Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Illinois Becomes 15th US State with Marriage Equality

On November 5th, the Illinois General Assembly voted to join the Senate in passing a marriage bill, making Illinois the 15th state where same-gender couples may marry, the Chicago Tribune reported.

In a statement published on the diocesan web site, the Right Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago, said "The scriptures tell us to testify to what we have seen, and in communities and congregations across our diocese, we have seen that extending legal protection and respect to same-sex couples has created stronger, happier households and contributed to the common good. Now in Illinois, the respect afforded by civil unions has been extended to the dignity of true equality. I rejoice that it is now easier for our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers to order their lives together, to care for one another and to raise children in a stable home. Justice has been done."

Bishop Lee continued by outlining his expectations for clergy in light of the new law, which included authorizing -- but not requiring -- clergy to witness civil marriages if they chose to, and the use of the provisional blessing rite for same-gender relationships adopted by General Convention 2012.  The Diocese of Chicago encompasses the northern part of Illinois, including the former Diocese of Quincy.

Rev. Dr. Roger A. Ferlo, President of the Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation, said, "I am delighted that Illinois has joined 14 other states in endorsing marriage equality. Years ago, as a parish priest in Greenwich Village, I was inspired by the example of gay and lesbian couples who kept their relationships alive despite intense social disapproval. They were an example to me and to others in the congregation that what matters to God is not the sexual orientation of the partners, but their honesty, integrity and lifelong fidelity. Now something is right in the eyes of the state that has always been right in the eyes of God." Dr. Ferlo's comments were shared by the Episcopal News Service.

The news doubtlessly was not as happily received in the Diocese of Springfield, which includes the central and southern parts of the state.  The Right Rev. Daniel Martins and the entire deputation to General Convention voted against the adoption of the blessings rite, and its use is not permitted in the Diocese.  In a letter to his flock published shortly after Convention, Bishop Martins wrote, "I am not unaware that there are some in this diocese, clergy and laity, who find my position disheartening. It gives me no joy to be the source of disappointment or pain to anyone. I honor the witness of faithful lesbian and gay Episcopalians in the diocese. They enrich our life together, and it is my desire to be a pastor to all, especially those who are hurt by decisions I must make. I pledge a special effort to stay connected and in dialogue with those who feel marginalized by my words or actions. I wish there were an easier way through this."

Bishop Martins is recovering from heart surgery and no statement on the ruling had been issued  at press time.

No comments: