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Bishop of Rochester Honored for New York Marriage Equality Work

 I wrote this article, which was published by ENS.

Bishop of Rochester honored for New York marriage equality work

By John Clinton Bradley
Posted May 29, 2012
[Episcopal Diocese of Rochester] Last Saturday evening, during its annual Spring Dinner, the Empire State Pride Agenda presented the Rt. Rev. Prince Singh with its 2012 Community Service Award in recognition of his support for marriage equality.

“He has made a significant part of his work to help those who deserve respect and equality, and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community he has lent his voice and leadership in extraordinary ways to help further our own equality here in New York and beyond,” said W. Bruce Gorman, co-chair of Spring Dinner Steering Committee, as he introduced Bishop Singh.

“As leader of The Episcopal Church in Rochester, which has tirelessly promoted the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church, he used his position over the last several years to promote marriage equality as an important civil right for all loving, committed couples. As an ally, the bishop used his position to highlight the broad range of support from people of faith. He recognizes the importance of treating all LGBT people equally both in his church and in the broader community.”

“As an advocate for the Pride Agenda, Bishop Singh was a leader who signed on very early in support of our legislative priorities: the Dignity for All Students anti-bullying bill, marriage equality, and transgender civil rights,” added Marla Hassner, co-chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda Foundation Board of Directors. “He delivered the Pride in the Pulpit address at the 2009 Equality & Justice Day in Albany. One of the most prominent faith leaders to lend his name in support of marriage equality, Bishop Singh followed through with action to match his deeply held commitment to equality—especially at some of the most critical times of our work. Leading up to the marriage vote last year, he spoke at the Rochester faith press conference, which enabled us to counter our opponents’ faith rally held that very same day. When we needed a faith leader to sign a statement affirming that the current marriage bill already provided protections for religious institutions, Bishop Singh stepped up to the plate. In addition, Bishop Singh is a constituent of (State Senator) Jim Alesi, and personally spoke to him about the need to pass (the) marriage (equality bill).”

In accepting the award, Bishop Singh said, “I am truly humbled to receive this on behalf of a community I belong to, known as The Episcopal Church. I do so recognizing that I inherited leadership both in the laity as well as in the clergy of this faith community that goes way beyond our lived experience. I’m thinking of (past) Bishops Bob Spears, Bill Burrill, Jack McKelvey and many individuals who stood up in solidarity with a community that needed friends at crucial times. It comes back to a simple but profound value that we hold in the church and as people of faith: that is, to preserve and protect the dignity of every human being.”

“As someone who has been married for over 20 years, I want to suggest that marriage is a good thing; if you haven’t tried it, you should. It makes your life a whole lot better, because none of us by ourselves as individuals can be as fulfilled as we can be with a companion, especially when there is true love, ” continued Bishop Singh.

“So with great humility I accept this award on behalf of a community. It feels like when we gather at a place like this, with all kinds of differences, we can still come together and create a sliver of heaven. When people come together and share companionship and camaraderie, and are able to laugh and celebrate, there is heaven. So I hope you can share this joy that you have with others, because obviously it is a very hard fight. But it is good once in a while to come on the other side with a little sense of hope and victory. You who have been charged with the possibility of getting to the promised land and going beyond, I hope will carry that light wherever you are—especially when you are alone, do the right thing when no one is looking and there is no camera. Together then, we can create a better New York, a better United States, and a better world. So, on behalf of my community, I accept this award. God bless you. You are God’s beloved,” concluded Bishop Singh.

At least a dozen Episcopalians from the Diocese of Rochester attended the Spring Dinner to support their bishop and the Empire State Pride Agenda. “The Episcopal Church has long been active in helping bring God’s Kingdom and justice for LGBT (people) to New York State. We have been blessed that we can celebrate the long arc of our history by giving our current bishop, Prince, kudos in such a joyful public venue,” said Robert Crystal, a member of Oasis Rochester, the diocesan LGBT ministry.