For quite a long time, I have argued that we could solve the contentious issue of same-sex marriage by thinking of it not solely as a religious matter but, rather, as a matter of equality before the law.
Here's my proposal: People who wish to be recognized by civil government as a married couple (with all the attendant rights, privileges and responsibilities) would be required to be married by civil authorities. If those same people then wanted to have their marriage blessed by a faith community, they would go to that community and ask for that to happen. That community would be free to say yes or no for its own theological reasons.
That way we preserve equality under the law and we preserve the freedom of religious organizations to set their own rules for such ceremonies.
Naturally, because this idea is so sensible it hasn't been adopted on a widespread basis. But I continue to hold out hope.
One bit of evidence that the idea is workable comes now from someone who teaches moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.
I hope you'll read it carefully, for it's carefully crafted.
But let me get here to her bottom line: ". . .given what we know about sexual orientation, a ban on marriage for gay and lesbian people would seem, according to Church teaching, to abridge a fundamental human right, and so constitute an attack on their human dignity. Beyond that, many gay and lesbian couples calling for the right to marry are recalling to our culture the social and cultural importance of marriage. Rather than living quietly in a legally unrecognized state, gay and lesbian couples asking for marriage affirm the dignity of the institution. Finally, to reject the most intimate relationships of LGBT people as dangerous to the civil polity stokes savage homophobia, which the Church opposes."
The church, under Fullam's (and my) idea, would continue to be free to refuse to bless a same-sex marriage. But at least all marriages would be equal under civil law.
One problem now is that in effect two weddings take place in churches at the same time in the same ceremony. The officiating clergy serve as both agents of the state and agents of the church. Let's free clergy from having to be agents of the state and make them, instead, simply representatives of their faith communities in marriage ceremonies.
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A FULL-IMMERSION MISTAKE
Sarah Palin's recent joke about waterboarding being the way the U.S. baptizes terrorists was not just an affirmation of the use of torture but also, as this commentary makes clear, terrible theology. What's sad is that it was no surprise that it came from Palin.