Voice for Equality: Lama Surya Das

Lama Surya Das is the most senior Buddhist leader in the United States. Surya has spent thirty five years studying Zen, vipassana, yoga, and Tibetan Buddhism with the great masters of Asia, including the Dalai Lama's own teachers, and has twice completed the traditional three year meditation retreat at his teacher's Tibetan monastery. He is an authorized lama (priest and spiritual master teacher) in the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism.

He is the founder of the Dzogchen Center and Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and its branch centers in New York City, New Jersey, California, Portland, and Texas. Founder of the Western Buddhist Teachers Network with the Dalai Lama, he is also active in interfaith dialogue and social activism and regularly organizes its international Buddhist Teachers Conferences.

On February 25, 2004, Lama Surya Das announced his support for the marriage equality movement in San Francisco and his hopes that the state of California and the city of San Francisco would take firm action to protect the civil rights of gay citizens and their families:

What we're seeing is a religious majority that is trying to take legal rights away from a sexual minority that their religion purportedly doesn't like. But our nation's laws have always tried to prevent this kind of tyranny of the majority over the minority.

The idea that we live in a country where a majority can vote on which legal rights they think a minority 'should' have and which rights they 'shouldn't' is a frightening one. It entirely contradicts what we teach schoolchildren every day in our grade schools, middle schools and high schools. [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes Lama Surya Das as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: Michael Eric Dyson

Named by Essence magazine as one of the 50 most inspiring African Americans, the Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is the author of the 2004 NAACP Image Award winner for outstanding nonfiction literary work, "Why I Love Black Women" and the national best-seller, "Open Mike: Reflections on Philosophy, Race, Sex, Culture and Religion." He is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. An in-demand lecturer, ordained Baptist minister, and frequent guest on television talk shows, Dyson has been described by the Washington Post as a "superstar professor... who plies his craft at the crossroads of public policy, celebrity, and academia." He is the author of eleven books, including his latest, "Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?"

On February 26, 2004, in response to President Bush pushing for a constitutional amendment banning marriages between same-sex couples, Michael Eric Dyson weighed in on the Tavis Smiley radio show on NPR saying:

The ability to marry whomever one chooses is a civil rights issue, one not best left to high-minded moralists. Our feathers needn't be ruffled by gays and lesbians who seek to tie the knot of matrimony. In fact, heterosexual Christians should applaud the desire of gays and lesbians to seal their sexual and spiritual solidarity with a nod to traditional family values. Now mind you, those traditional family values have led to destructive consequences in many homes, but the desire of gays and lesbians to sign up has given me fresh hope that it needn't be so. [Link]
Freedom to Marry salutes the Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: Dr. Randall C. Bailey

Dr. Randall C. Bailey, a native of Malden, MA, is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Hebrew Bible at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA.

On February 12, 2009, Dr. Bailey was a guest blogger on Freedom to Marry's website. He talked about three events that changed his view on marriage equality: a family gathering reacting negatively to his late brother's desire to marry his same-sex partner, a religious panel debating excluding lesbians from their movement, and coming up against sharp criticism during a lecture in which he advocated for going beyond oppressive elements in the Christian tradition and in the interpretation of Biblical text.

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Voice for Equality: Eric Lee

Rev. Eric Lee is president/CEO of the Los Angeles chapter of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the 50-year-old civil rights organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is also Chairman/President of the California Christian Leadership Conference, the parent organization for seven California SCLC Chapters.

President of the local SCLC chapter for two years, in 2008, Rev. Less became an outspoken advocate of the freedom to marry by gay couples during the campaign against Proposition 8, an amendment to the state Constitution that banned marriages by same-sex couples. A message from Rev. Lee about his views on marriage is posted on the website for the group Unite the Fight: "Marriage equality is a civil rights issue. Anytime one group of people is denied the rights another group of people enjoy, it is fundamentally a denial of civil rights."

He has a B.S. in Political Economies of Industrial Societies from U.C. Berkeley, and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Azusa Pacific University. Rev. Lee is affiliated with the Black Business Association, Recycling Black Dollars, 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Rev. Lee has been married 17 years and has three children.


Freedom to Marry salutes Eric Lee as a Voice for Equality, in the tradition of Coretta Scott King!

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Voice for Equality: Helio Fred Garcia

Fred Garcia has 28 years of experience counseling securities firms, banks, insurance companies, specialized financial and professional service firms, corporations, not-for-profits, and governments. He has particular expertise in crisis management, corporate litigation support, struggles for corporate control, international financial transactions, securities offerings, corporate governance, and business ethics. To learn more: [Link]

Fred is also on the associate faculty of the Starr King School for the Ministry - Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, where he teaches a seminar on religious leadership for social change. He is a member of the Steering Committee for Freedom to Marry, and is also a member of the boards of directors of Disaster Chaplaincy Services and of The Interfaith Alliance.
Freedom to Marry salutes Helio Fred Garcia for his work on our Steering Committee and as a Voice for Equality!
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Voice for Equality: Ignacio Castuera

The Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera currently serves at Trinity United Methodist Church in Pomona, CA and also as the first National Chaplain for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Ignacio was the first Mexican-American district superintendent of the United Methodist Church in the Los Angeles District, and went on to become the pastor of Hollywood United Methodist Church. To learn more: [Link]

On “To The Point” on Univision, the Rev Castuera, a member of the Steering Committee of Freedom to Marry, supported marriage equality in a debate led by journalist Jorge Ramos from a religious perspective, taking into account the legal rights that come with marriage:

Marriage Equality Debate - "To The Point"
(Interview in Spanish)
June 15, 2008

Freedom to Marry salutes the Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera for his work on our Steering Committee and as a Voice for Equality!

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Voice for Equality: John Buehrens

John Buehrens has a long history of advocacy for the homeless and mentally ill, for civil liberties, for poor communities, for interfaith cooperation, and for issues of sexual justice. From 1993 to 2001 he served as the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. He was the only non-gay religious leader invited to address the Millenium March for Equality in Washington, DC, in 2000.

Buehrens has served in the leadership of the National Parenting Association, the Foundation for Individual Responsibility and Social Trust (FIRST), the International Association for Religious Freedom, the Progressive Religious Partnership, the Association of Theological Schools in the US and Canada, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and the Religious Institute for Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. To learn more: [Link]

Freedom to Marry salutes John Buehrens for his work on our Steering Committee and as a Voice for Equality!

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Gay bishop rejoices in NH’s marriage equality vote

The Associated Press
June 4, 2009

Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson sat in the front row of the gallery in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, hands clasped at times, praying for lawmakers to push a little green button that indicates a "yes" vote. In the end, there were 198 green lights to legalize gay marriage, and 176 red ones. "There are a lot of people standing here who, when we grew up, could not have imagined this," Robinson said. "You can't imagine something that is simply impossible. It's happened, in our lifetimes."[Link]

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Voice for Equality: Al Sharpton

American Baptist minister and leading civil rights activist, The Reverend Al Sharpton has been nominated to be a Voice for Equality.

At Tabernacle Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, on January 11, 2009, Sharpton spoke about Proposition 8 as a denial of constitutional rights: "[U]nless you are prepared to say gays and lesbians are not human beings, they should have the same constitutional right of any other human being."

His support for marriage equality goes back at least to his 2004 campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. During that time, he answered a debate question on the subject: "It's like asking 'do I support black marriage or white marriage....The inference of the question is that gays are not like other human beings." Rev. Sharpton is president of the National Action Network, a national civil rights organizations dedicated to rooting out pverty and discrimination. The Reverend is also an author, hosts his own radio show, and is a frequent commentator on major television networks.

Jonathan Herczeg nominated Rev. Sharpton. Thanks Jonathon.

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Voice for Equality: Father Farrow

On October 5, 2008 Father Geoffrey Farrow shocked his congregation and the Catholic Church nationally when he spoke out against Proposition 8 during Sunday Mass. Father Farrow said to his congregation:

"If your son or daughter is gay/lesbian let them know that you love them unconditionally. Let them know that you are not ashamed or embarrassed by them. Guide them as you would your other children to finding true and abiding love. Let them know that marriage is a union of love and life and is possible for them too."

Immediately following his remarks, Father Farrow was suspended by the Archdiocese. That action was not unexpected but he risked it all anyway.

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