Bishop Gene Robinson: Why Religion Matters in the Quest for Gay Civil Rights

A warning before we start: These videos are long, 48 minutes each. It’s worth your time to bookmark this post and watch both of them in their entirety when you have time.

Many gay bloggers, most vocally and consistently Jeremy Hooper at Good-As-You, have been frustrated by the Religious Right’s seeming inability to understand the difference between religious marriage, (solemnized by the Church), and civil marriage (sanctioned by the State).

So I was excited this afternoon to find a video of Bishop V. Gene Robinson’s March 30, 2009 at Emory University on the topic “Why Religion Matters in the Quest for Gay Civil Rights”. I get excited every time I find something from Bishop Robinson, but this one addresses the separation of religious and civil marriage.

Emory University has provided a variety of resources including a written transcript of the speech as prepared. You can download and read it here (pdf), but the written transcript does not include the part that I find so exciting.

Again, these are long. Pop some corn or something before you get started.

Near the beginning of Part Two, Bishop Robinson makes a suggestion for the Church. It’s a suggestion that is so simple, so elegant, so obvious, that I don’t know why I haven’t heard of this before.

I think we need to make a distinction between civil rights and religious rites.

I’ve actually suggested to my clergy that they find someone in their congregation who is a Justice of the Peace or wants to become one. And so when a nice heterosexual couple comes and says they want to be married, the priest says, “Well, let me tell you how we do weddings here at St. Swithins by the Gas Pump. You know Joe Blow, he’s our Senior Warden and he’s a Justice of the Peace. He’ll be doing what the State does, which is affect the marriage, and he’ll sign the marriage license. And then, rather seamlessly, I’ll take over and do what the Church does, and offer the Church’s blessings and prayers for the marriage.”

Think of the ripple effect of that. Think of all the people who come to weddings who are not even associated with that church. Think of the educational value of separating Church and State; knowing where one ends and the next begins.

I’m interested in opinions on this. Members of the clergy and members of the churches, is there any reason not to follow Bishop Robinson’s suggestion? Is there a negative effect that I’m overlooking?

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3 thoughts on “Bishop Gene Robinson: Why Religion Matters in the Quest for Gay Civil Rights

  1. I have to add something very important that Will Smith said: “The connection with God is something personal and I hate organized religion”. Marriage in church is a form of organized religion and there are no religious rights:)) Maybe the priests should read the constitutional rights which clearly specify that citizens have the right to freely express their sexuality and religion. There is no law given by God that forbids marriage between 2 men or 2 women. That is human invented law:)) It may sound weird and it may seem like the church would become too free, but let's not forget the purpose of religion: spiritual enlightment. The church is not an institution that has the right to issue laws and rights unless they are voted by the majority of the people and not only church staff.

  2. I highly doubt that the church will ever want to separate it's self from the state. We must not forget that the church is still a great power in a state and it can influence a lot of people concerning matters of the state. As for the church approving of gay marriages, I doubt that the christian church will ever manage to do that because it's still too conservative.

  3. I highly doubt that the church will ever want to separate it's self from the state. We must not forget that the church is still a great power in a state and it can influence a lot of people concerning matters of the state. As for the church approving of gay marriages, I doubt that the christian church will ever manage to do that because it's still too conservative.

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