Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Gay Marriage in Theology, Law and Politics

photo of banner

William Stacy Johnson, Princeton Theological Seminary
David Blankenhorn, Institute for American Values
Kerry Healey, Former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Cheryl Jacques, Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, LLP
Erik Owens, Boston College (moderator)
Date: Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Time: 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Location: Higgins 300

Gay marriage is much debated as a local and national issue today, but rarely is it given the conscientious and rigorous attention that such a hotly contested issue deserves.  This panel discussion aims at a more complete engagement with the theological, political and legal complexities surrounding gay marriage in the wake of (but not exclusively attentive to) Massachusetts' legalization of gay marriage in 2004.

headshot of Johnson

William Stacy Johnson is Princeton Theological Seminary’s Arthur M. Adams Associate Professor of Systematic Theology. An ordained Presbyterian minister and a lawyer, he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University, his J.D. from Wake Forest University, and his M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia.

He served for four years as theologian-in-residence of Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas, and was the first theologian-in-residence at First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. For five years he worked as a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church.

In his recent book A Time to Embrace, Prof. Johnson presents an analysis of the religious, legal and political stakes in the debates over gay marriage, civil unions, and the place of committed gay couples in a democratic society.

The book begins by laying out the church’s seven different responses to gay marriage.  It then moves on to gay rights in recent court battles, different types of gay marriage and civil union arrangements and, finally, suggests how deliberative democracy can create a society in which all citizens can rely on principles of equality and liberty.

headshot of Blankenhorn

David Blankenhorn is founder and president of the Institute for American Values, a private, nonpartisan organization devoted to contributing intellectually to the renewal of marriage and family life and the sources of competence, character and citizenship in the United States.

Mr. Blankenhorn has co-edited five books: Rebuilding the Nest: A New Commitment to the American Family (1990); Seedbeds of Virtue: Sources of Competence, Character, and Citizenship in American Society (1995); Promises to Keep: Decline and Renewal of Marriage in America (1996); The Fatherhood Movement (1999); and The Book of Marriage: The Wisest Answers to the Toughest Questions (2001) and is the author of The Future of Marriage (2007)

Mr. Blankenhorn helped to found the National Fatherhood Initiative and he serves on the board of directors of the National Parenting Association.  His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Public Interest, First Things and Christianity Today, and he has been featured on programs such as Oprah, 20/20, Eye to Eye, CBS This Morning, The Today Show, Charlie Rose, ABC Evening News, Equal Time, and C-SPAN's Washington Perspectives.

headshot of Healey

Kerry Healey graduated from Harvard College in 1982 and earned her Ph.D. in political science and law from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. In 1985, Dr. Healey was a visiting researcher in the International and Comparative Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.  In 2001, Dr. Healey was elected Chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party.  From 2003-2007, Dr. Healey served as Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  In the spring of 2007, Dr. Healey was a Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government Institute of Politics.

As Lieutenant Governor, Dr. Healey assumed a broad range of responsibilities.  These included leading the administrations' successful efforts to strengthen drunken driving penalties, establish a witness protection and gang violence prevention program, increase penalties and supervision for sex offenders, and increase protections for victims of child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence.

As a private citizen, Dr. Healey worked as a law and public safety consultant at Abt Associates, Inc., in Cambridge, MA, conducting research for the U.S. Department of Justice related to child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, gang violence, victim and witness intimidation and the prosecution of drug crimes.

headshot of Jacques

Cheryl Jacques is a national leader in the gay civil rights movement who writes and speaks on issues of diversity, civil rights and politics.  She is Of Counsel to the Boston-based law firm of Brody, Hardoon, Perkins and Kesten, and is a consultant on diversity issues to corporations and non-profit organizations.  Jacques is an Adjunct Professor at Suffolk University Law School and the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.  She is also a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Jacques formerly served as president and executive director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and led HRC through the successful defeat of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment.  Jacques took the helm of HRC after serving nearly a dozen years in the Massachusetts State Senate, where she was a leader on civil rights and equality in the Massachusetts Legislature. Jacques successfully pushed for the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Commonwealth’s Hate Crimes Statute and was an outspoken advocate for the needs of gay and lesbian youth in Massachusetts.  In 2002, Jacques lead a bi-partisan coalition of legislators to defeat the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in Massachusetts.

headshot of Owens

Erik Owens is Assistant Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Theology at Boston College. He earned his Ph.D. in religious ethics at the University of Chicago, an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from Duke University. His research explores a variety of intersections between religion and public life, with particular attention to the challenge of fostering the common good of a religiously diverse society.  His scholarship is fundamentally interdisciplinary, bridging the fields of theological ethics, political philosophy, law, education, and public policy. Currently at work on a book about civic education and religious freedom in American public schools, he is also the co-editor of three books: Gambling and the American Moral Landscape (forthcoming 2009, with Alan Wolfe), Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning (2004) and The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics (2003). Before joining the Boisi Center, Owens received research fellowships from the Spencer Foundation and the University of Virginia’s Center on Religion and Democracy; taught at the University of Chicago and DePaul University; and worked for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, as well as the City of Chicago’s Board of Ethics.