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:
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.
(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.
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.
Eventually, saner heads will prevail. Meanwhile, they should be ashamed of themselves for this disgusting, insulting resolution.
For those not familiar with the structure of the Episcopal Church, it is very different from the authoritarian Roman Catholics. Episcopalians are ruled by "democratic polity": Bishops are elected by their dioceses, not appointed from old-men on-high, and then must be approved by other bishops and dioceses. Church-wide policy is set by democratic process in a convention every three years, with one house of Bishops and one house of elected lay- and clergy-people. Similarly, diocesan policy is set in part by a diocesan convention. The Episcopal Church is a free standing church in a loose federation with other Anglican churches affiliated with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is Not A Pope and bears no direct authority over the independent national churches. Individual bishops have considerable autonomy in the responses of their dioceses, and a few have left over The Gay Issue. The mind of the church overall is clearly moving towards full inclusion. If any bona fide Episcopalians are reading this, please correct me if I am wrong!