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"Courageous Love" Awards Honor Champions of Marriage Equality

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Feb 8, 2013

Following a recent victory for same-sex marriage in the General Assembly, the leaders of the marriage equality movement in Rhode Island were honored for their efforts in a special Feb. 3 event, the Courageous Love Awards.

"The recognition is very much appreciated and emotionally moving," said openly gay Rhode Island State Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Warwick). "The message of inclusion is a strong signal that same-sex couples are part of the fabric of society and contribute to its well being. Many couples value their faith and to have religious support is extremely important."

Reverend Jay Deacon of the Channing Memorial Church in Newport presented awards to the legislators who have been advocates for the Rhode Island LGBT community. In addition to Ferri, honorees included State Rep. Art Handy (D-Cranston), who sponsored House Bill 5015, which passed in the House on Jan. 24 by a vote of 51-19.

House Judiciary Chair and State Rep. Edie Ajello (D-Providence) was recognized, as was gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence). Former State Senator Rhoda Perry (D-Providence) was on hand, in addition to current lead Senate sponsor Donna Nesselbush and former Representative Michael Pisaturo. Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, a coalition assembled by MERI (Marriage Equality Rhode Island), was also recognized for their work.

The awards are the church's local expression of the Unitarian Universalist movement's "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign, and its annual 30-day period for intentional action, service, education and reflection that runs from mid-January to mid-February.

Deacon said although the marriage equality fight still continues in the State Senate, "it seems a good moment for us to bear witness on behalf of the possibility of a higher quality of equality, mutual respect, and justice, and to honor some of those who are waging the good fight."

"Our Congregation really wants to thank them, fully aware of the obstacles ahead," Deacon continued. "We are fully aware, too, of the regressive role too much of the religious world has carried, standing in the way of the advance of human consciousness and a fairer, more just world."

Openly gay Speaker of the House Fox said he was proud that the House passed same-sex marriage legislation, and was grateful to Deacon and the Channing Memorial Church for taking the time to honor some of the long-time advocates for marriage equality. He noted that Ajello and himself were original co-sponsors of same-sex marriage legislation first introduced 17 years ago.

"There have been so many fighters for this issue, and we will continue our work until Governor Chafee signs the bill into law," said Fox.

"We were honored by the recognition -- it's another important reminder of the critical role people of faith are playing in the campaign to win marriage for all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island," said Ray Sullivan, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage campaign director. "Channing Memorial Church has been an outspoken ally in this effort and we are grateful for their relentless support."

Rhode Island Council of Churches Supports Marriage Equality

In another show of support for marriage equality, the Rhode Island State Council of Churches called upon the General Assembly to pass, and Governor Chafee to sign, marriage equality legislation this session. The Rhode Island State Council of Churches consists of 12 denominations and six member organizations, representing more than 300 churches.

"The Rhode Island State Council of Churches has long been a beacon of religious tolerance and a strong voice for protecting families in the Ocean State," said Sullivan. "Their endorsement is an important recognition that many Rhode Island faith traditions welcome and affirm same-sex marriages. We welcome the Council to our broad and growing coalition, and look forward to working together to extend the unique protections that only marriage affords to all Rhode Island families."

Rev. Dr. Don Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said they viewed marriage equality an issue of tolerance and religious liberty.

"While there is broad diversity within communities of faith on this issue, many traditions choose to welcome same-sex relationships to the covenant of marriage," said Anderson. "Under current law, those open and affirming traditions are unable to do so in Rhode Island. While no church or clergy would be required by this law to contradict the teachings of their particular faith, the State Council of Churches believes those congregations who wish to perform same-sex marriages should be able to do so."

The council also recognized the diversity of opinion within the faith community on the issue, calling for "mutual respect and guidance that seeks the good of all, even with our different views."

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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