- Chris Misun, Meridian, Miss.
DEFINING MARRIAGE BY THE NUMBERS
A hot button topic in recent years at the polls has centered on same-sex marriage. CNN posted an article on May 12, 2012, looking at the issue of same-sex marriage and broke it down into numbers to display some stats on the controversial issue.
The report showed that 39 U.S. states have banned same-sex marriage, but 5 states “allow civil unions between same-sex couples, but not marriages.” There are 6 U.S. states, which “allow same-sex marriage, along with the District of Columbia.” In 1996, President Bill Clinton, signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is defined as, “to define and protect the institution of marriage.” However, the Act also further describes the details as the Federal definition of marriage as, “(1) “marriage” as only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; and (2) “spouse” as only a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.
An article by Chris Dolmetsch for Bloomberg on July 31, 2012, reported that U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford, Conn., ruled that The Defense of Marriage Act “violates the U.S. Constitution’s principles of equal protection.” Dolmetsch also reports that a, “federal appeals court in Boston make a similar ruling in May.” Six couples from Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as a widower from Connecticut brought the case to the court after they were denied federal benefits because of their marriages to a person of the same sex. Dolmetsch reported that the statement had come from the group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD regarding the parties involved in the case.
As the courts and states duel between themselves and the people of America, another group that has a strong influence on public opinions needed to put their two cents in as well.
PREACHING FROM THE PULPIT
While churches across the nation have battled with a decrease in pew attendance, they also have been caught in the crosshairs as strong arms of anti-same-sex marriage supporters. Huffington Post’s article on August 30, 2012 described the acts of Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, in which he “sent a letter to pastors in 41 parishes asking them to take up a special collection for Preserve Marriage Washington, the group that is trying to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage law.” As long as the church did not play a middleman role in the collection and distribution of money, they were not breaking any laws. It did, however, bring to attention the impact some churches have tried to make on the issue.
Some churches have stepped up to show support for same-sex couples. In July, 2012, The Episcopal Church, ranked 14 in 2011 and 2012 by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, approved to create an official liturgy for blessing same-sex unions and in an article by the NY Times it reported that “priests who have the approval of their bishops to bestow the church’s blessing on gay couples, whether they live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal or not.”
Reverend Helen Whitener Tester is the rector at The Episcopal Church of the Mediator in Meridian, Miss. While she was drawn to the congregation at Mediator for many different reasons during her search for the right church, the involvement with their chapter of Integrity USA was an important piece.
Rev. Tester also describes in greater detail about the structure of how The Episcopal Church system works from the national level to the Bishops of each diocese down to the individual churches. The flow describes how national decisions don’t always get played out at individual parishes, because they fall under the authority of their diocesan bishop.
The Episcopal Church is able to make decisions on the national level, but they still give the ultimate say to whether or not a diocese can adopt those changes to each bishop. According to Rev. Tester, the Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, The Rt. Rev. Duncan M. Gray III, stuck to his prior convictions of not approving the blessing liturgy in Mississippi.
“Our bishop said, even before he was elected bishop, that he would never allow the blessing of same-sex unions in this diocese, because that is not what he believes is his vision for the church. He was very clear about that and has been very clear about that all along.”
While The Episcopal Church makes decisions at a national level that trickles down through the bishops to the diocese, the Baptist Church works from a different structure.
Pastor Carl White is the head pastor at Highland Baptist Church in Meridian, Miss., describes the structure of the Baptist Church below.
The Southern Baptist Convention website lists their position statement on sexuality as:
“We affirm God’s plan for marriage and sexual intimacy – one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a “valid alternative lifestyle.” The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homosexuals. They, too, may become new creations in Christ.”
Pastor White says that at Highland Baptist Church, they welcome any and all who walk through their doors, in regards to dealing with homosexuality.
The debate of same-sex marriages and blessings will continue to fill congressional halls and sanctuaries across the nation for years and possibly decades to come. We invite you to share your thoughts on this subject by sending us a Tweet or send us your comments on Facebook.