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Tom Feran
By Tom Feran July 9, 2013

Phil Burress says all major religions are against same-sex marriage

In two rulings on the final day of its 2012-2013 term, the U.S. Supreme Court struck downparts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that banned the government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal, and let stand a lower court ruling that struck down a California gay marriage ban.

The rulings left in place the laws that ban same-sex marriage in 37 states. Among them is Ohio.

FreedomOhio, an advocacy group pushing to overturn Ohio's ban, said the high court's decisions add momentumto its effort to get the issue on the November 2014 ballot.

Citizens for Community Values, a Cincinnati-based conservative group that championed the 2004 constitutional ban, said it was ready to fight measures that would bring same-sex marriage to the state.

Phil Burress, president of the group, was quoted sayingin March that legalizing same-sex marriage in Ohio is unlikely: "I can't look into the future, but I just don't ever see it happening. This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and, like Judeo-Christian beliefs, every major religion is opposed to same-sex marriage. You can't allow same-sex marriage until you destroy all religions."

While his last sentence is matter of opinion that PolitiFact Ohio can't rate, we wondered about the accuracy of his statement about religious opposition.

The Supreme Court decisions affected the legal recognition of marriage under civil law. They do not extend to religious recognition.

But what do religions say about same-sex marriage?

Citizens for Community Valuestold us it stands behind the statement by Burress, which was also cited in a Plain Dealer story last month, and added: "The mainstream, conservative and orthodox majorities of the primary religions in America, that is Judaism, Christianity and Islam, oppose same-sex marriage."

They referred us to a comprehensive survey of the U.S. religious landscapeby the nonpartisan Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. It details the country's current religious makeup and changes in religious affiliation.

Pew also presents an overview of official positions on same-sex marriageamong major religions in the United States. These are the findings, summarized alphabetically:

  • American Baptist Churches USA has affirmed that "God's design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman."

  • Buddhism has no universal position on same-sex marriage.

  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes same-sex marriage, affirming that "marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman."

  • The General Convention of the Episcopal Church last year approved a liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships. "Each Episcopal bishop will decide whether to allow churches in his or her jurisdiction to use the new liturgy to bless same-sex unions," Pew reports. "And in those dioceses where blessing same-sex relationships is permissible, no Episcopal priest will be required to perform the blessing ceremony."

  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America defines marriage as "a lifelong covenant of faithfulness between a man and a woman," but allowed congregations to recognize and bless same-sex unions.

  • Hinduism has no official position on same-sex marriage.

  • Islamic law forbids homosexuality.

  • In Judaism, the Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish movements support gay and lesbian rights, including same-sex marriage. The Conservative Jewish movement has a ceremony to allow same-sex couples to marry. Individual rabbis can choose not to officiate at same-sex weddings.

  • Orthodox Judaism does not accept same-sex marriage.

  • The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's position is that same-sex marriage is "contrary to the will of the Creator."

  • The National Association of Evangelicals does not support gay marriage or civil unions.

  • The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman -- though, Pew notes, its General Assembly "urged state legislatures to give individuals in same-gender relationships the right to be joined in civil unions."

  • The Southern Baptist Convention is opposed to gay marriage.

  • The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations passed a resolution in 1996 in support of same-sex marriage.

  • The United Church of Christ’s General Synod has voted to legally recognize and advocate in favor of same-sex marriage. "Given the autonomous nature of United Church of Christ churches," Pew reports, "each congregation may adopt or reject the recommendations of the General Synod."

  • The United Methodist Church affirms that marriage is between a man and a woman.

"Religious groups do not speak with one voice on the same-sex marriage issue," said a report in March from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, "but more oppose it than support it."

"Religious groups fall on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate," the Public Religion Research Institutereported in March.

Burress would have been on solid ground stating that the majority of major religions do not approve same-sex marriage. The opposition is significant. Most of the biggest religious groups do not accept same-sex marriage.

But "most" is not "all." The opposition is not unanimous. Views varywithin Judeo-Christian tradition. The number of denominations accepting same-sex marriage has been increasing.

We rate his statement Half True.

Our Sources


The Plain Dealer, "Ohio sorts out impact of same-sex marriage decisions," June 26, 2013

New York Times, "Supreme Court Bolsters Gay Marriage With Two Major Rulings," June 26, 2013

The Plain Dealer, "Portman's stance on gay marriage gives momentum to group seeking to scuttle Ohio's ban," March 18, 2013

Email/interview with Charles Tassell, assistant to the president, Citizens for Community Values, June 28, 2013

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, "U.S. Religious Landscape Survey," accessed June 27, 2013

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, "Religious Groups' Official Positions on Same-Sex Marriage," Dec. 7, 2012

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, "Same-Sex Marriage," March 29, 2013

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Phil Burress says all major religions are against same-sex marriage

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