Tag Archives: Marriage / family

Lesbian couple to take vows in nation’s first public Buddhist same-sex union

Two devout Buddhist women are to hold the nation’s first gay Buddhist wedding next month as part of an effort to push for the legalization of same-sex marriages in Taiwan.

“We are not only doing it for ourselves, but also for other gays and lesbians,” Fish Huang said in a telephone interview.

The 30-year-old social worker at a non-governmental organization said that marriage never crossed her mind until she saw a movie last year.

The film portrayed two lesbians whose ill-fated relationship concluded after one died and the other was left heartbroken over the denial of spousal benefits.

“It’s so sad,” Huang said, who plans to wed her partner of seven years on Aug. 11 at a Buddhist altar in Taoyuan County.

Both brides are planning to wear white wedding gowns and listen to lectures given by Buddhist masters about marriage, accompanied by a series of chantings and blessings from monks and nuns.

Although homosexual marriages are not legally recognized in Taiwan, Huang insisted on tying the knot because she wants to make her relationship complete and raise awareness about the difficulties faced by sexual minorities.

Alternative sexual orientation and marriage have yet to be widely accepted by the general public, despite years of effort by activists to secure equality in Taiwan.

The first public gay marriage in Taiwan took place in 1996 between a local writer and his foreign partner. The event drew widespread media attention and inspired many gays to follow their footsteps.

Huang’s wedding, however, will be the first with a Buddhist theme.

 – more at  Taipei Times.

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Gay Marriage and Religion: What Marriage Means to Me

Recently married in the state of Connecticut, my partner and I spent hours with family, friends, clergy, and liturgical experts crafting a service that would express out commitment to one another and also be a holyspace of joy and celebration. We combined our cultures — Black and White — in a service of welcome to those gathered to the world we are committed to cherishing and growing as a space of Spirit and justice wrapped in love and passion. Our service, without our thinking about it consciously, did not look like a traditional wedding service. Yes, we had some of the traditional elements, but we wanted to invite those gathered into our understanding of the sacred, our values, our hopes, our sense of how justice can and must have loving and celebratory leaning. And although both of us were surprised, to varying extents, to find that the relationship we seek to acknowledge we are building is that of marriage, we could find no other name for it so we have set out to live into our vows and vision for ourselves. We are both clear that we do not to conform to the standard text of marriage, but we want to find ways to breath new air and life into what it means to be married not only by the state, but even more so in the eyes of the Holy Spirit; to be committed for a life time; and to grow old and be those kind of old ladies that we so admired when we were children — truth tellers, wise, independent, but fiercely engaged in the communities they were a part of.

Folks approach gay marriage from a variety of perspectives — moral, theological, social, political. As a Christian social ethicist with womanist leanings, I am clear that the Bible says precious little about same sex relationships, though it appears to have a bit more to say about acts but even that is muddled. I am also clear that although God judges our acts, God does so out of love and mercy and would much rather spend holy time applauding our attempts at humanity than smiting our behavior. The acceptance of gay marriage (even gays who do not believe in marriage) was evident at our ceremony — both of our families, a variety of racial ethnic groups and nationalities, differing sexualities, same sex couples who are married — some with children, others not, children, traditional nuclear families, the list went on and on. The sanctuary and the dinner and dancing that followed was one of joy and celebration — not so much for us as a same-sex couple, but because of our love for one another and trying to share that with others. Politically, it is disheartening to see out love, care, compassion and commitment to one another be made into a political football by the right and the left. The bottom line for me is not “gay marriage” but “marriage.” When folks, whoever they may be, find that the only word that expresses the commitment they make to one another is marriage — we should celebrate this and give them all the support we can for it is no small thing to live out vows that are marked by “forever.”

-full reflection by Emilie Townes at Huffington Post: What Marriage Means to Me.

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Religion and Gay Marriage: The Holiness of Loving Against the Odds

I have long believed in the importance of equal marriage. I’ve preached about it, worked for it, and shown up at rallies. Last summer I spent time in the halls of the New York statehouse joining the call for the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in that state. It’s always been a matter of justice for me.

But until recently, it’s been a relatively academic one. I’d never met anyone I’d seriously considered marrying. Even as I officiated at my friends’ weddings I joked with them about being a happy, perennial bachelor. Equal marriage was great. For other people.

God has a sense of humor. I say that because five months from today, my fiancée and I will be joined in marriage. Which means that in the past few months I’ve learned a new language, spoken only by those who have been through the minor trauma of wedding planning, which comes complete with phrases like “save the date cards,” “cake tastings,” and “wedding website”.

But I’ve learned another language too. One that only same-sex couples living in the era of DOMA learn. Things like “filing married in Vermont and single on our federal taxes,” “counting my partner’s inclusion on my health insurance as earned income,” “medical power of attorney for when we travel out of state,” and “saving extra in case I die because my partner can’t receive my social security”.

Still, my partner and I are the fortunate ones. We are getting married in Massachusetts and then residing in Vermont, both of which recognize equal marriage. We are both members of the United Church of Christ, which means our denomination recognizes and blesses our marriage. And we both have our families’ full support.

-full reflection by  Rev. Emily C. Heath at Huffington Post 

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The Amazing Grace of Same-Sex Marriage

What is the strongest theological argument in favor of same-sex marriage? The answer, I contend, is that such relationships are visible signs of God’s grace — an amazing kind of one-way love that is a pure gift and cannot be earned. I’ve come to this realization based upon over 20 years of being together with my husband Michael, through our ups and downs, and for better or for worse.

Same-sex marriages are sacramental because they are a reflection of the larger grace-filled relationship between God and humanity. The classical theological definition of a sacrament — including baptism, eucharist and marriage — is that it is a visible and external sign of God’s invisible grace. Same-sex marriages are holy because they are vehicles in which we can experience and gain a deeper understanding of God’s unearned and unmerited love for us.

Michael and I have experienced a healthy dose of grace in our relationship over the last two decades. First of all, falling in love itself is an act of grace. As most of us have discovered, one simply cannot force another person to fall in love with her or him (that is, outside of the world of Shakespearean comedies and magic love potions). Love — whether same-sex or opposite-sex — is a manifestation of God’s amazing grace precisely because it cannot be planned or earned. Love is not just a matter of works, but rather of grace.

-full reflection by theologian Rev. Patrick S. Cheng, Ph.D, at Huffington Post.

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Gay couple become first in Britain to hold civil partnership ceremony in a church

Gay couple become first in Britain to hold civil partnership ceremony in a church

A gay couple are thought to have become the first in the UK to hold a civil partnership ceremony in a church building.

Kieran Bohan and Warren Hartley made a commitment to each other at the Ullet Road Unitarian Church, in Liverpool, last month and are currently enjoying their honeymoon.

The couple, who described the event as a ‘milestone for equality’, only received council approval that the church could register civil partnerships a week before their big day.

Plans to allow religious buildings to host civil ceremonies were announced last February but the legislation was only implemented in December after public consultation.

Kieran, 41, who runs a youth group, said: ‘The pace of change is extraordinarily remarkable, but there is still work to be done.

-Read more Daily Mail
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Catholic Nun Challenges Church’s Stance on Gay Marriage

On the heels of the Vatican’s dispute with American nuns, one sister is taking a defiant stand against the Catholic hierarchy’s opposition to gay marriage.

Jeannine Gramick is the main speaker for a Saturday program where Catholics supporting Maryland’s marriage equality law discuss ways to prevent the legislation from being repealed on referendum during the November elections. The gathering will run from 1 to 4 p.m. at Goucher College’s Alumni Hall.

“It’s a great shame that the leaders of my church—the bishops—are all out there campaigning against marriage equality,” she said. “I want to be proud of my church and that makes me very ashamed.”

-full report at  Reisterstown, MD Patch.

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Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves

Well, it’s been quite a whirlwind week for same-sex marriage, from North Carolina to Obama to Colorado—and, of course, to the many outraged conservatives concerned with preserving traditional marriage, i.e., the time-honored sacred bond between one man and one woman. Why, just last week, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said that marriage has meant just that for over five thousand years.

Huh?

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

– full post at Jay Michaelson,  Religion Dispatches.

 

61% of UK Christians back equal rights for gay couples – Survey

There is extensive evidence that the US is moving to embrace full equality for lesbian and gay couples, and that Catholics are more supportive than the population at large. American Evangelicals though, remain (mostly) hostile. There has not been nearly as much polling for the UK, but a new survey shows even more support than in the US – including from 61% of all Christians.

61% of Christians back equal rights for gay couples

Results of a poll released today say 61% of people in the UK who identify as Christian back fully equal rights for gay couples.

The 2011 Ipsos MORI study explored the “beliefs, knowledge and attitudes” of people who identified as Christian after the nationwide census last year.

74% of respondents said as Christians they thought religion should not have a special influence on public life.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

Six in ten respondents, 61%, agreed that gays should have the same rights in all aspects of their lives as straight people.

Only 29% said they disapproved of sexual relationships between gays. Nearly half said they did not actively disapprove.

– full report at  PinkNews.co.uk.

A word of caution here, is that the survey was sponsored by the explicitly secularist Richard Dawkins Foundation, which is using the results to demonstrate that the UK is a secular society, and not a “Christian country”. It does not appear to have released the full questionnaire or tables. The only results currently available are those selected for inclusion in the press release by the Foundation. In particular, the description “Christian” appears to be used for those who describe themselves as such – many of whom do not actively practice their religion.

There is no reason to disregard the main thrust of the finding though, which is in agreement with what previous research is available. British opinion is firmly on the side of LGBT inclusion – and that includes those who think of themselves Christian.

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Marriage Equality & the Church.

Wedding cake of a same-sex marriage, photo tak...

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In the wake of the disappointing, but expected, Californian ruling on Prop 8, it is worth stepping back and reflecting on the gains elsewhere, and especially on the impact on the churches.

It is well known how rapidly legal recognition of same sex marriage has progressed: first in Iowa, by court order, then in rapid succession Vermont and Maine by legislative action. New Hampshire is not quite there yet, but it is likely just a matter of time – as it is in New York and New Jersey.  DC has voted to recognise marriages legally conducted elsewhere, Washington has approved expansion of their civil union regime to ‘everything but marriage’, and in many other states and city jurisdictions, there have been less dramatic, incremental gains.  These have been widely reported and celebrated.

One big advance, and the one that I suspect may be more important for its long term impact on the churches of the world, has drawn remarkably little attention.  The day before the Iowa announcement, and drowned out of the news by the drama of developments in Iowa and New England, The Swedish parliament, with the minimum of fuss or fanfare, and the support of all the major parties, voted to make Sweden the fith country in Europe to recognise same sex marriage.   For those of us in Europe, especially if we are committed to the ideal of ever closer union, this is obviously more significant than the stop-start progress in some minor American states and cities. But I believe that the significance for all of us is substantial, particularly if we are professed Christians.  Why? Continue reading Marriage Equality & the Church.

The Gospels’ Queer Values.

Jesus & Family

The opponents of gay same-sex marriage and of the “gay lifestyle” (whatever that is), like to claim that their opposition is rooted in traditional family values, “as found in the Bible.”   This claim is so completely spurious, is is remarkable how seldom it is challenged.  Just a little thought and reflection shows not only how the Gospel values have little to do with modern Western conceptions of the “traditional” family, but they are so far removed from it, that the real values espoused can certainly be described as certainly “queer”, if not quite as specifically gay.  In reaching this conclusion, I have been reading and reflecting on the social context of the ‘family’ as experienced in Jewish society and the broader social environment, at Jesus’ own ‘family’ in childhood and maturity,  at His actions, and at His words.

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The Jewish Family.

It is important to recognise that traditional Jewish society did indeed place enormous importance on the idea of family, both in the narrow sense of the immediate biological family, and in the broader sense of the ethnic Jewish community.  This was so important that on the one hand, everyone was expected to marry and produce l, and on the other, that those outside the narrow ethnic group were regarded as inferior, even unclean.  The  detailed dietary and other regulations well -known from the Old Testament were part of an elaborate legal structure to maintain the ‘purity’ of the Jewish nation. The Jewish family, however, was very different from our modern conception, deeply patriarchal, and with uneven treatment of men and women. Women were were expected to show rigorous sexual fidelity to their husbands, and were thought of as the ‘property’ of their men.

In the broader social environment, the Jewish state in Jesus’ day was under Roman military occupation.  Like the Greek society of the time, the Romans too had a deeply patriarchal society, and one in which there was not the modern distinction between ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ activities.  Distinctions were drawn rather, on the social class of one’s sexual partners, and male citizens would routinely have sex not only with their wives, but also with other lovers, prostitutes and slaves of either gender.

Jesus’ Families.

My reflections on this theme were initially prompted by a posting on “Nihil Obstat” for the feast of the Holy Family, in which she pointed out how very atypical for the time was the Lord’s own childhood family, so often quoted as a model for all Catholic families.

But our childhood families are not the only ones we live with.  More important as we grow older are those adult families we make for ourselves, usually by forming couples in marriage or out of it, and with or without children.  As LGBT people we are also very conscious of how often we may remain single, but still form looser groups of friendship, who may in a real sense become our ‘families’ of a different sort.

So what were the adult ‘families’ that Jesus made for himself?

First, and famously, He did not marry.  This alone is remarkable, given the expectation in Jewish society of marriage and procreation.  So, what were His other relationships – what informal ‘families’ did He form?  We get the answer to this easily enough by looking at the Last Supper.  The Jewish Sabbath meal, and most especially that of Passover, are the occasions above all when Jewish people get together as families.  It is significant then that the Lord spent his own Passover meal – which we know as the ‘Last Supper’, with the 12 apostles:  these were the people we must take to represent His closest family.  Who were these men?  If they ever had wives and families of their own, they had been set aside to spend the rest of their lives with Jesus.

Think about it:  on the most solemn holy day of the Jewish calendar, when it was customary for all Jewish people to share a ritual meal with their closest family, Jesus and the apostles spent the evening as a group of single men.  Does this not sound remarkably like a modern group of urban gay men spending our equivalent family festivals sharing meals together, away from biological families?

Single people know, of course, that the concept of “family” can be fluid. In addition to our closest, most intimate circle, there are often others who might be very close, almost family, but not quite in our innermost circle. Who represented this ‘almost family’ circle to Jesus Christ?  The most obvious candidates to me are the household of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, with whom He had an obviously close and special relationship.  What was the nature of this household?  Once again, very far from the expected “traditional” family.  The two women are described as ‘sisters’ and come across to me as the stronger, more vividly drawn characters:  Lazarus is famed more for his death and rescue from it, than for anything in his life.  Even at face value, this is an unusual household:  Jewish women would typically have been married off at an early age, not still living as adults with their brother.  Where such households did exist, it would normally be the brother, as the only male, who would be expected to dominate the household and be the focus of attention.  For a clearer understanding of the household, it is worth remembering that the word ‘sisters’ may have been used euphemistically: it is at least possible that Mary and Martha were a lesbian couple, living with a gay friend as lodger.

So: in His families of choice, the Lord spent His time either with a band of single men, or with a household of two single women  (possibly a lesbian couple), and yet another unmarried man. Even in the broader social circle, I am not aware of any instance where He is reported as spending time with a a conventional married couple with children.  Thus far, in examining the Lord in His own family context, we have found not an endorsement, but a repudiation, of the traditional family.

I still need to show that this repudiation of the traditional family is continued in His words and actions.  That I will do later in a  follow-up post.