African-American Clergy Urge Illinois House to Pass Freedom to Marry During Veto Session

Faith Leaders Call on Legislators to Act Now in Approving the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act

CHICAGO – October 17, 2013 – As the Illinois General Assembly returns to Springfield next week for its fall veto session, African-American clergy and faith leaders gathered today to show their support for the freedom to marry and urge the Illinois House of Representatives to pass the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, saying “we remind Illinois of the fierce urgency of now.” The clergy present today, including Rev. Dr. Delman Coates who was instrumental in enacting marriage equality in Maryland, represent a range of faiths and a diverse community of congregations, including gay and lesbian parents who are raising children in loving families.

“I am here to dispel the myth that African Americans are fundamentally opposed to extending marriage freedoms to all.  People in our faith community understand that it is critically important that the role of the state is different than the church, that religion is our providence and the state’s role is to protect everyone,” said Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church.

“My and my partner’s story is like that of many couples, of two people who fall in love and want to share a lifetime of commitment and responsibility together.  Our desire is to care for our families under the protections of the law,” said Rev. Brenda Lee.  “As people of faith, we call on our legislators to stand with us and pass the Religious Freedom Act.”

“Freedom and justice are not just core principles of my faith, but should be the tenets of our democracy as well,” said Rev. Dawnn Brumfield, Urban Village Church.  “This is not a matter of more freedom, this is a matter of equal freedom.”

“We stand on the gains of Selma and Stonewall, with the fight for fairness, justice and equality,” Rev. Dr. Eddie Kornegay, Target HOPE.  “We are calling on our legislature to uphold these principles now and continue to protect the freedom of religion.”

The faith leaders’ encouragement comes at a time of strong support for marriage equality in Illinois, especially within the black community.  A December 2012 Public Policy Poll showed that in Illinois, 60% of African Americans surveyed supported same-sex marriage.

“This is a matter of freedom. This is a matter of fairness,” said Pastor Julian DeShazier, University Church Chicago.  “As a member of the clergy, and a proud resident of Illinois, I rise to announce my affirmative support of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.”

The clergy also stressed the importance of passing the freedom to marry now, rather than later.

“It is with an attentive ear to history and a keen eye towards justice, that I support this bill. God does not embrace bigotry and does not reward cowardice.  The legislature must call marriage equality now, so this state and this country can make good on their promise to provide liberty and justice for all,” Rev. Jaime Frazier, the Lighthouse Church of Chicago.

“We are standing in a historic time.  The right thing can be very difficult to do, “ said Rev. Charles Straight, Faith United Methodist Church.  “We can choose to be on the right side of history and pass this legislation now.”

Senate Bill 10 – the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act – won overwhelming, bipartisan passage in the Illinois Senate in February and currently is awaiting action in the House.  The coalition supporting the freedom to marry for all loving, committed couples – already strong with business, labor and community leaders, civic organizations, faith institutions and members of the clergy, African-American and Latino leaders, Republicans and Democrats – continues to grow.

“When two people are in love, regardless of gender, they are indeed human beings.  Freedom, justice and equality should be afforded to every human being in this state,” said Rev. Benjamin L. Reynolds, Faith Coordinator, Illinois Unites for Marriage.  “Now is the time for Illinois to support marriage equality and religious freedom.”

Information about the legislation is available at, along with information about how citizens can make their voices heard.


For additional information, contact Eric Herman at 773.405.8124.