TRENTON, N.J. — Speaking in support of gay marriage before the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee meeting in Trenton last week, the Rev. Stephen Parelli of the Other Sheep faith group told the panel he “pastored the Faith Baptist Church of Sparta, N.J., for about 10 years before coming out in 1997 and starting, at that time, a new life with his husband Mr. Jose Ortiz.”
Parelli, who identified his “faith background [as] evangelical and Baptist,” said he married Ortiz in “2008, at the city hall of Sacramento, California” so that they “could care for each other legally” but “had no idea how impacting the marriage would be in terms of feeling equal like any other adult who lives and loves and marries.”
The state of California, Parelli said, gave him what the church and civil union could not: equality and belonging. (California voters passed Proposition 8 in November 2008, which took away marriage equality.)
Parelli, adapting a quote from 19th century abolitionist and Presbyterian minister Albert Barnes, said “no power out of the church could sustain discrimination against homosexuals for even an hour, if it were not sustained within the church.”
He added, “Civil Union is but another name for oppression.” Citing his Baptist heritage, Parelli said that “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.”
Parelli told the committee members that they should not vote their conscience if their vote would “limit the free exercise of the conscience of others” and that it was for this reason that he opposed a referendum.
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.
For the full remarks Parelli made to the NJ Assembly Judiciary Committee, go HERE.
The Rev. Stephen R. Parelli’s testimony on video