Progress Toward Marriage Equality For All
Claiming the Blessing Field Organizer
Since California Prop. 8 put a ban on same-gender marriage into the state constitution, it would be easy to think progress had been stalled. That is not true. In addition to a bumptious outpouring of activism on behalf of marriage equality nationwide, there have been several very positive developments worth noting.
Toward Civil Marriage
A New Jersey "Civil Union Review Commission" appointed by the legislature and governor to evaluate whether civil unions are really an equitable substitute for marriage has answered a resounding "NO." Their 79-page report documents numerous situations in which New Jersey's civil union statute fails to protect same-sex couples from discrimination. In particular, employers are not recognizing civil unions as a status that should require them to provide benefits to couples equal to those they offer to married persons. Same-sex couples describe hospitals and medical providers failing to honor their partnership during a health crisis. Because New Jersey residents does not understand or recognize the civil union status, couples can find themselves trying to explain the law at the moments when they are most vulnerable. In particular, testimony suggested that people of color who try to avail themselves of civil unions do not readily have their relationships recognized by authorities.
The full report is a valuable, state-sponsored catalogue of why civil unions aren't good enough. People who take their right to marry for granted genuinely do not know all the disabilities associated with LGBT people's exclusion from the full status. This report is available for download at: http://www.civilunionsdontwork.com/.
Toward Marriage in the Church
Since 2003, many dioceses of the Episcopal Church have been allowing blessings of same-sex couples under Resolution C-051 which said "we recognize that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions." An example of a generous policy under this rule was that issued by the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus in 2006 that allowed same-sex blessings as "a pastoral response to the needs of our people" upon notification of the bishop and agreement from the bishop on the intended liturgy.
Now, at the convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Jon Bruno has issued a new policy on same-sex blessing that is more directly a challenge to both church and state to affirm same-sex marriages. He announced: "[T]he passage of Proposition 8 means that our State Constitution no longer provides for same-sex civil marriage. Nevertheless, these developments in public discourse regarding same-sex marriage have provided an opportunity for the Church to address the issue of same-sex covenants as well as marriage more generally.
"In response to our theological understanding, it is the policy of the Diocese of Los Angeles that any priest canonically resident or licensed to function may officiate at the sacramental blessing of the life-long covenant of persons of the same-sex following the provisions of this policy despite the civil law of our state at this time. While the state will not allow us to officially marry same-sex couples, we believe the same blessing ceremony afforded to men and women should be afforded to same-sex couples.
"... the sacramental blessing of covenants cannot be understood as civil marriages at this time. We understand the current policy to be provisional as regards future changes that may be made in the Canons of this Church, the resolutions of General Convention and changes in civil law."
Bishop Bruno has put himself and his diocese out quite far ahead of those who fear full inclusion of all in the life of the both Church and State. You can download the Los Angeles policy and the arguments advanced for it here: http://www.ladiocese.org/convention/home.html
People who support Bishop Bruno's advance toward marriage equality might want to send him a email saying so at email@example.com.
Polls Open Next Week
On Monday, December 15th, electronic voting will begin on whether to ratify changes to Integrity's national bylaws. If your membership dues were current as of November 25th, you will soon receive voting instructions by e-mail [if we have your e-mail address on file] or by postcard [if we don't]. You will be directed to the secure eBallot website and asked to log in using a unique username and password. You will then be able to vote YES or NO on whether to approve changes to the preamble and the 8 chapters of the bylaws. Click here to read more about what is being altered and why!
If you believe you are eligible to vote but do not receive voting instructions by Monday, please contact our office via email [firstname.lastname@example.org] or phone [800-462-9498, Monday thru Friday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm EST]. Polls close on February 15th.
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Help Finish Voices of Witness Africa
Claiming the Blessing needs $40,000 to finish the Voices of Witness Africa DVD. A 20-minute preview was shown to bishops and spouses during the Lambeth Conference last summer. The stories it portrayed profoundly affected everyone who saw it. No doubt the final film will be highly effective at moving Anglicans around the world from intolerance to tolerance, and from tolerance to affirmation. You can see the preview at www.voicesofwitness.org/VOWA.htm.
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Integrity is a member of the Claiming the Blessing coalition and the fiscal agent for Voices of Witness Africa.
News You May Have Missed
- ENS--Bishop authorizes blessings of lifelong covenantal relationships
- DALLAS MORNING NEWS--LA Episcopal Diocese endorses same-sex unions
- PRESS-ENTERPRISE--At Riverside convention Episcopalians say no to ban on gay bishops
- NEWSWEEK--Our Mutual Joy
- USA TODAY--Gays, God, the Bible and the bishops
- SAN DIEGO TRIBUNE--Same-sex marriage: A question of how we feel about each other After Election 2008