The Episcopal Church was one of the first organized religions that allowed gay men and women to become priests; they did so some sixteen years ago. Now comes news that the Episcopal Church seems ready to introduce a rite that would specifically bless the unions of same-sex couples, and, if approved, which seems to be expected, Episcopalians will become the first major denomination to endorse such a ritual for gay couples.
Seems like big news, eh? And it does please me, not in any sense of religious belief, but in an equality frame of mind. And the blessing is very similar to that of opposite-sex marriage ceremonies; there is the “I do” and the “we have gathered together today” and there are rings exchanged. However, the words “husband,” “wife,” and “marriage” are absent.
There is no, "I now pronounce you husband and husband."
Supporters insist this new ceremony would acknowledge and bless same-sex unions, but would not sanctify them as marriage in most states. Churches in states where same-sex marriage is legal have the option of blessing a same-sex marriage, but do not currently use a formal rite.
So, it’s, um, not-marriage, I guess. And this is where I differ.
Not-marriage is not marriage. Gay men and women don’t need a church to acknowledge their marriages or bless their unions. Gay men and women need the same rites, and rights, as straight couples. If John and Mary get to have a “marriage” ceremony, then John and John should have one, too. As should Mary and Mary.
The committee that proposed the change, and penned a handbook on the subject, entitled "I Bless You, And You Will Be a Blessing,” says, “While the liturgy we have developed is not called ‘marriage,’ we recognize significant parallels. Two people publicly make a lifelong, monogamous commitment to one another with the exchange of solemn vows in a ritual that pronounces God’s blessing on their life together.”
The liturgy we have developed is not called ‘marriage,’ they say.
Then it’s not marriage, I say. And while I can appreciate this step forward by the Episcopal Church, I think it’s kind of a half-step, a safe step. And, so, not really much of a step at all.