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REV. BRIAN ESLINGER: Marriage equality extends religious freedom
Submitted by j on Fri, 2009-10-09 08:29
Rev. Brian Eslinger has been the minister at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames congregation since 1997. Along with encouraging diversity and care for the environment, as a Welcoming Congregation, the church is home to LGBT people and their partners.
The Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution to support marriage equality more than 10 years ago, and wrote sexual orientation into their non-discrimination resolution in 1970.
This inclusive position is what brought Rev. Eslinger to Unitarian Universalism. He and his partner, LIsa, had stopped going to church when a friend invited them to a UU service. "The fact that you could ask questions in church was something I never imagined," Rev. Eslinger said. "That's what attracted me to our faith."
It was at this service Rev. Eslinger says he met a gay family for the first time.
"At that point in my life, it wasn't even on my horizon," said Rev. Eslinger. "Growing up, I knew there were gay people out there, but, naively, I didn't think I knew any."
Through knowing this family and others, Rev. Eslinger says he came to understand how the country's legal system is set up to discriminate against same-sex families.
"There was no changing my mind; this became my new norm," Rev. Eslinger said. "They needed the same rights and supports marriage provides in our society. I am very fortunate in my congregation because I can be unwavering on this issue, and that's their expectation of me."
With the Iowa Supreme Court decision granting marriage equality also came a new freedom for Rev. Eslinger: performing ceremonies for same-sex couples that would have all the rights and supports provided by law.
"The most important piece to understand is that no clergy person in any religion can be forced to perform a marriage they don't think is correct," said Rev. Eslinger. "But I'd been doing ceremonies of union for years, and while they are wonderful and beautiful, this extends our religious freedom to perform a sacred rite we have as part of our tradition."