Category : –Civil Unions & Partnerships

The Daily Mississippian profiles a Same-Sex Couple

One thing the couple shares is their faith, a theme that has remained constant throughout their relationship.

“I prayed really hard when we first got together,” Blount said.

Smith was raised Pentecostal, and Blount grew up Southern Baptist, but both converted to Catholicism later in life. Though Blount jokingly refers to himself and Smith as “lazy sinners” who don’t go to church as much as they should, their faith is something they both value.

In fact, Blount believes it’s their duty as a religious couple to show everyone that God is love and what they have together is love.

“I think Christianity sometimes had a bad reputation,” Blount said. “Christianity is love, and, bless our hearts, we don’t always show it.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sexuality

(WSJ) Ryan Anderson–Discrimination Law Isn’t Supposed to ‘Punish the Wicked’

If those playing down the importance of the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling are wrong, those overstating it are also off base. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane claimed that “it’s a shorter walk than we think, particularly today, from ‘I won’t bake them a cake because they’re gay’ to ‘I won’t seat him here because he’s black.’ ” This wildly mischaracterizes Mr. Phillips’s position. The Masterpiece proprietor serves all customers, regardless of sexual orientation, but he can’t in good conscience communicate all messages or celebrate all events. He is motivated by his Christian belief that marriage unites husband and wife, not his customer’s identity.

This disagreement about the definition of marriage occurs among people of good faith motivated by honorable theological and philosophical premises, as Justice Kennedy recognized in Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage decision. And as he wrote in Masterpiece, “religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.”

That is why states should be careful not to abuse antidiscrimination policy in a way that amounts to an enforcement of an orthodoxy regarding questions about sex on which reasonable people can disagree.

Monday’s ruling won’t open the floodgates to invidious discrimination as critics imagine. But neither should we gainsay its wider applicability. The Supreme Court has said clearly that the government may not punish people because of their religious beliefs. Any generally applicable, neutral law must serve the common good, not punish those whom people in power deem to be “wicked.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Masterpiece Cakeshop Analysis (II): Douglas Laycock and Thomas Berg–Scotus Decision not as narrow as may first appear

The Supreme Court has announced a powerful ideal. Even when a law has no explicit exceptions, hostile enforcement is unconstitutional. Single-issue agencies that enforce state civil-rights laws must approach claims to religious exemptions with tolerance and respect. And this is apparently an absolute rule; the court does not consider whether hostility might be justified by some state interest, compelling or otherwise.

But a requirement of tolerance and respect, or even the avoidance of hostility, is difficult to enforce. The opponents of religious exemptions will now start doing the sorts of things done by many other government officials resisting constitutional mandates. They will seek doctrinal and rhetorical manipulations to cloak their hostility to the constitutional right, and their unequal treatment of objectors they agree with and objectors they don’t.

Those manipulations began in the state’s briefs and in the concurring and dissenting opinions. Kagan and Breyer said that the state’s discrimination could easily have been justified with a different explanation: The protected bakers would not have sold an anti-gay cake to anybody, but Phillips would sell wedding cakes to opposite-sex couples.

As Justice Neil Gorsuch explained, this reaches the preordained result by manipulating the level of generality. An “anti-gay” cake is distinguished only by what it displays on the outer surface. So the category is not cakes, or wedding cakes, but cakes with particular messages. If a same-sex couple wants a cake with two grooms, two brides, a rainbow, or any other indication of approval of same-sex marriage, that is a cake that Phillips would not sell to anybody. If they want a cake that could just as appropriately be used for an opposite-sex wedding, then at the surface, Kagan’s rationalization holds — but it is still a rationalization. Everyone would still know what is really going on: The commission agrees with the protected bakers and disagrees with Jack Phillips.

Masterpiece states an important ideal. But the Supreme Court has not been good over the years at identifying government bias or hostility that is the least bit shrouded. In a case without smoking-gun expressions of hostility, objectors will need evidence of inconsistent treatment of tester cases.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

Masterpiece Cakeshop Analysis (I): Amy Howe–Opinion analysis: Court rules (narrowly) for baker in same-sex-wedding-cake case [Updated]

…the critical question of when and how Phillips’ right to exercise his religion can be limited had to be determined, Kennedy emphasized, in a proceeding that was not tainted by hostility to religion. Here, Kennedy observed, the “neutral and respectful consideration to which Phillips was entitled was compromised” by comments by members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. At one hearing, Kennedy stressed, commissioners repeatedly “endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, implying that religious beliefs and persons are less than fully welcome in Colorado’s business community.” And at a later meeting, Kennedy pointed out, one commissioner “even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.” “This sentiment,” Kennedy admonished, “is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.” Moreover, Kennedy added, the commission’s treatment of Phillips’ religious objections was at odds with its rulings in the cases of bakers who refused to create cakes “with images that conveyed disapproval of same-sex marriage.”

Here, Kennedy wrote, Phillips “was entitled to a neutral decisionmaker who would give full and fair consideration to his religious objection as he sought to assert it in all of the circumstances in which this case was presented, considered, and decided.” Because he did not have such a proceeding, the court concluded, the commission’s order – which, among other things, required Phillips to sell same-sex couples wedding cakes or anything else that he would sell to opposite-sex couples and mandated remedial training and compliance reports – “must be set aside.”

But the majority left open the possibility that a future case could come out differently, particularly if the decisionmaker in the case considered religious objections neutrally and fairly. Other cases, the majority emphasized, “must await further elaboration in the courts, all in the context of recognizing that these disputes must be resolved with tolerance, without undue disrespect to sincere religious beliefs, and without subjecting gay persons to indignities when they seek goods and services in an open market.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

Ryan Anderson–Supreme Court Upholds Baker’s Right to Disagree With Same-Sex Marriage in Marketplace

…as Justice Neil Gorsuch notes (in a concurring opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito), either all four bakers violated the Colorado anti-discrimination law, or none did. Gorsuch writes:

[T]here’s no indication the bakers actually intended to refuse service because of a customer’s protected characteristic. We know this because all of the bakers explained without contradiction that they would not sell the requested cakes to anyone, while they would sell other cakes to members of the protected class (as well as to anyone else).

As I argue in the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy, “Disagreement is not always discrimination.” And this is true when it comes to disagreements about same-sex marriage.

Phillips didn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation when he refused to design and bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. He didn’t take his customer’s sexual orientation into consideration at all. He declined to use his artistic abili­ties to create a custom cake to celebrate a same-sex wedding because he objected to same-sex marriage, based on the common Christian belief that such partnerships (along with many other relationships—sexual and not, dyadic and larger, same-sex and opposite-sex) aren’t marital.

Nowhere need Phillips’ reasoning have even referred to the partners’ sexual orientation, much less any ideas or attitudes about gay people as a class (good or bad, explicit or not).

It wasn’t his customer’s identity that motivated Phillips at all. It is even clearer that Phillips’ reason for refusing to bake the wedding cake was not the invidious discrimination of avoiding contact with others on equal terms. As Phillips said to the same-sex couple, “I’ll make you birthday cakes, shower cakes, sell you cookies and brownies, I just don’t make cakes for same-sex weddings.” He sought only to avoid complicity in what he considered one distortion of marriage among oth­ers—as shown by his refusal to create divorce cakes as well.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court

(ACNS) Brazil’s Anglican Episcopal Church changes its canons to permit same-sex marriage

The General Synod of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil – the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil – (IEAB) has approved changes to its canons to permit same-sex marriages. Civil same-sex marriages have been legal in Brazil since 2012. In a statement, the Province said that the move would not require liturgical changes, because gender neutral language had already been introduced into its service for the solemnization of marriage in the 2015 Book of Common Prayer.

The move was overwhelmingly carried by the Synod members with 57 voting in favour and three against. There were two abstentions.

“Canonical changes were approved in an environment filled by the Holy Spirit and with mutual love and respect,” the Province said in a statement. “It was preceded by long, deep and spiritual dialogue. This dialogue formally started in 1997, but had been going on much earlier, and reached the whole Province since then through indabas, conferences, consultations, prayers, biblical and theological publications.”

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Mark Strange, and the Bishop of Huron from the Anglican Church of Canada, Linda Nichols, were amongst international guests present at the Synod.

Read it all.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, Anthropology, Brazil, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(PD) Gerard Bradley–The city of Philadelphia’s recent decision about Catholic Social Services: Learning to Live with Same-Sex Marriage?

The everyday challenge of Obergefell is whether those of us who hold the “decent and honorable religious” conviction that it is impossible for two persons of the same sex to marry will be accorded the legal and social space we need in order to live in accord with our convictions. The question at hand is whether we will instead be forced to contradict our convictions in word and deed, day in and day out. Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Obergefell:

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples.

Just so.

Catholic Social Services vs. the City of Philadelphia

Last week (on May 16), Catholic Social Services and several foster care parents sued the city of Philadelphia to settle one of those “hard questions.” CSS was recently ranked by the city as the second best of the twenty-eight agencies with which it contracts for foster care placement and support. Its record of finding homes for difficult-to-place children is unsurpassed. On March 15 of this year the city announced that it was nonetheless suspending referrals to CSS. Because the city monopolizes these referrals, its decision was tantamount to closing down CSS’s foster care operation.

The hanging offense? Even though CSS avers in its complaint (prepared by lawyers from the Becket Fund, the great religious liberty firm) that it has never received a complaint from a same-sex couple, it does adhere to Church teaching about marriage. The complaint makes clear enough that CSS would conscientiously refuse to do the work prescribed by law to certify a same-sex “married” couple as foster parents. CSS would, however, refer them to other agencies that would.

Philadelphia is trying to drive these “decent and honorable” people from the field. The mayor is quoted in the CSS complaint as declaring that “we cannot use taxpayer dollars to fund organizations that discriminate against” people in same-sex marriages. “It’s just not right.” The city council professed to be shocked—shocked!—to discover that some contracting agencies have policies, rooted in religious beliefs, that prohibit placement of children with “LGBTQ people.” But the Catholic Church’s position on marriage is no secret. The CSS complaint even points out that the “City has been aware of Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs for years.” For example, the city waived repeatedly for CSS the obligation of city contractors to provide benefits to same-sex spouses of employees.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Urban/City Life and Issues

Christianity Today Asks Several Religious Liberty Experts to Weigh in on the Implications of Yesterdays Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court Decision

Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at religious liberty firm Becket:

Becket urged the court to decide the case on the basis of the free exercise clause, and that is what the court did. And because of that, this case has broad implications for other religious liberty conflicts, involving not just wedding vendors, but many other religious people too.

The decision breaks new doctrinal ground in a couple of places … For example, Justice Kennedy adopts the two-Justice part of Lukumi and turns it into newly binding precedent in this passage: “Factors relevant to the assessment of governmental neutrality include ‘the historical background of the decision under challenge, the specific series of events leading to the enactment or official policy in question, and the legislative or administrative history, including contemporaneous statements made by members of the decisionmaking body.”

What this means as a practical matter is that in a variety of situations it will matter much more what the legislators, adjudicators, and government officials say about the religious beliefs and practices in question, and much less what those same officials think about whether those religious beliefs and practices offend someone. The court used a fairly broad definition of what constitutes hostility toward religion, so referring to “hateful beliefs” could get an anti-discrimination law invalidated. And saying that someone was offended will be no justification for a law.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(Times Live) Bless same-sex marriages‚ pleads retired South African Anglican Archbishop Ndungane

Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane has urged the Anglican Church to show full acceptance of lesbian‚ gay‚ bisexual‚ transgender‚ questioning‚ intersexual and asexual people.

He was speaking at St George’s Cathedral‚ Cape Town‚ on Saturday at the funeral service of the Reverend Canon Rowan Smith‚ a former Dean of the Cathedral who identified as gay and campaigned for the rights of the LGBTQIA community.

Archbishop Ndungane asked for the kind of leadership “that we saw in the dark days of apartheid” and added that the Anglican Church had excluded a “huge part of itself” in respect of people of different sexuality.

The blessing of same sex marriages remained an unresolved issue‚ and the Church’s failure to deal with this issue meant that its Christian humanity was suffering‚ the retired archbishop said‚ according to a statement issued by his office.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Same-sex blessings, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), South Africa, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(David Ould) Melbourne Anglican Church and Clergy take part in Same-Sex Wedding

It is now evident that the wedding was planned in order to avoid breaking the letter of each denomination’s law while clearly violating their spirit. The Baptist Union of Victoria prohibits its ministers from conducting same-sex weddings but has no equivalent prohibition on its buildings. The Anglican Church prohibits both minister and building. Thus we have the use of a baptist building, with Anglican ministers who are not technically officiating at the wedding although they clearly take a significant part in it (Rev. Moore essentially conducted the service). Finally a former baptist signs the paperwork.

It is a clear challenge to the teaching, doctrine and good order of at least 2 major denominations.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Australia / NZ, Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(CEN) [The Church of England Evangelical Council] CEEC–Why The Episcopal Church is on the brink

Three proposals before General Convention this year would significantly alter this situation and make it hard to see how there will be any ongoing place for this Communion witness within American Anglicanism. One would remove, with immediate effect, the diocesan bishop’s freedom to refuse trial use in their diocese (there is also a proposal to introduce a new transgender re-naming rite across all dioceses).

More serious still is a first reading to write the current trial same-sex marriage liturgies into the Prayer Book, which would require confirmation in 2021 before taking effect. Alongside this there would be a rewriting of the Church’s Prayer Book Catechism to state that “Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which two (2) people [replacing “the woman and man”] enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows”. Given that all those ordained in TEC have to “solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church” and that doctrine and worship is expressed in the Catechism and Prayer Book these proposals, if accepted, will make it practically impossible for clergy holding an orthodox Christian doctrine of marriage to remain with integrity in The Episcopal Church.

Finally, it is also noteworthy that the proposals coming to General Convention extend further TEC’s revision of traditional sexual ethics. There has for some time been a liturgy for “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant”, which was produced for same-sex unions before there was a marriage liturgy.

It is now proposed to add to this a liturgy for “The Blessing of a Lifelong Relationship” in response to “study of contemporary trends and the expressed experiences of Episcopalians who desire to form and formalise a lifelong, monogamous and unconditional relationship, other than marriage, in particular circumstances”.

This would be the first authorised Anglican liturgy to bless non-marital heterosexual unions. It is these very significant proposed developments eliminating the Christian doctrine of marriage from TEC’s doctrine and liturgy and effectively excluding its adherents from their church – which led to William Nye’s letter and for many Anglicans it is these, rather than the letter, which should be the headline news and real cause of serious concern within the Church of England.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, General Convention, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture, Uncategorized

The Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing some Ministers and Deacons to conduct same-sex marriages

The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee to prepare legislation with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act.

But commissioners agreed that the committee should only act if, in its opinion, said safeguards “sufficiently protect against the risks they identify”.

The committee will report its findings to the General Assembly of 2020.

The motion calling for legislation to be prepared was put forward by Rev Bryan Kerr, minister of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark.

It was amended to ensure the committee had the power to recommend withdrawal following a call from Rev Peter White of Sandyford Henderson Memorial Church in Glasgow.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, --Scotland, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Presbyterian, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(Christian Today) Worried Church of England urges ministers against scrapping civil partnerships

The Church of England’s stance on sexuality would be thrown into disarray if the government pushes ahead with scrapping civil partnerships.

Officials within the CofE are urging ministers against the move which came as figures suggest this form of union has been made almost obsolete by the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Civil partnerships legislation was introduced in 2004 to give same-sex couples legal recognition of their relationship without changing the definition of marriage. But the Marriage (Same-Sex couples) Act in 2013 allowed gay couples to marry, or convert their civil partnership into a marriage.

This meant that in 2016 there were just 890 civil partnerships registered in England and Wales, down from 6,305 from 2007 to 2013.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

Church of Ireland House of Bishops Issue Statement to General Synod on Human Sexuality in the Context of Christian Belief

The archbishops and bishops said that it had been noted that following the production of the Guide to Human Sexuality, there was little appetite to discuss further these issues in parishes.

“It would seem that there is no consensus in General Synod, the House of Bishops, or in the church island–wide to change the Canons of the Church of Ireland on the matter of marriage. Thus the Church of Ireland marriage service remains unchanged and marriage may be solemnised only between a man and a woman. No liturgy or authorised service is provided therefore for any other situation. As the archbishops and bishops have already made clear to the clergy of the Church of Ireland, it is not possible to proscribe the saying of prayers in personal and pastoral situations, but if clergy are invited to offer prayer after a same sex marriage, any such prayer must remain consonant with the spirit and teaching of the Church of Ireland,” the statement reads.

The statement concludes: “It is widely recognised that there is no simple solution for these and other issues of human sexuality; but with compassion, humility and concern, we offer our continued commitment to attentive listening and to respectful discussion. We ask that all members of Synod who continue to hold strong opinions do so with integrity and compassion, and to also hold in prayer before God the challenging diversity that exists within the Church of Ireland”.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Church of Ireland, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture

(David Ould) Australian Anglican Bishops agree it is ‘not appropriate’ to allow Same-Sex ‘Marriages’

The doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. If we as a Church are to change this doctrine to permit same-sex marriage, the appropriate mechanism is through the framework of the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia. Bishops should give leadership in demonstrating trust in this framework as the way to move forward together, recognising that this will require care, persistence and generosity. The bishops commit to working together to manifest and maintain unity, as we together discern the truth….

In light of this Church’s doctrine of marriage, it is not appropriate for church buildings and halls, and chapels owned by Anglican schools and other Anglican organisations to be used as venues for same-sex marriages.

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Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Australia / NZ, Ecclesiology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion), Theology, Theology: Scripture