Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I don't think this counts as civil disobedience, but it's a nice gesture

Awww... that's sweet:
On Sundays, the Saint Paul-Reformation Church often holds informal soup and bread gatherings to discuss congregation business. It was at one of these meetings about two years ago that Jim McGowan, a member for more than two decades, proposed that the church stop marrying straight couples.

The church had long welcomed members of all sexual orientations—they had even bucked local Lutheran leadership and ordained a lesbian pastor. But McGowan, a straight man, nonetheless saw a subtle form of discrimination. If the church couldn't legally marry gay couples, he argued, it shouldn't marry straight ones either.

None of the 50 or so people present in the basement that Sunday stood up to contradict McGowan's proposition. So today, Saint Paul-Reformation is in the process of enacting a church ban on what he calls "the state's business" of civil unions.

If the congregation does vote to abstain from civil marriage duties, the church will still perform ceremonies for both straight and same-sex couples. The only difference will be that heterosexual couples will have to take the extra step of seeking out a judge to make their nuptials legal.

"We are looking at the function of our church in marriage ceremonies," says Anita Hill, a pastor at Saint Paul-Reformation. "Is it just to get it done in a pretty place? We're not in the wedding business; we're in the blessing business."

Still, the proposal to eliminate state-sanctioned marriage doesn't sit well with all the members. "There is a mother in our congregation who gets teary thinking that her daughter might not be able to get legally married in that chapel she sits in every Sunday," says Reverend Hill.

Yeah? How horrible! I imagine that mothers of lesbians never shed any tears over the fact that their daughters won't be able to get married at all, though.

But this church isn't alone in their objections:
Minneapolis has the country's third-largest concentration of same-sex couples, according to census data, and local churches have not been shy about wading into the controversy over gay marriage. At least three Twin Cities churches have voted to bar clergy from performing civil marriages. The United Church of Christ says that dozens of its churches across the country have passed similar resolutions and that individual clergy have refused to sign marriage certificates for years.


In early 2006, with state lawmakers still wrangling over the issue, the Lyndale United Church of Christ unanimously voted to pass a resolution instructing its clergy to stop signing marriage certificates on church grounds. Lyndale's pastor, Reverend Don Portwood, took it a step further, vowing not to sign marriage certificates anywhere. "When a law is not morally right, we are not going to follow it," he says, invoking the language of the Civil Rights Movement.

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