the freedom to marry. California Faith for Equality has a list of 6,000 faith leaders and congregations across the state who support marriage equality. Personally, I have had the privilege of marrying close to 40 couples during my 6-year ministry, both same-sex and opposite-sex.
I am here today to say that progressive religious people will no longer stay silent in the closet. We cannot afford to—in light of what justice demands of us. We cannot afford to—in light of the suffering that members of our congregations are going through because they are being treated as second-class citizens in this state. It may not be popular with our judicatory heads to publicly support marriage equality, and it may not be popular among a segment of the community we serve, but justice is not a popularity contest, it is a test of our faith in doing what we know in our heart is the right thing to do. Recent surveys have indicated that the majority of mainline Protestant clergy support equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people. Congratulations – they join the ranks of Jewish, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, and other religious groups who also have a majority supporting the freedom to marry. It’s time for all of us to come out of our religious closets!
This is why California Faith for Equality is introducing this pledge that people of faith across the state are signing as a bold expression of our commitment to making sure gays and lesbians win back the right to marry. We are encouraging congregations who are worshipping this weekend to read this pledge out loud and to have the governing bodies support it as well. If you, as a faith leader can’t speak for anyone else but your own, we need your voice as well, so please sign this pledge.
As faith leaders in Orange County, we are here today to say that bigotry, exclusion and discrimination are NOT faith based family values and that we are committed to stand together for equality for all Californians – no matter how long it takes. We know that the journey ahead will be long and our opponents will stop at nothing short of taking away all the rights and indeed the humanity of same-sex couples and their families. While everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, it is not acceptable in a country that values religious freedom to establish one religious belief above another. This is called a theocracy and a theocracy has not worked in other countries – what makes us think it will work in California? It doesn’t take a Miss California to figure out this is not the kind of country we want – one that is supposedly biblically correct, but relationally incorrect. Besides, my Bible tells me to love my neighbor as myself – not to take away their rights and discriminate against them.
Fortunately, those of us who support marriage equality are winning despite our temporary setback two days ago. The California Supreme court failed us. But I am reminded of a passage from 1 Corinthians 13 that is often read at wedding ceremonies. It ends with the hopeful phrase, “Love never fails.” The love gays and lesbians share for one another will never fail. The love we share as communities of faith will never fail. This is the dawning of a new day. Our movement does not end here. There’s a Jewish song that says, “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.” Our day of joy will come. We know that we have time on our side. We know we have truth and justice on our side. We know we have love on our side. On behalf of California Faith for Equality, I invite you to stand together in faith as we move boldly toward equality!