The state of Iowa just celebrated 5 years of legalizing civil unions. It was a moment that I was very proud of. The ruling to legalize civil unions has stood countless vows from the opposition to over turn the law. As a pastor, I have had to answer the question multiple times of “will you perform those?” and “what if your congregation won’t allow it in the building?” My answer has always been “yes” and “if it can’t be in one location, I’m sure God will be at another.”
For me, as a straight female, the issue of why the Church, universal, should care about marriage is because it’s an issue of marking a special time in one’s life and social justice. Historically, marriage has and continues to be a matter of the State. The Church added liturgy and ceremony to make it a unique “church” thing. The Church now uses marriage as a way to mark an important turning point in one’s life. The Church and those gathered to witness a marriage often make promises to support the married couple and to walk with them in this journey and next phase of life. This is just another opportunity the Church has to walk with its members on their journey.
But lately this has become an issue of social justice, which I believe the Church is called to speak too. When institutions and states refuse to recognize marriage and civil unions, people are denied benefits that are freely given to those who fit the “norms.” As a former hospital chaplain, I watched as a patient’s partner struggled to be able to even visit their loved one because their marriage was not legal or recognized in the state I was in at the time. It is bad enough that this couple were already deemed less then by not having their marriage recognized, but then to slap them with not being able to see each other during a major health crisis was unbearable and cruel. Marriage in all forms (gay, straight, inter-racial, etc) deserves to get the same benefits as others.
Injustice and discrimination in any and all forms is against the Gospel message of love that knows no bounds. The Church should and is called to speak to things that cause hurt and divide creation. The Church is called to speak to love, peace and justice for all and as long as some are denied the right to marriage, for whatever reason, the Church needs to show concern so that all may know a love of God that’s greater than any definition or law.
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?