April 18, 2014 Updated: April 18, 2014 at 5:25 pm
The day before oral arguments began Thursday in an Oklahoma same-sex marriage lawsuit, a coalition of 215 faith leaders - including representatives from Colorado Springs - spoke up in support of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.
The announcement Wednesday by the group, Faithful Voices for Strong Families, punctuated a two-week period during which the court heard arguments in two cases seeking to overturn same-sex marriage bans in neighboring states.
This week, the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the Oklahoma suit. Last week, the same three-judge panel heard arguments challenging a similar law in Utah in the first case of its kind to reach the appellate level since last summer. No timeline has been announced for decisions in either case.
Calling same-sex marriage the "civil rights issue of our time," the Rev. Benjamin Broadbent said he hopes the coalition's voice will help strengthen the cause at a time that could represent a watershed moment.
"We need to respond proactively to movements within various states to enshrine discriminatory statements in the state constitutions. The goal is to encourage one another, and everyone who is working for marriage equality, to seize the moment," said Broadbent, pastor of First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs. "As the pastor of a church that already believes that God blesses all covenanted relationships, I frankly want the laws to allow our churches to have a wider recognition of that relationship."
A survey released earlier this year by the Public Religion Research Institute found that about 53 percent of Americans said they support gay marriage, up from 32 percent in 2003. For the past 15 years, Broadbent's congregation has embraced an "open and affirming" policy, blessing same-sex unions and referring to couples as "married," if that's their preferred nomenclature.
Faithful Voices for Strong Families includers pastors and organizations from a range of faith traditions across Colorado. Local member churches include All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, Colorado Springs Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church, Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church and Unchurch, Inc.
The faith group is part of the broad coalition Why Marriage Matters Colorado, which advocates for and supports efforts furthering marriage equality in the state.
"As a pastor, it's really important to me that religious and Christian voices are part of that coalition," Broadbent said. "When all is said and done and we look back on this process, I don't want the church, as it often is, to be on the wrong side of history."
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364