WASHINGTON (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity strongly opposes the legalization of “gay marriage” in the District of Columbia for a variety of reasons, Richard Land told a government board in the nation’s capital.
In written testimony submitted Oct. 26, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics an effort to legalize “same-sex marriage” should be decided by a vote of the district’s citizens and not “solely by legislative, executive, or judicial bodies.”
Land’s comments were provided for a hearing by the elections board, which is considering whether to place on the ballot an initiative to preserve marriage as the union only of a man and a woman.
The Oct. 26 elections board hearing was held the same day a committee of the D.C. Council heard testimony on a bill to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples. Ten of the council’s 13 members are sponsoring the proposal, which would become law without a vote by D.C. citizens.
Southern Baptists “have opposed same-sex marriage consistently,” Land said in his testimony. Since 1996, messengers to the convention’s annual meeting have approved five resolutions opposing the legalization of “gay marriage” and supporting one-man, one-woman marriage, he said. Included with his testimony were copies of eight SBC resolutions dating to 1937 that called for the protection and strengthening of marriage.
The legalization of “same-sex marriage” in D.C. would harm families and society, Land told the elections board.
Studies in the last decade have shown that marriage between a man and a woman “is a social good that reduces child poverty, decreases infant mortality, and lowers rates of crime and substance abuse, among other things,” he said. “While aiding in the development of children and the happiness of adults, marriage also improves communities, making them more stable and less susceptible to dangers.”
Data from Sweden and other Scandinavian countries suggest the legalization of “same-sex marriage” has weakened marriage as an institution, Land said. The number of marriages has declined in Scandinavia since “gay marriage” became legal, and divorce is more common among same-sex couples in Sweden, he said. The information shows “legalizing same-sex marriage is certain to counteract the positive social attributes of traditional marriage, by leading to fewer marriages and more divorces,” Land said.
Legalizing “gay marriage” also would probably limit the expression of religious belief by those who oppose it, he said.
“It will lead to the violation of the consciences of children in schools as they are subjected to teachings in an authoritarian environment that same-sex marriage is a legitimate form of marriage,” Land said. “Changing the definition of marriage would likely also result in government restrictions on the religious freedom of religious groups, potentially exposing them to government reprisal for honoring their faith convictions” regarding homosexuality.
Six states have legalized “same-sex marriage” — Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. Maine’s citizens will decide Nov. 3 whether to overturn the state’s law.
D.C. appears destined to join those states in endorsing “marriage” between people of the same sex.
The D.C. Council voted 12-1 in May to recognize “same-sex marriages” performed in other jurisdictions. The law enables homosexual couples living in D.C. to have wedding ceremonies in states where “gay marriage” is legal and have those unions recognized by the district.
In addition to a strong majority of D.C. Council members sponsoring the bill, the elections board appears unlikely to allow the issue to be placed before voters.
Pastors in the area, however, have led vocal opposition to the effort to legalize “gay marriage.” Several led in the filing of the ballot initiative that says: “Only marriage between a man and woman is valid or recognized in the District of Columbia.”
They also led an Oct. 25 outdoor rally in downtown Washington asking the issue be placed on the ballot. Land wrote to 165 Southern Baptist pastors in the D.C. area warning them of the pending legislation and encouraging them to attend the rally. Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy, spoke to rally participants.
The Oct. 26 hearing on the “gay marriage” bill before the D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary drew so many witnesses a second date was scheduled. There were 100 witnesses set to appear before the committee on the original date, leaving 170 waiting to speak at the second part of the hearing Nov. 2, a council spokesman said.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Land’s testimony is available online at http://erlc.com/documents/pdf/20091026-land-marriage-dc.pdf.