A principled stand on gay marriage
These churches, and a handful of others around the country that took the same step, will still hold a religious ceremony to bless the unions of straight and gay couples -- but straight couples must go separately to a judge or justice of the peace for the marriage license.
In other words, they're taking the first practical step toward separating religious marriage and civil marriage, which have become intertwined to the detriment of both.
I've argued before that the way to settle the gay marriage debate is to get the government out of the marriage business: civil unions (and the benefits thereof) to everyone who qualifies, and religious marriages for people who want one and can find a church to perform the ceremony.
Now these churches have taken the first step toward making that a reality.
Right now, it's just a handful of liberal churches. But there should be a compelling interest among conservative churches, as well, who may want to start refusing civil ceremonies in order to avoid association with gay marriage, or pressure to perform same-sex ceremonies.
"I know there are clusters of conservative pastors in Massachusetts who have discussed refusing civil ceremonies so as not to be under pressure to perform same-gender ceremonies," said Runnion-Bareford, who himself believes that government and the church have a joint interest in promoting traditional marriage as a societal good.
One can only hope. I don't support (or anticipate) pressure on conservative denominations to perform same-sex marriages. But I do think that gay marriage will become more and more accepted, and in the end the only way opponents can "protect" the word "marriage" is to decouple it from the civil ceremony and make it a purely religious undertaking. So as time goes on, I think you'll see an odd coalition of churches supporting such a move.
civil unions, gay marriage, politics, midtopia