Editor's Note: Bishop Leo Frade is Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida. He is also involved in Florida Clergy for Fairness, whose purpose is to organize clergy members and religious leaders who strongly oppose any attempt to write a definition of marriage into the Florida Constitution.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
After prayerful consideration, I have decided that it is my duty as a Christian, and as your bishop, to urge the defeat of the proposed Amendment 2 to our Florida Constitution, which would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. It seems to me that if we are to be faithful to our Lord's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, we should not be enshrining in our state's constitution this discriminatory and potentially harmful language.
Not only would the passage of Amendment 2 infringe upon our religious liberty by imposing a single religious definition of marriage on all Floridians, regardless of their beliefs; but because of its wording, this amendment could also deny many important benefits to all unmarried Floridians.
While the amendment is clearly aimed at same-sex relationships, we know that among our state's large population of retired persons there are also heterosexual couples who have not married for fear of losing a portion of their individual Social Security or pension benefits. In recent years these persons, as well as partners in committed same-sex relationships, have been able to receive protection for their rights under domestic partnership laws. I cannot see how we can say we love our neighbors if we pass an amendment that could put at risk for these couples such rights as the ability to visit or to participate in medical choices for each other in illness or at the point of death.
Faithful people have a wide range of opinions on the matter of same-sex unions. Like our own Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, many other branches of Christianity, as well other faiths, are currently engaged in challenging conversations about their own doctrines and policies concerning marriage.
Despite this ongoing disagreement among people of good conscience, Florida has already passed a law that defines marriage as the proposed amendment would. However, some supporters of Amendment 2 have argued that a constitutional amendment is necessary to protect clergy from being forced to perform or recognize marriages that are contrary to their doctrine. I believe this fear is unfounded: Because of the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, no religious group can be forced to recognize all forms of marriage sanctioned by the civil authorities. (For example, the State allows for and recognizes marriage after divorce; the Roman Catholic Church does not. No Roman Catholic priest is obligated by law to officiate at the marriage of any divorced person.)
Along with clergy from a broad spectrum of religious traditions, with diverse views regarding marriage, I have added my signature to a statement opposing Amendment 2. This statement can be found at www.flclergyforfairness.org.
I believe that Amendment 2 is unnecessary, potentially hurtful, and a threat to our cherished freedom of religion, and I urge you to vote against it on November 4.
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida