jQuery Slider

You are here

Gay Marriage: The Train has left the Station

Gay Marriage: The Train has left the Station

by Alan Jones

The culture wars are now concentrating on the polarizing
issue of "gay marriage" and we're all caught up in it. The President has
declared his support to amend the Constitution specifically to exclude
gay people. For some, gay marriage rocks the very foundations of our
culture and way of life. The question not only of gay marriage but even
gay rights has already become one of the wedge issues of the upcoming
presidential election. It has also become the occasion of opportunistic
polarization and protest. Meanwhile thousands of gay couples with their
families and friends have gone to City Hall to be married.

The leadership of Grace Cathedral unanimously supports gay
couples and their families. At the same time, we acknowledge this is a
significant and historical departure from tradition. We take very
seriously some people's misgivings. Breaking the law is no small matter.
But what's done is done. Meanwhile, our concern and conviction is that
the time is long overdue for gay and lesbian people to have the support
and protection of the law for their faithful relationships and for their
families. It is time for the United States to look honestly at the
actual state of the American family and to give social, legal and
spiritual support to all those who seek stable and caring relationships.

Some years ago I was interviewed for BBC television about
the AIDS crisis. I was asked two questions. The first was, "Does Grace
Cathedral tolerate gay people?" The second was, "Do you believe in the
wrath of God?" The interviewer was surprised when I answered "No!" to
the first questi on and "Yes!" to the second. Grace Cathedral does not
tolerate gay people. We embrace them. They are us. As for God's anger, I
believe it's reserved for the frozen and closed hearted. So, it should
come as no surprise that the cathedral is clear in its support of gay
people, and we are in favor of blessing the covenants between same

We are also an institution committed to conversation. Our
slogan is "Reconnect your spirit without disconnecting your mind."
There's a wide spectrum of opinion in the cathedral leadership as how
best to support gay people. For example, some of us are more comfortable
with the word "marriage" than others. If I am asked by the media, "Are
you in favor of gay marriage?" I say "Yes". Because of the culture's
addiction to polarization, we are forced to take sides. I would have
preferred to work for another word, and I regret that our society
doesn't allow for serious debate and nuanced discussion. My friends and
colleagues tell me that this isn't where the battle is, and besides (as
the person closest to me says) "the train has already left the station".
I would like to believe that we could have something that was "separate
but equal," but history teaches us that separate never means equal.

The word "marriage" means many things, but the bottom line
has to do with simple justice in affording rights and protections for
all our citizens. People who invoked the "long history of marriage"
don't know either their history or their Bible. Marriage, as an
institution, has had a checkered history and its trivialization and
banalization (thank you Britney!) makes the waters even muddier.

Where are we now? We at Grace Cathedral are not yet ready
to "marry" a gay couple. The Episcopal Church (and the whole Anglican
Communion) is in the middle of a great struggle with the issue. The
cathedral does, however, on occasion bless same unions. In fact we
had a wonderful celebration recently of a couple who are long-time
members of the cathedral and have been together for over twenty years.
They went to City Hall first and had their relationship blessed at the
cathedral right afterwards. It was a joyful occasion. I wish the
president and the governor could have been there. The world did not fall

What makes things confusing is that in this country
ministers of religion act as functionaries of the state (unlike in
France for example where the legal ceremony is secular usually performed
in the Town Hall. The couple then go, if they so wish, to a place of
worship for a blessing.) Some of us would prefer not to be officers of
the state. Let people get married at City Hall and be free to go to the
church, synagogue, temple of their choice for whatever support and
blessing their tradition provides. Meanwhile, any couple (straight or
gay) seeking a blessing at the Cathedral must go through interview and
counseling procedures before we may consent to blessing their
relationship. Stay tuned: the culture is very confused, and we are all
feeling our way. We are, however, unequivocal in supporting gay couples
and their families. For us, the issue has a human face. Gays and
lesbians are our friends and colleagues. And like our heterosexual
friends and colleagues, they support families and struggle to have
loving relationships. It's time to honor and celebrate all those who
seek to strengthen the human family.

Alan Jones is Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California

Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top