Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bless this Civil Contract

Since we've been talking a bit about heroism and gay rights 'round these parts recently, it seems a good time to mention the small group of churches that are refusing to preform civil ceremonies for any couple, gay or straight, until those ceremonies are legally binding for all:

It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, you can't get legally married at Lyndale United Church of Christ.

The small, liberal church in south Minneapolis was the first of several Twin Cities congregations last year to stop performing civil marriage ceremonies as long as gay marriage is illegal. These churches, and a handful of others around the country that took the same step, will still hold a religious ceremony to bless the unions of straight and gay couples - but straight couples must go separately to a judge or justice of the peace for the marriage license.

This seems like a phenomenally good idea, one which will hopefully encourage other churches to mark the difference between church and state and defuse the 'gay marriage issue.' If a couple wants to form a legal contract that will allow them to take advantage of the legal benefits of marriage, they can get a civil ceremony. If they want that civil union blessed by whatever deity to whom they direct their prayers, they can find a like-minded church to bless their union. If you don't like the unions that one particular religious organization is or isn't blessing, go to another or stick to the civil ceremony. The A.P. puts it this way:'s a new strategy for achieving legal gay marriage, with supporters hoping to push toward a society that views civil and religious marriage as separate institutions.

"There's a real shift going on here where I think more and more people are recognizing the distinction, that what the state offers and the church offers are two different things," said the Rev. Mark Wade, pastor of the 540-member Unitarian Universalist Church in Asheville, N.C.

Last year, Wade stopped signing marriage licenses, and now speaks of it as a stand for the separation of church and state. "We tell couples to go to the magistrate," Wade said. "I felt I couldn't serve an unjust law. That didn't make any sense to me."

So, logical arguments in favor of tolerance coming from... churches. It's really different, but I like it.


Casmall said...

Doesn't it seem that this protest would only effect the people that go to these churches already? I would think that if you're going to go to a liberal church you already thin this way anyway.

La Pobre Habladora said...

I guess I'm just happy to see that any church is pushing for separate legal and religious unions, and for the civil rights of lesbian and gay couples. This distinction could turn the 'marriage is defined as...' debate into a moot point. Sure, these churches might be preachin' to the choir right now - but at least they're preaching.

I am not feeling gloomy about this issue today. I just read that Uruguay has passed a law that would allow for civil unions for unmarried straight couples and for gay couples alike. Apparently Mexico City allows same sex civil unions as well. These are Catholic countries that, as the BBC puts it, will allow any unwed couple " register their relationship with authorities to gain the cohabitation rights - covering areas such as inheritance, pensions and child custody..." This is essentially what the American 'liberal' churches are pushing - a policy of removing any religious debate from a legal issue.

Mächtige Maus said... beat me to the Uruguay post at the BBC site. That piece pleased me and saddened me at the same time. I cannot help but shake my head at the realization that other countries continually get it sooner than we do. And not just on this issue.

Good luck with removing any religious debate from legal or political issues. I worry that it will be a perpetual head banging against the wall fight. Yes, pessimistic to me, I know. Perhaps I feel the need to be gloomy since Habladora is not.

La Pobre Habladora said...

It would be nice to know more about the movement that led up to Uruguay's and D.F.'s change. Was it prompted by a social initiative, a political one...? Were people protesting on the streets daily, or did a bunch of legislators sit down and say, "you know what would really make sense..."?