Religious vs. Civil Marriage
The debate over the freedom to marry is about the right to enter into the state-created institution of civil marriage only. After all, marriage is a civil right and two consenting adults should be allowed to enter into the institution if they so choose.
Unlike some religious definitions, civil definitions of marriage do not usually mention childbearing, sexual relations, living arrangements, or religious belief/observance.
When clergy or congregations marry couples it is a religious rite, not a civil ceremony, though the government may recognize it. Clergy and congregations choose whom they marry. They aren't compelled to accept the state's marriage definition, and indeed, many religious institutions don't accept it. Many religious institutions are more restrictive than the state, rejecting interfaith marriages or remarriages after divorce. Some have a broader definition, blessing the unions of same-gender couples. (Marriage Equality USA would like to thank Interfaith Working Group for this passage.)
In the U.S., a marriage is only legal with the signing of a marriage license. That is why many opposite-sex couples can go to a judge or any other public officiant and need not go to a church, synagogue or mosque. Our government has made the process simpler by allowing religious leaders to perform a religious wedding AND to act as a civil officiant. Each religious leader must sign the civil license before witnesses and the couple for the marriage to be legal. In Europe, couples MUST go before a public official to marry. A religious ceremony is 'secondary' and optional -- only occurring if the couple wishes to have one.
This fact is important to note because many same-sex couples are simply interested in the government's acknowledgement of their relationship. We are not asking for any religion to accept our marriages, although, many religious institutions throughout our country do.
- Civil and religious marriage are not the same thing. Many religious faiths already recognize religious unions or marriages between same-sex couples, even though such unions are not recognized by the government.
- Individual congregations of Reform Jews, American Baptists, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Unitarian Universalists, Methodists, the Society of Friends and the United Church of Christ have performed marriages for same-sex couples.
- Even after civil marriage becomes available to same-sex couples, religions will retain the right to decide for themselves whether to perform or recognize any marriage, just as they already do. No court decision or legislative enactment can change the basic tenets of religious faith. For example, some religions will not marry someone who has already been divorced, although the person is free to marry civilly. We respect the right of a faith to decide for itself what marriages it will embrace.
Some religions and their stances on same-sex marriage
Here is an excellent article entitled, A Conservative Christian Case for Civil Same-Sex Marriage that refutes conservative Christians' belief that civil marriage for same-sex couples should not be recognized.
The following religions perform same-sex marriages/bless same-gender relationships as a matter of policy:
There does not seem to be a cohesive Buddhist policy relating to same-sex marriages. James Shaheen, Editor & Publisher of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, wrote an article on the subject in 2009. The Dalai Lama has been consistently against same-sex marriages according to the Shaheen article. On the other hand, Taiwan's first Buddhist same-sex wedding is scheduled to take place in August 2012.
On 10 July 2012 the Episcopal Church voted to approve a blessing for the unions of same-sex couples. This blessing is distinct from that used by the church to marry a man and a woman.
On 6 July 2012 Presbyterians debated for more than three hours whether to change their definition of marriage. In the end, they preserved the traditional meaning, upheld a ban on officiating gay weddings, and sustained related tensions that have roiled their denomination for years.
Various Quaker groups leave the decision to clergy, congregations or local governing bodies.
According to Wikipedia, there are conflicting views in modern Sikhism on sexual orientation, Sarbat.net is a website for LGBT Skhs and they provide a paper on Sikh Views on Same-Sex Relationships.
The United Methodist Church forbids blessing same-sex unions, which has inspired ecclesiastical disobedience, church trials and much debate. United Methodists concluded their General Conference on 4 May 2012 without voting on gay clergy or same-sex marriage, a surprising end to a disappointing week for gay activists.
- The Facts About Freedom of Religion and the Freedom to Marry, from the Center for American Progress, 4 October 2012 - FULL Report (PDF)
The journey: A black minister raises the issue of marriage equality with his fellow clergy
Interview of Rev. John Vaughn, executive vice president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City from the 3 October 2012 issue of Real Change.
- Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
by John Boswell
Available at Amazon.com
- In God's Image: Christian Witness to the Need for Gay/Lesbian Equality in the Eyes of the Church
by Fr. Robert Warren Cromey, Rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA
Published by Alamo Square Press, San Francisco, CA
Available for $12.00 tax and postage included from Trinity Episcopal Church,
1668 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94109. 415-775-1117Twin Freedoms
- Theological Arguments for Equality of Marriage
by The Most Rev. Mark Shirilau, Ph.D., Archbishop and Primate, The Ecumenical Catholic Church
Available at: http://ecchurch.org/marriageequality.htm