Pastors around the bay area used their pulpits Sunday to talk to their congregations about Amendment 2, which, if passed, would place a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The measure's supporters dubbed the day "Marriage Sunday" and asked pastors throughout Florida to give sermons favoring the proposal. Amendment 2's backers argue that only a constitutional amendment prevents existing Florida laws, which currently prohibit gay marriage, from being overturned.
Clergy who oppose the amendment say the religious community is not monolithic. They contend that Amendment 2 could endanger the benefits and rights of all unmarried couples, including the elderly.
Following are excerpts from sermons given Sunday in bay area churches.
For the amendment
The Rev. Tony Smart, Victory Baptist Church, Tampa: "We don't need to redefine what a marriage is. Should we redefine what a pedophile is because the pedophile feels that their rights are being denied them? Should we redefine what a burglar is because he feels his rights are being denied for what he has done? Something that has stood the test of time and has provided so many benefits for society, for humanity, need not be tampered with. We do not need to have the government telling us what a marriage is and what a family is."
What the parishioners say: Amendment 2 "is a good thing to have in place. "Everybody needs to be aware of what this world is coming to, and I do believe that marriage is between two heterosexual people" — Rayvenia Jones, 39, a data entry clerk from Tampa.
The Rev. Mike Grover, Fellowship Baptist Church, Thonotosassa: "The fact of the matter is that if God did not have an opinion on the issue, I would not have a dog in the fight! My conviction and zeal for the issue is that God has spoken. God has given his word. His opinion has been recorded and the record has been constant and available for centuries. As Bible-believing Christians, we must love and defend the institution of traditional marriage!"
Against the amendment
The Rev. Sue Sherwood, Good Samaritan United Church of Christ, Pinellas Park: "I believe that civil unions and civil rights are the state's business, but marriage is not. Marriage is God's business and it should be the responsibility of the individual churches, faiths and couples to determine who will marry. I respect the individual's right to interpret Scripture. Right now, however, one flavor of religion is dictating the state's definition of marriage, which I see as a violation of the separation of church and state and of the rights of some in our congregation."
What the parishioners say: "I'm dead set against it. It's an imposition of the state on people's freedoms" — Christopher Johnson, 54, of St. Petersburg, an adjunct instructor of humanities at Hillsborough Community College.
The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater: "I believe this amendment, if passed, would do nothing to stabilize the institution of marriage or strengthen families and instead, would help write discrimination, prejudice and second-class citizenship into the state Constitution. Because of the ambiguous wording and narrow interpretation of marriage, this amendment would not only be an assault on the rights and privileges of same-gender couples but also on all opposite-gender couples, particularly seniors, who choose to be in loving, committed but 'unmarried' relationships."