More than 70 supporters of marriage equality in California — including Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Gay State Sen. Mark Leno, Gay State Assembly member Tom Ammiano and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee — have signed an open letter urging San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone to cancel his appearance at the “March for Marriage” on June 19.
“We respect freedom of religion and understand that you oppose civil marriage for same-sex couples,” the letter states. “Many people of faith who have different opinions on the question of civil marriage for same-sex couples have come together in respectful dialogue and discernment to discuss those differences. Sadly, the actions of NOM and its invited speakers push us farther apart rather than bringing us together.”
Faith leaders have also signed the letter including Rev. Dr. Brian Baker, dean of the Cathedral at Sacramento’s Trinity Cathedral; Rev. Will McGarvey, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa and Community Presbyterian Church; Rev. Dennis Wiley, pastor of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in D.C.; Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto Sr., Pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco; and Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine.
Known for his opposition to same-sex marriage, Cordileone was one of the leaders of the campaign in favor of California’s Proposition 8. After he was selected for his current post, Cordileone said in a 2009 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle people have to stand up for the definition of marriage as one man, one woman.
“Only one idea of marriage can stand,” Cordileone was quoted as saying. “If that’s going to be considered bigoted, we’re going to see our rights being taken away — as is already happening.”
Cordileone views on same-sex marriage stand in contrast with the diocese he represents, which has long been considered a pro-LGBT city and where then-Mayor Gavin Newsom distributed marriage licenses to gay couples in 2004.
In addition to the open letter, the pro-LGBT Faithful America is organizing an online petition calling on Cordileone to cancel his appearance. The goal for the organization is to collect 15,000 signatures for the petition.
Cordileone is among a handful of high-profile speakers who are slated to speak at the event, which is being organized by the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council. Other speakers scheduled to appear at the event are former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; New York State Sen. Rev. Ruben Diaz; and the Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall and Ryan Anderson.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is joining calls on Cordileone to cancel his appearance. In an email blast to supporters, NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell urges supporters of same-sex marriage to sign the petition organized by Faithful America.
“While we respect the freedom of religion, it is critical that all people of good will speak out against the dehumanizing and harmful rhetoric of the march’s sponsors and featured speakers,” Kendell said. “Please join us and the many elected officials, faith leaders, and non-profit organizations who are urging the Archbishop to cancel his planned participation at the march.”
It wouldn’t be the first time that Cordileone has come to D.C. to express opposition to same-sex marriage. On the day of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Prop 8, the archbishop was among the religious leaders who spoke in opposition at a rally before the courthouse.
A Univision poll published in March found that 54 percent of American Catholics supported same-sex marriage. Additionally, Pope Francis seems to have relented when asked about his views of homosexuality and is known for not being outspoken in opposition of same-sex marriage.
Fred Sainz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign, said Cordileone’s participation in the rally is out of step with others in his church.
“I doubt His Holiness would give his blessing to some of these speakers’ revolting characterizations of LGBT people,” Sainz said. “At a time when the Pope is asking, ‘Who am I to judge?’ Archbishop Cordileone and his cohorts continue relentlessly searching for bigger stages and louder megaphones from which to spew their judgments.”