This past week I was in Chicago for the Covenant Network of Presbyterian’s Conference “Marriage Matters”.
I led a workshop on the relationship between civil and religious marriage. This is the link to the Prezi from my talk. While it doesn’t have everything that was discussed in the great workshop, it has much of it.
I’m grateful to the participants of the workshop who added their knowledge to the conversation. It was very helpful and I learned a lot.
A few years ago, in response to a couple who wanted to be married by me, but who are same gender Presbyterians in Idaho (where both church and state do not allow for same gender marriage), the Session decided the pastoral response to this couple facing discrimination was to pull our church out of the civil marriage process.
We still celebrate marriages in our congregation, but I do not sign the license. A member of the church is a retired judge and she will handle the civil side of marriage for us, or the couple can have it signed at the courthouse.
This started as an “in the between time” sort of decision–until marriage equality exists, we’ll respond as equally as church polity allows. But the longer I live into this reality, the more I think I won’t sign state licenses even after marriage equality exists in Idaho.
For me, for our Session at the time, it started as a pastoral response to two people we love. But it has also caused me to reconsider what I had always just assumed about what marriage meant, and who was involved, and how ministers ended up signing licenses in the first place.
Personally, even if I never sign another civil license, we will not be done until marriage equality exists in all states and in the church. So, I consider the uncoupling of civil and religious marriage just a part of the journey. I am still committed to marriage equality, and will continue to advocate for it.
If your faith community is interested in considering separating civil and religious marriage, I’d be happy to share our experience so you don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel.
Here are some articles on the conference too: