Civil Unions Now Imminent in Hawaii

The Hawaii state Senate yesterday approved civil unions legislation for the state. Approval by the state House, which last year passed similar legislation before it was vetoed by GOP Governor Lingle, is surely just a a formality. The new governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, has already promised to sign the legislation when (no longer if) it reaches his desk. Near-marriage, marriage in all but name, is on the way in Hawaii.

I particularly likes this statement from Senator  Solomon of Honokaa. In his formulation, this expression of Aloha sounds to me remarkably like a statement of the true spirit of Christianity:

“Let’s get beyond this. Let’s realize what the spirit of aloha is all about, which means including people no matter their color, no matter their gender, no matter their lifestyle,” said Sen. Malama Solomon, D-Hilo-Honokaa.

In my mind, only three questions remain:

  • When will the new legislation take effect? How long will it be before Hawaii’s same-sex couples will be able to tie the knot, and have their unions recognized by the state?
  • Which will be the next state to follow suit?
  • How long must we wait for “near-marriage” to  become full marriage equality, including the name?

From NECN:

Hawaii Senate approves same-sex civil unions

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved civil unions for same-sex couples, a major step toward the proposal becoming law.

The state Senate voted 19-6 for the bill, which now goes to the state House of Representatives, where a nearly identical measure passed last year before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.

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12th January: St Aelred of Rievaulx, Patron of Same Sex Intimacy

St Aelred,  whose feast we celebrate today, is recognised in all sources as an important English saint, who lived in the north of England in the 12 C. As a young man, he joined the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx, later returning there as Abbott.  He is remembered especially for his writings on friendship, some of which have led gay writers such as John Boswell to claim him as ‘homosexual’. For instances, Integrity USA, an Anglican LGBT organisation, have designated him as their patron. From the website of Integrity, this Collect for the feast of Aelred:

Collect

Pour into our hearts, 0 God, the Holy Spirit’s gift of love, that we, clasping each the other’s hand, may share the joy of friendship, human and divine, and with your servant Aelred draw many into your community of love; through Jesus Christ the Righteous, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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Saints Polyeuct and Nearchos, 3rd Century Lovers and Martyrs.

The Roman soldiers, lovers and martyrs Sergius and Bacchus are well known examples of early queer saints. Polyeuct and Nearchos are not as familiar – but should be.  John Boswell (“Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe“) names the two as one of the three primary pairs of same-sex lovers in the early church, their martyrdom coming about half a century after Felicity and Perpetua, and about another half century before  Sergius & Bacchus .
Like the later pair, Polyeuct and Nearchos were friends in the Roman army in Armenia. Nearchos was a Christian, Polyeuct was not. Polyeuct was married, to a woman whose father was a Roman official. When the father-in-law undertook as part of his duties to enforce a general persecution of the local Christians, he realized that this would endanger Polyeuct, whose close friendship with Nearchos could tempt him to side with the Christians.  The concern was fully justified: although Polyeuct was not himself a Christian, he refused to prove his loyalty to Rome by sacrificing to pagan gods. In terms of the regulations being enforced, this meant that he would sacrifice his chances of promotion, but (as a non-Christian) not his life. Christians who refused to sacrifice faced beheading. When Nearchos learned of this, he was distraught, not at the prospect of death in itself, but because in dying, he would enter Paradise without the company of his beloved Polyeuct. When Polyeuct learned the reasons for his friends anguish, he decided to become a Christian himself, so that he too could be killed, and enter eternity together with Nearchos.

Memo to Cardinal George: “Redefining” Marriage.

re: Your statement on “redefining” marriage :

Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage. Marriage is what it is and always has been, no matter what a Legislature decides to do; however, the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage.

A truly "traditional" Biblical family?

Please check some Church history. This is not the first time that the nature of marriage is being “redefined” – the church itself has done so frequently.
  • In Biblical Israel, marriage was polygamous, arranged exclusively between men (the groom, and the fathers of his wives). The Hebrew patriarch, if he could afford it, would also keep concubines as well as wives.
  • In classical and medieval times, marriage was not a contract between two people based on love to raise children, but a financial and legal arrangement to protect property and inheritance.
  • In the early Christian church, there was no obligation for couples to marry in church – unless the groom was a priest.
  • There was, on the other hand, provision for same sex unions to be blessed, in church, by formal liturgical rites.
  • The idea of marriage as a “Christian Sacrament” came relatively late in Church history. The popular Western understanding of “traditional marriage” is a very modern invention, dating mostly from the nineteenth century.

Recommended Books:

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Blessing Same Sex Unions in Toronto

There is no longer any doubt in my mind that widepread, formal recognition by Chrisitan churches of same-sex unions, by liturgical rites in church, is on the way – one small step at a time.

One of these small steps is in the diocese of Toronto, where the local archbishop has given pastoral guidelines for blessing same sex unions. Technically, the impact will be only local, in his own archdiocese, and limited to a simple blessing, not full marriage. Effectively, though, this one of those small steps that makes subsequent strides that much easier. Civil marriage for same sex couples is already a well-established fact of life in Canada. Church blessings in Toronto will soon spread across the nation, just as civil marriage did after a purely local introduction. From country-wide blessing of civil unions, to blessing civil marriages, to full church weddings, will be easy steps. Sweden already has gay and lesbian church weddings in the Lutheran church, with which Anglicans and Episcopalians are in communion. Other Scandinavian churches will soon follow suit – as will Canadian Anglicans, just a little later.

Archbishop Johnson with Queen Elizabeth, 2010

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Blessed John Henry and Ambrose: Newman’s Last Sermon

The media caravanserai has moved on, but Cardinal John Henry Newman is now and will remain known as Blessed John Henry. He remains also a significant, if complex, figure for gay and lesbian Catholics in his relationship with his beloved Ambrose St John, and in his theology for progressive Catholics more generally. The theology is subtle, and has been too easily misappropriated by people on both sides of the Church ideological divide. I do not (yet) want to enter that territory. About the relationship with Ambrose, I feel more secure.

 

Inscription for a grave in which both John Henry and Ambrose were buried.

Alan Bray (“The Friend “) has written extensively about this relationship, showing how it fits into an ancient tradition of close, even passionate friendship between male couples in the Church: Read the rest of this entry »

A Catholic Case For Blessing Civil Unions

With gay marriage back in the news, one may well ask (and I have been asked) is there a case for the Catholic Church to provide some form of church recognition for civil unions?

I have several objections, which I have frequently stated,  to the entire foundations of the Vatican doctrines on sexuality – but the question I want to deal with was very specific and moderate, from a person whose undoubted sincerity and respect for tradition I freely accept, and so, for the sake of argument, I want to address David’s question on its own terms – from strictly within orthodox Catholic tradition and teaching. My short answer is yes, undoubtedly; my slightly longer answer is that there should not need to be a case, as liturgical blessing of same sex unions already has an established place in Church history, complete with fixed liturgical rites and ceremonies. However, this traditional practice is no longer familiar to us, and so I need to update it, together with some background information,  for the modern context.

I begin with what is foundational to all questions of marriage – the words of Scripture, in Genesis 2 (which is the earlier of the two creation stories, notwithstanding the familiar numbering):

“It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a companion to help him.”

-(Gen 2:18)

Notice please: not a wife, to make babies, but a companion, to help him. So we have it on the very best authority, God’s authority, that humans need companions, not for sexual pleasure, nor primarily for procreation, but for help, companionship and support.

Why Not in Church, Too?

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