When Jesus was asked by a religious theologian of his day, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" the answer was stunningly simple: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. "Do this," Jesus replies, "and you will live." (Luke 10:25-37) As pastors, people of faith and citizens of Anchorage we stand with over 50 local religious leaders and other lay people of faith who are supporting our neighbors as we vote "yes" on Proposition 5 this April 3.
We are supporting Proposition 5 because we are answering Jesus' call to love our neighbor, treat all God's children with fairness and dignity and stand up when one group of people is being oppressed by another. As pastors, we are painfully aware of discrimination and the need to provide all citizens with equal protections under the law. When our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender neighbors are denied employment and housing just because of who they are, we hear God's call to stand up for their rights. We are also inspired by Jesus' vision of a community where all people, despite their differences, are treated with equality and honor as children of a common Creator.
We are continually challenged and inspired by Jesus' words and example of gracious welcome, affirmation and inclusiveness. We follow a Lord who continually broke down barriers of division: reaching out to a woman who was shunned by her community; lifting up outcasts, foreigners and those labeled "sinners" as examples of faith and God's blessing; and personally identifying with "the least of these." We are disciples of a teacher who consistently challenged the religious and political structures of his day whenever those powers treated people with exclusion and division. We are children of a Savior who has embraced us with love and welcomes us for who we are.
Proposition 5 is simple. In our current statutes, we already have guarantees that persons who work, live or do business in Anchorage cannot be denied employment or housing (in a building larger than a four-plex), because of "race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, age, or physical or mental disability" (Anchorage Municipal Code 5.20.050). Proposition 5 merely adds, "sexual orientation and transgender identity" to those existing legal protections. There are also broad exemptions that exclude "religious or denominational institutions, organizations, corporations, associations, educational institutions or societies" (AMC 5.20.090). This is a civil protection for the civil arena and the public marketplace. In no way is this an infringement on religious institutions, religious freedom or worship.
There is a variety of faith expressions in our community. We embrace a myriad of faiths and non-faith, beliefs, denominations, philosophies, and journeys. Even within the Christian family, there are some who do not accept the LGBT community as appropriate. Proposition 5 will allow each of us to maintain our personal philosophies, beliefs and faith regarding such matters. It will guarantee, however, that those fellow neighbors -- who play by the rules, pay their taxes, and positively contribute to our community -- are treated the same as everyone else.
On April 3, we have the opportunity to do the fair thing, the right thing and stand up for equality in Jesus' name.
The Rev. Martin Eldred and the Rev. Michael Burke are pastors of Joy Lutheran Church in Eagle River and St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Anchorage, respectively. They also serve as co-conveners of Christians For Equality, a group of over 50 Anchorage pastors and faith leaders united in support of the Equal Rights Initiative, Proposition 5.