The event’s panel offered a range of perspectives, bringing together religious leadership, civil libertarianism, and grassroots democracy. Reverend Monique Ellison, an openly lesbian clergywoman of the Episcopal Church, called on “people of faith who are reading scripture… to speak up to help society see how far-reaching God’s love is for everyone, and how much God values all of us… because of all the beauty and diversity that the Creator has made.” Describing her challenge as a black woman coming out even as she sought to be ordained in the church, Reverend Ellison encouraged marriage equality supporters to listen deeply to those who struggle with their faith and beliefs, and to ask questions in return.
Sharon McGowan, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, urged gays and lesbians to have “that second-level conversation" with friends and family members about marriage equality. As a lesbian raised in the Catholic tradition, McGowan observed that “people of faith are having their own ‘coming out’ process [to support marriage equality],” usually as a result of interactions with neighbors, friends, or family members who illustrate why marriage equality is so important for fair treatment of families and couples under the law.
Michael Crawford, who founded DC for Marriage, noted that marriage equality opponents have already begun “a campaign of lies and division… to divide us along race and class lines.” Crawford joined the other panelists in denouncing the fictitious framing of the marriage equality movement as some kind of bizarre “civil war” between blacks and gays or between churches and gays. Pastor Rob Hardies of the hosting All Souls Church rejected those constructs as “divisions that disappear in the many identities in this room,” and he called for greater solidarity between members of D.C.’s diverse community as a way to move forward on marriage equality as well as on other important social issues affecting families in the District.
The call for solidarity resonated strongly with the gathering, and the meeting concluded with a young straight man’s passionate remarks: “Solidarity is the key. It’s a question of fighting all oppression… an injury to one is an injury is to all.”