Our Story: Marriage Equality (Video)

On February 2, 2012, Rev. Steve Parelli spoke before the Assembly Judiciary Committee meeting in Trenton, NJ, in support of marriage equality.

The Rev. Parelli is the Executive Director of Other Sheep, an ecumenical Christian organization based in the Bronx that empowers gay people of faith worldwide. Since 2005, Parelli, along with his husband, has spoken in 16 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia on the intersecting of religion and homophobia. In 2009, Rev. Parelli, having been defrocked by his Baptist denomination, received clergy credentials from the Metropolitan Community Church.

I am Reverend Steve Parelli.

My faith background is evangelical and Baptist.  I 
pastored the Faith Baptist Church of Sparta, NJ, for 
about ten years before coming out in 1997 and starting, 
at that time, a new life with my husband Mr. Jose Ortiz.

In the tradition of Roger Williams, Baptist founder of 
Rhode Island and the author of religious freedom in 
America, I would like to say this:

Concession and toleration are neither freedom nor 
liberty.  They are merely other names for oppression
because they are the allowance of that which is not 
wholly approved.

So then, in terms of Baptist teaching:   Civil Union with all
the “rights of marriage,” yet without the name of 
“marriage,” is not freedom but a concession, is not liberty
but toleration; and therefore, Civil Union is but another 
name for oppression.

In 2008, at the city hall of Sacramento, California, I 
married the love of my life.  As we left the building and 
began walking down the street, I felt something I had 
never – in my 42 years of recognizing myself as a gay 
person – felt before:  totally equal.  I cannot tell you what 
it is like all your teen and adult years to feel less than as 
a human being.  Jose and I had married with the need to 
be sure we could care for each other legally.  I had no 
idea how impacting the marriage would be in terms of 
feeling equal like any other adult who lives and loves and 
marries.  I felt like I was breathing in the American air for 
the first time.  Marriage, not Civil Union, gave me that 
sense of equality and belonging.

Strange, that the state of California could give me, an 
evangelical Baptist minister, what the church could not:  
equality and belonging.

In the words of Albert Barnes, abolitionist and 
Presbyterian minister “There is no power out of the 
church that could sustain discrimination against 
homosexuals for even an hour, if it were not sustained 
within the church.”

Please ask yourself this:  If I vote my conscience, will my 
vote limit the free exercise of the conscience of others?* 
You see, if you vote against marriage equality on the 
basis of your religious values or on the basis of the 
religious values of your constituents, then in effect you fail 
to uphold my God-given right as a free moral agent to 
determine for myself what God is or is not saying about 
same-gender marriage, and you deny me my God-given 
right to act in accord with those beliefs, and you confound 
the role of the state with the role of the church.

Please, be the state (separate from the church), and 
grant me my right** in matters of conscience, religious 
freedom and civil liberties.  Hear me as an American; 
hear me as a Christian; hear me as a gay man. Vote 
marriage equality.


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