Once they see that we can do "marriage lite", the argument goes, then they may---may.... allow us to have access to marriage. Eventually. But we have to earn it.
(This ignores the fact that most vocal marriage equality opponents are just as resistant to civil unions. But I digress).
Now, that's pretty insulting,and of course it's another tactic to stress our "otherness" as though simply because of gender, we don't want/can't achieve "real" marriage. And those of us who are married, of course, prove the opposite entirely.
But what the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has done is more insulting yet. In response to movements in the national church, and recognition of (gasp!) gay people in their midst, they admit they need to study the issue of same sex blessings (NOT marriage) in their diocese. To do so, they propose bringing together clergy and lay people and lawyers, which is all fine (although one might ask whether civil lawyers are really necessary for an internal church issue as "blessings" which have no civil component....but I digress again.)
Fine so far. However, their resolution also calls to consider whether blessing such unions requires them to consider the following issues:
(c) The age, capacity and degree of kinship, if any, of the parties;
(d) The effect of prior marriages or unions blessed by a licensed clergy person or registered with civil authorities, the responsibility to any former spouse or partner in such union, and responsibility to minor children of any prior marriage or union;
(e) The appropriateness of advance medical screening, if any;
(h) Review of financial arrangements to protect the parties in the absence of state law presumptions governing married couples, presumptions intended to protect the weaker party from potential exploitation, oppression, or improvident action by the other party in the relationship;
(i) Other factors listed in the General Convention canons for marriage, Canons I.1.18 and I.1.19, including the baptismal status of the parties, the commitment to life-long union, the voluntariness of consent, the absence of coercion, fraud, mistake of identity of the other party;
(l) Any requirement for written affirmation by the couple that the commitment is to a life-long union;
(p) Whether any blessing service for same-gender union may be used in lieu of marriage for heterosexual couples under any circumstances, and if so, what those circumstances are;
(q) How these might apply to all members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans-gendered community;
(r) Any other factor deemed important by the panel.
Take another look at that. GLBT people have to prove their worthiness by
- ensuring they aren't related (you know, incest?),
- proving they aren't married to anyone else,
- passing health exams (looking for what, pray tell?),
- financial disclosure (you have to be rich to be gay?);
- absence of coercion (because, of course, you may be forcing your cousin into a union, since no one would willingly join you),
- signing a form saying you want to make it lifelong, since of course if you want a church blessing etc clearly you might be doing it for a lark
- and just in case, anything else that they choose.
These resolutions by their very existence suggest that the Dio. VA thinks that GLBT people don't want lifelong unions, would try to join family, are riven with diseases, are coercing their partner for financial reasons. Of course none of these rules apply to straight couples seeking blessings. Because their health, finances, proof of lifelong fidelity, are all tacitly accepted along with the presumption they will engage in proper missionary position man-woman sexual intercourse.
But those faithful, partnered GLBT Episcopalian couples in Virginia must crawl, hat in hand, before the Bishop, stripped naked and exposed, poked and prodded by the diocese, audited and inspected, to get enough boxes ticked off, for the remote and grudging recognition that they just might, possibly, maybe, be good enough for a blessing.
It is hard to imagine how much larger the letters could be written because what this diocesan resolution really says is **** OFF, YOU AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH, AND WE WISH YOU WOULD GO AWAY.
Yup, got that message nicely, thanks.
Fortunately for the Episcopal Church, many, many other dioceses are moving ahead and recognizing that Gays Are People Too, who simply want the same rules and expectations applied to them as to straight couples. Many Episcopal bishops have been outspoken advocates for civil marriage rights in different states. Many Episcopal priests are tireless advocates for equality. Many Episcopal parishes, even in Virginia, or perhaps despite it (yes, we're looking at you Margaret!) are working for justice for all people. Many average Episcopalians are advocates for fairness for all.
So horrible as this is, it's a flare from a dying institutional world view that in 20 years will be viewed with the same horror as poll taxes and anti-miscegenation laws. It may be useful to remember that Virginia is politically a State of Hate that has banned recognition of even private contracts that give any semblance of marriage rights. That means, all those legal documents my wife and I have for health care etc. could be ignored in Virginia since their purpose is to give us some marriage-like protections. We don't exist there. We are less than nothing.
Clearly some of that sickness has percolated into the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Eventually, saner heads will prevail.
Meanwhile, they should be ashamed of themselves for this disgusting, insulting resolution.