“My heart, therefore, is glad and my spirit rejoices.” (Psalm 16:9) These words of the Psalmist are the words on my lips today in response to the decision from the Supreme Court declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Having listened to the stories of so many gay and lesbian couples legally joined in marriage in Vermont and other places, I know how much this decision means for them, not the least of which comes in terms of access to federal benefits afforded heterosexual couples legally joined in marriage.
To know that my wife and I are afforded federal benefits that some other legally married couples are not has been a source of anguish for me because of the injustice such inequality creates. Today’s ruling changes that, at least for some citizens. There is still work to do to insure this equality for all. How fully all citizens will share in this expansion of greater equality remains to be seen. For now I am glad and rejoice that we have taken another step forward for justice and dignity for all in our country.
Together with faith and community partners, many members of the Episcopal Church in Vermont have prayed and worked tirelessly for marriage equality and therefore today’s Supreme Court decision comes as welcome news. The Episcopal Church in Vermont extends a welcome and invitation to all persons to find their spiritual home in our church, where all are truly welcome and where the dignity of every person is honored. As bishop, I have extended permission to clergy in our congregations to preside at the marriage of all couples, using the rites of the Book of Common Prayer for heterosexual couples and the recently authorized provisional service for the blessing of same-sex couples. You can read my letter about that here.
I also serve on the recently appointed Marriage Task Force of The Episcopal Church, established by action of our General Convention in 2012. In that capacity, I am mindful of the larger conversation taking place throughout The Episcopal Church and in faith communities throughout the world on the subject of marriage and in particular in our Christian tradition of Holy Matrimony. Our Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Shori, referenced the important work of this Task Force in her comments on today’s Supreme Court decision. Click here for a link to those thoughtful comments which I take to heart as a member of that Task Force.
Finally, while today’s Supreme Court decision regarding DOMA (and also Prop 8) concern civil marriage, the connection between the justice issues associated with civil marriage and the Christian witness to justice and holiness of life are very much related. As people of faith, we are called to bear witness to God’s justice, love, mercy, grace and peace in our own lives. By the faithful living of our lives, we demonstrate as best we can what holiness of life looks like in the here and now, flesh and blood reality of human life and living. Of course, none of us is perfect in the doing of that, which is in part why we need the community of others, and to constantly acknowledge that we live our lives and do our best to keep our baptismal proimises before God by saying, “I will, with God’s help.”
Today, my prayer is one of thanksgiving for this decsion by the Supreme Court. My hope is that it will move us to a more profound appreciation for the dignity of every human being. My work is to continue to strive for justice and peace among all people, especially those for whom the benefits of this decision will not yet reach.