As president of the Religious Institute — the Westport-based organization that advocates nationally for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society — Rev. Debra Haffner has done plenty to advance the cause of same-sex marriage.
She helped gather signatures of 1,900 faith leaders on a friend-of-the-court brief, aimed at countering religious arguments against same-sex marriage prior to today’s Supreme Court hearing on 4 related cases.
She helped organize last Saturday and Sunday’s National Weekend of Prayer for the Freedom to Marry. More than 315 congregations from 46 states participated in responsive readings and prayers for “the wisdom of justices, the skills of attorneys and the well-being of plaintiffs” in the days ahead.
On Sunday, the Religious Institute co-sponsored a prayer service at Washington’s National City Christian Church.
Rev. Haffner — who also serves as community minister at Westport’s Unitarian Church — was a worship leader at Sunday’s service. She was very moved — but there was more to come. She stayed in Washington 2 more days. “I wanted to witness history,” she says.
This morning she joined a faith rally at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 6 blocks from the Supreme Court.
She and hundreds of others then marched to the Court itself.
Rev. Haffner has been to the Supreme Court twice in the past 2 years. Those cases were huge: Windsor, which advanced the right to same-sex marriage, and Hobby Lobby, in which the justices ruled that a business can choose to be exempt from a law its owners religiously object to.
Today, Rev. Haffner says, the crowds were much bigger. “There was a small band of ‘antis,’ with pretty disgusting signs,” she says. “But we outnumbered them 10 to 1.”
The Supreme Court heard 2 1/2 hours of arguments — an exceptionally long time. Throughout the morning, Rev. Haffner and others stood outside. “There was some singing,” she says. “But mostly, witnessing.”
She wore her clerical collar and stole. “So many people came by and thanked us for our witness,” she says.
On the train back to Westport, she read expert analyses of the arguments.
“It sounds like less of a slam-dunk than we thought,” she says. “Justice Kennedy — the swing vote — seemed to be unreadable.
“But I think this is a decision whose time has come. It’s time to ratify what a majority of people across the country already know: that everyone deserves the right to marry.”
The justices will rule in June.