To the editor:

My niece is married to a former Navy SEAL. While they were engaged, he was still on active duty and going on dangerous assignments. After all their efforts failed to ensure that my niece would be his next of kin in case of his death, they secretly married in front of a justice of the peace six months before their wedding ceremony.

I relate this story in response to the article about Thomas Farrell's billboard on Commonwealth Boulevard proclaiming his view that the Bible states marriage is between one man and one woman. ("Man says God led him to put up billboard," April 25).

I could argue against this premise in different ways, including that in Genesis the Bible promotes marriage between one man and several woman. I also take exception to his statement that being other than heterosexual is a choice and not biologically determined, but I know I will not convince him. My primary assertion here is that the ability to marry is a civil rights issue, as witnessed by my niece and her husband's experience.

In the United States, we separate church and state so that what one group believes is sinful cannot be foisted upon others who believe differently. Mr. Farrell is entitled to his religious beliefs and is free to promote them on a public billboard. However, religious beliefs cannot and should not be used to deny the rights and privileges of marriage to a minority of our citizens. Mr. Farrell can preach about the morality of same-sex marriage, but its legality has been established.

M. MARTHA WOODY

Martinsville