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Marriage Equality is Breaking News
Civil marriage is the legal concept of marriage as a governmental institution irrespective of religious affiliation, in accordance with marriage laws of the jurisdiction.
In the United States same-sex couples can marry in six states: Connecticut Iowa Massachusetts New Hampshire New York Vermont and the District of Columbia
The states of New Jersey Maryland and Rhode Island do not facilitate same-sex marriages, but do recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. So does California in some cases. (In particular those established when the state briefly allowed same-sex marriage in 2008. )
Civil Unions/ Domestic Partnerships
Additionally, ten states offer civil unions or domestic partnerships, granting all or part of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage: California Maine New Jersey Illinois Washington Oregon Hawaii Maryland Colorado Rhode Island and Vermont will join the list beginning January 1, 2012.
Thirty-one states have constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one woman and one man.
If you’re a visual learner, here’s a map:
(thanks to freedomtomarry.org)
If it sounds confusing ...
… that’s because it is!
A Case in Point This from a colleague in Delaware: ―We have domestic partnership in New Jersey and if we get married in New York or Massachusetts our marital status will NOT be recognized in Delaware. Since neither will our domestic partnership from New Jersey it looks like come January 1st we'll need have to have another Civil Union here in Delaware in order to give our thirty-four year relationship legal standing in the state where we live. But there’ll still be no equal protection according to the federal government. And that’s because of ―DOMA‖ …
The so-called ―Defense of Marriage Act‖ (DOMA) – passed in 1996 -- prevents the federal government from offering any of the 1138 federally protected responsibilities and rights associated with marriage to those living in states providing for same-sex marriage. That list of 1138 includes:
Denial of Spousal Social Security benefits Employer-Provided Health Benefits to Domestic Partners are taxable, unlike benefits to Spouses Estate tax inequities Burial, housing and retirement for partners of members of the armed services Immigration law Family and medical leave Employee benefit for federal workers Etc, etc, etc ….
Same-sex marriage: Married but unequal
―People are entering into marriage only to find themselves in legal limbo when a new job or family circumstances necessitate a move. Constitutional principles of due process and equal protection cannot tolerate such discriminatory treatment based solely on sexual orientation.‖
[LAT | 7/20/2011]
This graph illustrates how dramatically public opinion on LGBT equality has shifted since DOMA was passed in 1996.
In response, legislators are now moving to repeal DOMA ...
Respect for Marriage Act
Introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings (July 20, 2011) on the bill that has 120 co-sponsors, including the original congressional sponsor of DOMA and former President Bill Clinton who signed the bill into law 15 years ago.
It would end federal discrimination against same-sex marriages with these words: “For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual's marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into …”
Changing Times = Changing Minds
At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Respect for Marriage Act, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin explained his changed position on DOMA by quoting ―another Illinois senator‖ - Abraham Lincoln:
“I'd rather be right some of the time than wrong all of the time."
The California legislature passed TWO bills legalizing same-sex marriage -- one in 2005 and one in 2007. Both were vetoed by that great defender of Traditional Values: then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
May 2008: California Supreme Court rules the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional June 2008: Same-sex marriages begin in California November 2008: Proposition 8—outlawing same -sex marriage — passes by a narrow margin August 2009: Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the Prop 8 ban unconstitutional
June 2011: Challenge to Judge Walker’s ruling on the basis of his sexual orientation was denied by the District Court Currently: (7/2011) We’re waiting for the CA Supreme Court to hear ―standing‖ arguments from Prop 8 supporters --likely to happen in September. THEN … ???????
This complicated “Prop 8 Decision Tree” [thanks to Jon Davidson at Lambda Legal] gives many — if not all — the possible outcomes as the case works its way through the courts.
The fact that the State authorizes a marriage in no way compels any Church to perform or recognize it. As clergy, we are entitled to refuse to perform any marriage for any reason. Roman Catholics routinely demonstrate this liberty when they refuse to perform marriages of divorced persons, even though the State allows them to do so. Orthodox Rabbis exercise the same freedom when they decline to preside at an inter-faith wedding.
What the Episcopal Church Canons say about marriage:
Canon 18; Sec. 1. Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony. Canon 18; Sec. 2b … that both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.
Those canons are subject to differing interpretations.
Some interpret Sec. 2b to be “proscriptive” – prohibiting a marriage other than between a man and a woman -- and they therefore believe that the canons preclude the solemnization of a marriage between two parties of the same gender Others interpret it to be “descriptive” – describing marriage when the canons were written – and they believe that the no longer operative (in some jurisdictions) description is “trumped” by the Sec. 1 calling us to “conform to the laws of the State.”
For example, in New York on July 24, 2011:
Four of the six diocesan bishops authorized their clergy to preside at same-sex marriages in the State of New York: Adams (Central NY) Franklin (Western NY) Provenzano (Long Island) Singh (Rochester)
One bishop has authorized the clergy in his diocese to bless the civil marriages of same-sex couples but not to solemnize them: Sisk (New York)
And one bishop has forbidden the clergy in his diocese to either bless or solemnize samesex marriages. Love (Albany)
What next for The Episcopal Church?
When we meet in General Convention next summer we will most certainly be debating and voting on resolutions to move the Episcopal Church forward on marriage equality.
And we will be lobbying for the approval of the resources developed by “The Blessings Project” to resource the whole church on the liturgical, theological, pastoral and canonical implications of blessing same-sex relationships.
What about the Diocese of Los Angeles?
Bishop Bruno appointed a task force on marriage equality back in 2008 which developed resources for the blessing of same-sex marriages for the Diocese of L.A. We have continued to confer and will meet again this fall to consider how the Diocese of Los Angeles will respond when we get marriage equality back here in California. We expect to take a leadership role in moving the Episcopal Church forward on marriage equality in Indianapolis and beyond.
And All Saints Church?
Currently our policy is for our clergy NOT to act as agents of the state for some marriages until we can do so for all.
We’ll continue to support both equal blessing and equal protection for all.
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