More than 50 Oklahoma faith leaders have formed a coalition in support of marriage rights for all couples, whether gay or straight.
The Oklahoma Faith Leaders for Marriage group includes leaders of congregations of Mennonites, United Methodists, Unitarians, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ and at least one Baptist minister and two rabbis.
The United Methodist and United Church of Christ denominations have the most coalition representation, with at least eight United Methodist clergy and at least eight United Church of Christ ministers among the faith network’s members.
“Expanding marriage equality will finally remove a long-standing obstacle to our pastoral care — and allow us to minister equally to all families in our community,” the coalition said in a statement released after its April launch.
Several local clergy leaders said they joined the coalition because they felt it was important that people around the state know that many in the faith community believe gay couples should have the right to marry.
“For me, personally, this is about loving our neighbors and treating them with respect and dignity, and that means recognizing their love and commitment to each other. It doesn’t matter if they’re LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) or not,” said the Rev. Lori Walke, an associate pastor at Mayflower Congregational Church UCC, 3601 NW 63.
The formation of the coalition comes in the aftermath of a federal ruling that struck down Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. The ruling, made in January by U.S. District Court Judge Terence Kern, is now being considered by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Walke said aside from the moral imperative to love and respect one’s neighbor, marriage equality is a matter of religious liberty.
Walke said her denomination recently filed a lawsuit arguing that North Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutionally violates clergy members’ religious freedom by keeping them from performing marriage ceremonies for gay couples. The case is the first brought by a national religious denomination challenging a state’s marriage laws.
“If I cannot marry — perform wedding ceremonies for — anyone who my church says is OK to marry, then my freedom of religion and expressive association is restricted,” Walke said.
The Rev. Bruce Prescott, an ordained Baptist minister who is a longtime member and spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, shared similar views.