Religious Leaders Assail Amendment on Gay Marriage

Officials of several religious organizations, including the Presbyterian, Lutheran and Episcopal churches, sent an open letter to Congress yesterday opposing the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"Although we have differing opinions on rights for same-sex couples, we believe the Federal Marriage Amendment reflects a fundamental disregard for individual civil rights and ignores differences among our nation's many religious traditions," the letter said. The United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association, which recognize same-sex marriages, also signed the letter. So did representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism, the liberal Alliance of Baptists and the Quakers.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, helped orchestrate the letter. As United Church of Christ minister, he said, "I am disturbed that even though I can perform a religious ritual to unite a same-gender couple, the state won't recognize it because some different religious group thinks I am theologically wrong."

But Diane L. Knippers, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a group that seeks to push the liberal Protestant denominations in a more conservative direction, called the letter "a blatant attempt by left-leaning religious leaders to undercut and intimidate other religious voices." She said the amendment would define marriage in civil law, not religious ritual.