Last week in Sacramento, Calif., about a hundred ministers of the United Methodist Church gathered to give their blessing to the marriage of Jeanne Barnett and Ellie Charlton, a lesbian couple whose marriage is prohibited by the church’s canons. A crowd of more than 1,000 church members gathered to watch and support the unprecedented ceremony. Though same-sex marriages are neither recognized by state governments nor most religious institutions, the ceremony in California is a good way to initiate another round of dialogue on the subject of same-sex marriages in both religious and secular circles.
The 8.5 million-member Methodist church had a similar same-sex marriage blessing two years ago in Nebraska. Afterward, one of its ministers was brought in front of a church judicial court for violating church canon. After a trial and appeal, the church’s highest court ruled that the church’s ban on gay marriage was still binding law. But with last week’s ceremony, it is clear the ruling has not been fully accepted by all Methodists.
The topic of same-sex marriages is divisive. Supporters argue that homosexual partners are entitled to get married. Opponents argue that it would destroy the traditional structure of the family – a male and female union. Both sides constantly clash over the primacy of individual’s rights against divine laws.
The ministers who married the couple should be commended for standing up to the Methodist church’s policy. Perhaps the events in California will cause the Methodist church to delve into the issue once more; or perhaps it simply will punish some of the violators of church canon and support the status quo. Either way, the topic is once again back in the news.
While the Methodist church has a right to outlaw homosexual marriages, homosexual couples should be allowed to get married under secular law. Hopefully, the statement made by 100 Methodist ministers is a step toward toppling one of America’s last unjust laws.