About the Presbyterian Church (USA),
marriage equality and other LGBT topics.
Part 3: 2014:
The General Assembly votes to accept
marriage equality and give clergy the
marry same-sex couples.
The acronym "LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender
persons & transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
2014-JUN-19: 221st General Assembly votes to recognize marriage equality, and give their clergy freedom to marry same-sex couples:
The General Assembly -- the top legislative body of the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- met at the Cobo Center in Detroit, MI during the week of JUN-15. The delegates voted to make two major changes concerning the LGBT community:
- The first change is to widen its definition of marriage to include loving, committed same-sex couples.
In the past, the denomination's Constitution (a.k.a. Book of Order) had always restricted marriages to a voluntary union of "one man and one woman."
The PCUSA's Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee recommended to the General Assembly that the Constitution be reworded to indicate that:
"... marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman."
The vote was 429 to 175 in favor of the amendment. Many observers were surprised by the magnitude of the delegates' support, because a vote on a similar amendment at the previous General Assembly in 2012 was narrowly defeated by a vote of 338 to 308 after four hours of debate.
The 71% vote in favor of redefining marriage greatly exceeds support for same-sex marriage (SSM) across the nation. Recent public opinion polls have shown that about 55% of voters typically favor of SSM; the highest value that we have seen is 59%.
During the year preceeding this General Assembly, there have been some major development concerning SSM (same-sex marriage) in the court system:
- The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in Windsor v. United States that overturned Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court required the federal government to make its marriage-related programs, benefits, and protections available to some same-sex married couples.
- The number of lawsuits in federal and state courts to overturn state bans against SSMs reached 70.
- A dozen state and federal courts have issued rulings about SSM. All have legalized such marriages. Most have stayed their decisions pending appeals to higher courts.
- Most of the political jurisdictions in North America (states and the District of Columbia in the U.S. and provinces in Canada) have now legalized SSM.
- Most of the population of North America live in a state, district, or province where same-sex couples can marry.
Perhaps the accumulated effect of:
- The above developments in the courts have caused many members of the PCUSA to accept marriages by same-sex couples as equivalent to those of opposite-sex couples.
- Perhaps many members have simply become exhausted at over three decades of trying to hold back change in the denomination.
- Perhaps many members realize that the Church is losing members from the late teen and young adult contingent because of their restrictive beliefs concerning human sexuality.
- Perhaps with a significant majority of American adults now favoring making SSM available, they have changed their beliefs about SSM.
- Most likely, it is some combination of the above trends and others not listed here that is producing rapid change.
However, voting in the General Assembly concerning SSM shifted from a narrow rejection in 2012 to a massive, 3 to 1 approval in 2014.
This change will only become effective if and when it is ratified by at least 87 of the denomination's 172 regional presbyteries. Each will hold separate discussions and ratification votes during early 2015. Passage is expected.
- The PCUSA's Civil Union and Marriage Issues Committee also recommended to the General Assembly that the church grant its clergy the freedom to refuse to perform marriages or to agree to perform any legal:
"... marriage they believe the Holy Spirit calls them to perform."
As of 2014-JUN, persons authorized in their state to marry couples can legally solemnize same-sex marriages in 19 states and the District of Columbia. About 45% of Americans live in these political jurisdictions. Federal and state courts in about a dozen additional states have issued rulings approv of same-sex marriages; however their decisions have been stayed pending appeals. Meanwhile, a total of about 70 lawsuits in federal and state courts are actively attempting to have bars against same-sex marriages declared unconstitutional in every state where they currently exist.
The vote was 371 to 238 in favor of this change (61%).
This change is within the authority of the General Assembly. It came into effect when this year's Assembly concluded.
Various reactions to the two changes:
"... all the time.... They want to be married in the church they love and they want me to do it. I want pastoral relief." 1
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Presbyterians set vote on same-sex marriage at convention in Detroit," Detroit Free Press, 2014-JUN-19, at: http://www.freep.com/
- Jeff Karoub & Rachel Zoll, "Presbyterian Assembly: Gay Marriage Is Christian," ABC News, 2014-JUN-19. at: http://abcnews.go.com/
- Aleksander Chan, "U.S. Presbyterian Church Votes to Allow Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies," Gawker, 2014-JAN-19, at: http://gawker.com/
- Office of the General Assembly, "PC(USA) leaders issue pastoral letter to the church on Assembly’s marriage actions," Presbyterian Church (USA), 2014-JUN-19, at: https://www.pcusa.org/
Copyright © 2014 & 2015by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2014-JUN-20
Last update: 2015-JAN-15
Author: B.A. Robinson