Gay marriage debate intesifies concerns about officiating weddings
BOSTON The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts is scheduled to vote later this month on a resolution to stop performing marriages. A group of Episcopal priests, who say the gay marriage debate has intensified concerns about acting as agents of the state by officiating at weddings, has proposed the idea.
“I feel this is a way to equalize an inequity in what Episcopal clergy can do for gay folks and straight folks,” the Rev. Margaret (Mally) E. Lloyd told The Boston Globe.
Lloyd is rector of Christ Church in Plymouth and one of five Episcopal priests sponsoring the resolution “Right now, we can only offer blessings for gay folks who are married, and it’s not fair,” she said.
The resolution would declare the that Episcopal marriages be presided over by an agent of the state such as a justice of the peace beginning in 2008. Episcopal clergy would limit their role to blessing the married couple. The system is in place now for gay couples.
The diocese, which covers the eastern part of the state, has scheduled a vote on the issue on Oct. 28 at its 221st annual convention. About 800 voting delegates, clergy and lay people are expected to attend the two-day event in Boston.
If approved, Bishop M. Thomas Shaw would decide what to do next. Shaw has taken no position on the resolution and declined comment.
A similar proposal was tabled at the Episcopal Church’s general convention this summer, but should have a better chance in the Massachusetts diocese, where the clergy are more liberal.
The diocese has been supportive of gay rights, despite national church regulations that define marriage as a heterosexual institution. Shaw has said local priests couldn’t sign the marriage licenses of same-sex couples, but could bless them after they are legally married. But some clergy and congregations in the diocese remain opposed to same-sex marriage.
The resolution is among several stemming from debate over same-sex marriage, including whether to allow Episcopal marriage rites to be used for gay couples in states where they can legally marry and whether to ask the state to vote against a ballot measure that would overturn same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 13, 2006.