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8-13-13 City developed by Adventists approves benefits to same-sex couples

The City of Collegedale, Tennessee, which was originally developed by Seventh-day Adventists®, recently became the state’s first city to offer government benefits to municipal employees in same-sex marriages.

Collegedale Municipal Building [Photo by Courtney Herod]
The move highlights the clash over increasing support for same-sex marriage against conservative groups’ traditional view of marriage, including the Adventist Church’s position against same-sex unions.

Collegedale, a suburb of Chattanooga, was developed as an Adventist community nearly 100 years ago around what is now Southern Adventist University. The city incorporated in 1968 and now has some 8,200 residents, according to the U.S. Census.

City Commissioner Katie Lamb, an Adventist Church member and former dean of the School of Nursing at Southern Adventist University, said her support for the ruling emphasized treating employees equally, despite her own beliefs against same-sex marriage.

“I just think it’s just a matter of being fair and treating your employees equally no matter what their choice of lifestyle may be. I see that as something different than what my church may condone,” Lamb said.

“I may not condone what they do, but it’s their choice of lifestyle and I respect that, just as I hope they respect choices I make in my life,” she said. “In my mind this is not a religious issue.”

Lamb said the new law, which will be implemented starting in January, would likely apply to one employee, but could affect additional employees in the future.

According to the city commission’s meeting agenda, the vote authorizes the “City of Collegedale to extend spousal and family health insurance coverage to all employees who are able to provide a marriage document” from the state in which they were married.

The state of Tennessee does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The city commission’s ruling comes weeks following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that extends federal benefits to same-sex couples. Last week, two more U.S. states – Minnesota and Rhode Island – approved same-sex marriage, bringing the total number of states supporting gay marriage up to 13. Of the 50 U.S. states, 29 have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

While the Adventist Church – a worldwide Protestant denomination of 17 million members – has a statement on homosexuality, it does not have a stance on whether governments should offer equal employment benefits to same-sex couples.

“We will continue to support and continue to make clear to the public where we stand, but I don’t think we as a church are interested in singling out anyone and not showing them love,” said Orlan Johnson, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director for the Adventist Church’s North American Division.

“Society is always evolving and looking for ways to take in consideration new views. At the end of the day for Adventists it’s about being intentionally kind and Christ-like,” Johnson said. “I think you can have differences of opinion as it relates to our fundamental beliefs and other beliefs.”

North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
9705 Patuxent Woods Drive
Columbia, MD 21046-1565 USA
Telephone: 443-391-7200
Fax: 443-391-
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