As a leader in your community, your words and actions can help challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions of others. You can be a force for greater understanding. As you get ready to help educate others, keep in mind:
- You are in an ideal position to educate people about the difference between religious unions celebrated by faith communities, and civil marriages regulated by the government.
- Telling compelling stories of lesbian and gay couples, and the harms they face without legal protections, helps people relate to them.
- You are never alone! Lambda Legal’s five offices are available for assistance, and can connect you with other people of faith in your area and nationwide who are doing similar education.
Step 1: Educate your congregation.
- Deliver a sermon. Talk about your reasons for supporting civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples.
- Ask congregants and your congregation for their support.
- During services that recognize and celebrate families or couples, be sure to welcome the participation of lesbian and gay couples.
- Celebrate anniversaries of all couples. List anniversaries in the bulletin and announce them.
- After performing a religious union for a lesbian or gay couple, ask them to briefly share their story at the next gathering of the full congregation.
- Announce ceremonies for lesbian and gay couples.
- Make educational resources available.
- Organize within your congregation. Form a group of people that will educate about this social justice issue.
- Invite a speaker to address your congregation. Contact the Lambda Legal office in your region or another LGBT organization to get ideas for speakers in your area. Lesbian and gay couples who want to get married often make the most effective speakers.
Step 2: Educate your community.
- Announce ceremonies performed for lesbian and gay couples in local newspapers. Write a short story and send a photo.
- Encourage local press — including papers, radio/TV talk shows and news producers — to do a story. Focus on your congregation’s support for marriage equality or a couple that had a ceremony.
- Write a letter to the editor or submit an op-ed. Write in response to news items, a couple’s ceremony or National Freedom to Marry Week. Encourage other congregants to do the same.
Step 3: Network with other clergy and community leaders: Develop a religious coalition for Marriage Equality
- Network and discuss educational plans to move forward. Consider hosting a prayer breakfast where a same-sex couple and others speak about the issue.
- Suggest that the group work together to educate others.
- Develop a few, simple goals with measurable success. For example:
- A clergy and people of fatih outreach campaign: Attendees commit to making five personal calls or sending email to other clergy asking for support.
- Organize a “Marriage Sermon Sabbath”: A weekend when clergy across your community make a statement or sermon in support the civil right of lesbian and gay couples to marry (one choice: the weekend before National Freedom to Marry Week).
- Educational forum: Invite clergy and congregants to a program that highlights the importance of supporting marriage equality, and presents lesbian and gay couples and their stories. Suggest action steps for attendees, such as delivering a sermon, writing a letter to the editor or requesting five Marriage Resolution endorsements.
- A letter to the editor or op-ed campaign.
- Appoint leaders. Establish a way to report activities and plan for the next coalition gathering.
- Develop a media response system. Designate two or three people who will respond to media requests on behalf of the coalition.
Working with the Media & Facing Opposition
Writing a letter to the editor, publishing an op-ed or encouraging a media outlet to do a story not only educates the community about marriage equality, it may also prompt backlash. When participating in a debate or responding to reporters:
- Use the talking points listed in this guide. Keep your message simple. Add supporting information or a brief personal story if necessary or appropriate, but remember to conclude with your main, simple message.
- Make the distinction between religious unions and civil marriage.
- Keep it personal and local: Talk about real families that need real legal protections.
- Respond to rhetoric (from opponents or reporters) by going back to fair-minded, positive on-message comments.
- Repeat sound bytes as appropriate, especially to highlight the fact that many people of faith support the right of lesbian and gay couples to marry because it is a moral, social justice issue.
Get Engaged! Voicing Support with the Marriage Resolution
The Marriage Resolution is a one-sentence statement of support for the right of same-sex couples to marry. Endorsing the Marriage Resolution is just one simple step that people can take to complement the work towards marriage equality.
“Because marriage is a basic human right and an individual choice; RESOLVED, the state should not interfere with same-sex couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of civil marriage.”