Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Washington State to General Convention

Louise Brooks
Director of Communications
Integrity USA

The Washington state marriage equality bill introduced by Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire and passed recently by a wide margin in the Washington senate, sailed through the Washington house as expected yesterday. This makes Washington state the 7th in the nation to allow same-sex couples to wed. This action came one day after a federal appeals court declared California's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, calling it was a violation of the civil rights of gay and lesbian couples.

Gov.Gregoire issued a statement after the Washington state vote, saying it was "a major step toward completing a long and important journey to end discrimination based on sexual orientation."

"Thanks be to God!, " said Rev. Harry Knox, Interim Executive Director of Intergity USA. "While some are trying to limit freedom, Gov. Gregoire and the Washington State legislature are expanding freedom and equality. They recognize that same sex couples simply want the liberty to commit to care for each other in sickness and in health. They have made the American dream a reality for thousands of families in Washington."

Gov. Gregorie is expected to sign this bill into law next week. And the Diocese of Olympia is poised and ready to deal with this victory. Here's what they posted on their website about Marriage Equality on February 1, 2012.

Our Policy on Marriage Equality

Per the recommendation of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, the Diocese of Olympia does not formally authorize any rite of blessing for same-sex unions; however, Bishop Rickel leaves it to the discretion of individual clergy as to whether they will bless same-sex unions.

When marriage equality legislation in Washington State passes and is signed into law, the Episcopal Church in Western Washington will accommodate that law within its structure, much as other Episcopal dioceses have in states where similar legislation has passed.

On the same date, Bishop Greg Rickel’s posted his own personal opinion on his blog at

Marriage Equality: A Conservative Proposal

It is expected that our Washington state legislators will very soon, perhaps even tomorrow begin floor deliberations on HB2516 & SB6239 with the Senate to begin. Passage of these bills or a version of them would make same sex marriage law in our state. Our Episcopal Church, after a long discussion about this over the years is poised to do roughly the same this summer at our General Convention.

While I am careful about wading into our legislator’s business, I would say this is the church’s business too. I have been asked by many about my feelings on it, and I have decided to share them. The ideas are not new, I have shared them openly in the walk-abouts before becoming your bishop and in many venues before and since.

Christianity has held, when considering relationships of all sorts, but especially in relation to two people in marriage, fidelity to be our value. Fidelity is the value in most all our sacraments and also in our life as Christians.

It seems to me we have held our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in a “catch-22″. We say they cannot live up to our value because they cannot be married, or even blessed in their union. While many of them have begged for this, it is still not possible. What they ask of us, the church and the government, is to put boundaries around their relationship, to hold them in the same regard and with the same respect, which would also mean that we expect the same from them. They are not asking for special treatment. They are asking for equal treatment. They are asking to be accountable, as a couple, in community. To me, this is a conservative proposal. I am for it, and I hope we will finally make way for this to happen, not only in our society, but also in our church.


The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel

Episcopalians have much to rejoice about. The polls show that the majority of Americans support the right for all persons to marry. The tide is turning.  It's only a matter of time. It is just a few months til our own General Convention where, as Bishop Rickel said, we will be "asking for equal treatment" and we will work so it "will finally happen, not only in our society, but in our church."


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