Same-sex marriage advocates found an unlikely but strong ally in this year’s measures in Washington, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota. People of faith have previously been pigeonholed as adamant opponents to same-sex marriage, as faith institutions by and large have decried allowing same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples.
But this year, faith and religion played a large part in legalizing same-sex marriage in the first three states above and stopping an anti-gay bill in the last. In Washington, Debra Peevey and her pro-gay marriage campaign, Washington United for Marriage, passed out thousands of green buttons that read, “Another Person of Faith Approves R. 74.”
The buttons helped open up conversations about same-sex marriage between people of faith, allowing some to relate to each other and others to have meaningful discussions about their opposing views.
According to Sharon Groves, who is the Director for the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), “Faith became part of the solution and not just the problem in all four states.” Looking to the future, she adds, “We will never do a campaign moving forward where engaging people of faith will not be the central part of that work.”
In other states, religious leaders of pro-gay movements played on core principles in Christian beliefs: Love, Marriage, and Commitment. “Be who you are, not something you are not,” urged Lutheran pastor Grant Stevenson of Minnesota, encouraging those in favor of gay rights to speak up, even if it went against the tide.
Stevenson and his staff trained 2,500 people of faith to be conversationalists on same-sex marriage. They opened up the conversation in terms of religious beliefs, personal stories of faith, and individual beliefs on the issue. Most of all, they were encouraged to listen.
“People have their reasons to think what they do,” he said. He wanted to “draw people out and make sure they are heard… All of us like to be listened to.”
Now gay rights activists are looking ahead to where battles might happen in the future. This time, they’re reaching out early, starting the conversations, and finding support within the religious communities before it’s too late.