116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - An Iowa City church has been trailblazing same-sex marriage equality for more than a decade.
Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and an author, spoke to about 50 people Saturday afternoon at the Congregational United Church of Christ. He addressed Christian marriage and how people of faith can support marriage equality.
He mentioned Jim Crow laws, saying that even though those are “off the books,” it doesn't mean racism stopped. Even though there's Title IX, it doesn't mean there wasn't sexism.
“We still have hearts and minds to be won,” said Robinson, a retired bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church.
Robinson highlighted issues of the importance of separation of church and state, context in scriptures, as well as patriarchy, saying, “That gig is up.”
“Everybody cherry-picks from the Bible,” Robinson said, adding we just have to figure out the rules of cherry-picking. “People used scriptures to justify slavery. Did the church get it wrong about LGBT? Yes. We're still working it out, and not just in this country but around the world.”
Robinson told a story about him and his partner, Mark, together for more than 25 years and on vacation. He said when a flight attendant handed him an immigration form he said they give one per family. He said a young couple sitting across from him, who were honeymooning, were considered a family but not him and Mark.
“It's one way society reminds you, you don't count,” he said.
University of Iowa law student Joe Fraioli said the most important thing about same-sex marriage is having the discussion.
“Having the conversation of homosexuality and religion,” Fraioli said. “Having this event is a great way to recognize Christians and LGBT are two things that can coexist.”
Coming from New York, Fraioli said Iowa has communities that are more vocal and inviting compared to others.
Michael Appel, also a UI law student, said, “This church really represents what Iowa City is all about - open, inviting and progressive.”
Rev. Bill Lovin said the church has been helping religious people express same-sex marriage equality before he came to the church over six years ago.
“My predecessor Bruce Fischer did this before it was legal in Iowa,” Lovin said, pointing to a newspaper clipping of Fischer performing a same-sex marriage in 2001. “And we felt it was valid in the eyes of God.”
Lovin believes the church has performed between 10 and 15 marriages for members of the congregation and some from out of state.
“It's important to stand up for what we believe and be supportive,” Lovin said.