Father knows best on Prop 8

Priest takes a stand for gay marriage—and pays the price

“How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives?”

It’s a good question, one that speaks to the heart of the issues surrounding Proposition 8, the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would amend the California Constitution to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. What makes the question especially poignant is that the person who asked it was a 50-year-old Roman Catholic priest in Fresno named Geoffrey Farrow who, just before telling his parishioners that he opposed Prop 8, came out as a gay man.

“I know these words of truth will cost me dearly,” he said, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. “But to withhold them … I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights, but of their human dignity as well.”

Sure enough, a few days later Farrow’s bishop removed him as pastor, stripped him of his salary and benefits, and ordered him to stay away from all church communities in the area.

Supporters of Prop 8 say it will protect marriage as it is traditionally understood—a union between a man and a woman. If approved, the measure would vitiate a May 2008 California Supreme Court decision that declared the constitution gives same-sex couples the right to marry.

The measure, in other words, would eliminate a constitutional right and impose the beliefs of the majority on the minority. That’s a big step backwards. Many years ago, we remember, it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person in California. That was wrong, and so is discriminating against gay and lesbian people. As long as the state of California sanctions marriage, the rights and dignity marriage bestows should belong to anyone who chooses to take the vow.

There is absolutely no evidence that same-sex marriages will harm or otherwise affect heterosexual marriages. In the five months since the Supreme Court’s decision, the sky has not fallen. Thousands of Californians—gay and straight—have married, and all of them are facing the challenges of matrimony in their own ways.

We applaud Father Farrow’s courage in advocating for fairness and human dignity. Obviously, it was something his heart told him to do. As he himself put it, “At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?”