Religious leaders of all stripes and their followers have pretty much spearheaded the crusade against same-sex marriage. Ironically, different religious sects can’t seem to agree on the same teachings, and each religion insists its version of “God” is the real deal. But when it comes to standing in opposition to girls marrying girls and boys marrying boys, most world religions send the same message: no freaking way!
That is why it’s always been difficult for me to understand the role that religion can or should play in same-sex unions. Full disclosure: I was raised by religiously-ambivalent parents who sent me to Catholic school to get a good education, not to be indoctrinated with the teachings of the church. (I didn’t complain because I got to spend 12 years with cute chicks in plaid skirts and knee-high socks.)
Now that I’m an adult, I don’t really believe in God (Oops! Catholic school appears to have backfired). I’m not necessarily against the idea, but I’ve just never been presented with evidence compelling enough to make me a believer. And frankly, I’m far too preoccupied with my life here on Earth to worry about the afterlife.
Nevertheless, in spite of my own personal views, I recognize and respect that faith and religion are very important to many people – straight and gay. The church (and the synagogue and the mosque, for that matter) welcomes just about any hetero couple looking to get hitched – they might even recruit them from what I’ve witnessed!
But if you’re a lesbian who wants to incorporate your spirituality into your wedding, you may face a bit of a dilemma. For starters, I have to wonder if involving organized religion in your ceremony is a bit like inviting people who you know hate you to your reception. On the other hand, plenty of gays pray to the same God as straight folks. So what gives heterosexual people the right to co-opt religion as their own?
I may not believe in God, but I do believe in expensive champagne and well-written personalized vows – and I’d be heartbroken if either of those elements were missing from my wedding. So, if you can’t imagine getting married without some spiritual elements and religious traditions, I don’t think you should have to.
Fortunately, there are plenty of religions and places of worship that choose not to discriminate against lesbians and gay men (I may have slept through a few religion classes in high school, but from what I do recall, God is pretty into acceptance and tolerance). So, if you’ve always dreamed of saying “I do” in a chapel, rest assured, there are plenty that will happily celebrate your love.
The Unitarian Universalist Association might just be “best in class” when it comes to forward-thinking religious groups. The UUA has officially supported full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people since 1970 – which puts it leaps and bounds ahead of most Fortune 500 companies and just about every government on the planet. The Unitarian higher-ups gave ministers the right to officiate over same-sex union ceremonies in 1984, and in 2004, they began performing full-fledged gay weddings. With a track record like that, I think any lesbian bride could walk down the aisle in a Unitarian church with a clear conscience.
If you’re fortunate enough to be a Jew (or in love with one), you may also be in luck. Reform Judaism has a long history of welcoming lesbian and gay members and clergy. In 1977, the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution ruling that gay sex was no longer a violation of Jewish law (Thanks rabbis!). Reform Judaism does not yet officially recognize same-sex unions as “marriages” under Jewish law, but rabbis were given the green light to officiate at gay ceremonies back in 2000.
In a particularly bold – and totally inspiring – move, one Minnesota rabbi recently took a serious stand against bigotry. Rabbi Michael Adam Latz announced last month that he would no longer sign any marriage licenses as long as lesbian and gay people are not allowed to marry in his state. He said he’d still perform ceremonies for gay and straight people, but that couples would have to find another legal officiant to sign their marriage licenses. Latz told a local news website:
I don’t know about you, but that kind of chutzpah makes this shiksa want to take a closer look at converting to Judaism. Mazel tov Rabbi Latz!
And, friends across the pond, Happy Valentine’s Day to you – Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is reportedly proposing lifting the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious settings in England and Wales. Civil partnerships between same-sex people have been legal in the UK since 2005, but they’ve hitherto been entirely secular. In spite of plenty nay saying from old-school religious leaders, it appears that may all be about to change. Cheers!
If you’re considering getting married in a place of worship, but want some more information on your religion’s stance on and history with same-sex unions, take a look at the Human Rights Campaign’s comprehensive guide to faith positions on gay marriage.
If you find out that your own religion has an objectionable past (or present) with regard to gay marriage, take your business elsewhere – I bet you God won’t mind a bit. There’s bound to be a rainbow-draped Unitarian Church in your area, or I’m sure Rabbi Latz up in Minnesota would be happy to have you.
What do you think? Do you want to incorporate religion into your wedding? Or are you happy to make it a secular affair?