Virginia on Right Side in Bostic v. Rainey

Virginia Stands on Right Side of Justice and History in Bostic v. Rainey Arguments

POFEV_logo_for_web.jpgStatement of Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline, President & CEO, Feb. 4, 2014

U.S. Federal Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk     804/519-3196


Statement in Support of Virginia's Argument for Marriage Equality in Bostic v. Rainey Oral Arguments

POFEV: People of Faith for Equality in Virginia is an interfaith movement comprised of congregations, clergy, and lay people from across Virginia who believe that all people – and all love – is created by God and is equal before God’s eyes.  Many of us are clergy who have stood before an assembly to proclaim two people joined in marriage. Many of us have done so with two men or two women. For us, the love is the same and the proclamation is the same. We even may say the traditional words, “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

Of course, the Commonwealth violates that prohibition every week, perhaps every day, somewhere within Virginia.  It is time to stop denying the God who brings people together.

Therefore, we are grateful to Attorney General Herring for putting the law on the side of those whom God has brought together and the government is keeping apart. The Attorney General’s critics focus on politics, claiming he has betrayed Virginians. He, and we, believe such a betrayal would lie in not responding to the universal and constitutional demand of justice that all God’s people be treated equally. Justice is the Attorney General’s job, under the law, and, as people of faith, it is ours, too.

Some say marriage is a privilege, like a driver’s license, which is surely an insult to all couples, whatever their gender composition, who love each other and work hard each day to build their lives and sustain their families. This privilege, they say, should belong only to a select class of God’s children – those who love someone of a different gender – and claim that to allow others the benefits of that privilege diminishes the privilege of the “in group.”  

For over three hundred years Virginia’s General Assembly made similar judgments to protect the privileges of white Virginians by defining who was white and who was black or Indian and then outlawing love between them to prevent others gaining privileges reserved for whites.   A mere fifty years later, it is time the state stopped judging love altogether.  We must recognize love and marriage as rights possessed by individuals, deserving of dignity and equal protection, regardless of a couple’s race or genders, and not view them any longer as privileges given by the state.

There also is a matter of religious freedom. Some say allowing same-gender-loving persons to legally marry infringes on the religious liberty of those who think it is wrong. The opposite is true.

The prohibition against marriage of persons of the same sex violates the religious liberty of those whose faith and religious traditions authorize us to perform such marriage ceremonies. We are prevented, by law, from treating all couples equally, using our experience and training to do what our traditions empower us to do: to discern not the gender of the persons but whether the intended marriage is appropriate and ready for our blessing and participation.

We are grateful to the plaintiffs in this case, their attorneys arguing the case in the courtroom, and to Judge Allen who appears determined to have a full and fair airing of the issues.

People of all faiths across Virginia cheered when they heard Attorney General Herring announce that the Commonwealth of Virginia had decided to stand on the side of justice for the oppressed, even though it is the laws of Virginia doing the oppressing.

Just think what might have happened if Pharaoh's attorney had told his employer he was wrong to keep the Hebrews in bondage, or just think what might have happened if the Attorney General of Virginia in 1954 had refused to argue in favor of segregated schools. Today, clergy would be preaching about those heroes. That is how many of us feel about Mr. Herring.

And we are grateful to a loving God who continues to urge us forward, empowering us to help bring freedom and justice to ALL the people in this Commonwealth so richly blessed by God.

#     #     #

POFEV (People of Faith for Equality in Virginia), P.O. Box 4919, Richmond, VA 23220 •