Same-sex union ceremonies are increasingly common in congregations and tend to be viewed by participants and officiants as close to traditional marriages, reports the New York Times (Jan. 30).
The newspaper reports that although 37 states have passed laws banning same-sex marriages and many churches prohibit same-sex ceremonies, observant gay couples are sidestepping legal and denominational barriers as they seek to consecrate their unions in churches and synagogues. Although no denominational records are kept on same-sex union ceremonies, “members of the clergy across the country said in interviews that the ceremonies were becoming more common in their churches and synagogues,” even in churches that officially disapprove of such rites, reports Laurie Goodstein.
Churches accepting such ceremonies are also becoming more active in spreading their usage; the United Church of Christ is holding workshops for clergy on conducting these services; and the Anglican diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia shares same-sex rites via e-mail to interested clergy from other denominations. Goodstein notes that although denominations approving of these ceremonies typically refer to them as “unions . . . more and more of the couples and members of the clergy are simply calling them marriages. The services are nearly identical to the marriage rites traditionally used for heterosexual couples.”
Many in the churches and synagogues supporting same-sex unions and marriages argue that they are conservative measures that will enhance monogamy and marriage in society. But using Norway as a case study, an article in the Weekly Standard (February 2) argues that approval of same-sex unions has had the opposite effect in church and society.
Stanley Kurtz writes that those in the forefront of pressing for same-sex unions in Norway’s Lutheran state church tended to be among the least critical of Prince Haakon, heir to the nation’s throne, who publicly chose to live with his girlfriend, a single mother. Kurtz adds that “it was the conservative clergy who criticized the prince, while the liberal supporters of gay marriage tolerated his decision.”
He finds that gay civil unions (known as registered partnerships) in Scandinavia tend to send the “symbolic message” that nontraditional families, including cohabitation and unwed childbirth, are acceptable options, validating the “belief that choice trumps family form.”