In over 25 countries civil marriage has been approved and gay couples, who are choosing to marry, may take that route. This is as it should be.
When The Netherlands changed its marriage laws in 2001, the first country to do so, others gradually followed. For the vast majority of gay couples who chose to legally tie the knot, this is perfect. Some, would prefer a religious setting to say their vows, however, Christian churches do not allow such ceremonies, except for a few.
The result largely depends on the country in which we live. In The Netherlands, for instance, only civil marriages are allowed, so the religious organizations do not need to be a part of it. The opposite is true in Canada and many other jurisdictions, as members of the clergy are licensed by governments to perform marriages. Civil ceremonies are performed by others, such as Justices of the Peace, or other government officials.
A handful of Christian denominations do allow wedding within their walls, such as The United Church of Canada, a denomination that has a number of affirming congregations in this country. Another is the Unitarian Church where gay couples are welcomed and are able to be married. The Anglican Church voted last year to embrace same-sex couples, but faces much opposition as many of its clergy and members strongly object, implying that this kind of allowance contradicts biblical teachings. The church did, however, vote in favour, but faces much opposition.
The Mennonite Church allowed a gay couple to marry in Saskatoon on Dec. 31, 2015, becoming the first in that denomination. Many members remain strongly opposed. The so-called Confession of Faith in the Mennonite Church states that “marriage is between a man and a woman for life,” which is apparently not canon law, but a guide.
Seems gay marriage can be left to each congregation to decide, which tends to separate rather than unite. Most mainstream churches do not allow same-sex marriage and so remain in the dark to embrace equality for all.
The Roman Catholic Church has made it abundantly clear that gay marriage will never be part of that faith. Pope Francis has been adamant about this, regardless of attempting to apologize for the church’s actions against the LGBTQ community. An apology does not heal without positive action. The Church of England has also issued an apology, but again, has not indicated acceptance of equal rights or treatment, which includes marriage of LGBTQ citizens.
Most churches remain strongly divided on the issue and though attempts are being made by some, this will not end anytime soon. The Anglican Church in Australia is also divided when it comes to same-sex marriage. A Nov. 15 vote on the issue, which showed 61.6 per cent of Australians in favour, had dioceses across the nation strongly divided. The Archbishop of the Diocese of Sydney donated $1 million to the “NO” vote. Others were more in favour of change. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was supporting the change in the marriage law. Many felt the vote was not necessary and that parliament has the mandate to make the change. The “NO” voters were generally concerned about religious beliefs in their rejection of equal marriage.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.