Same Sex Marriage Discussion: Canon Law

Canon 18 , Section 1 states “Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony” and section 4 states “It shall be within the discretion of any Member of the Clergy of this Church to decline to solemnize any marriage.”


So until ruled by the Supreme Court, shortly after the last General Convention, Same Sex Marriage would only have been allowed in those places where it was legal to do so. Nothing has changed in the Canons that would force any Priest to perform a Same Sex Marriage, just as Clergy can refuse to marry anyone, at any time, for any reason.


The discussion focused on the benefits to couples for being married, versus just having their relationship blessed, both secular and sacred. The Secular benefits for a Marriage include Legal Status, Finances and Taxes, Property and Inheritance rights, and social status- married people are often found to be more acceptable than single people. Among the Sacred benefits are that it includes God’s Blessing, Increases each other’s spirituality, is a public commitments, with public support, as all witnesses vow to uphold the marriage of the people being married, and that the rings are a symbol of those vows. For a Blessing, the Sacred benefits are all the same. The Secular benefits are only that it may clarify relationships to others, and possible increase to their social status and recognition. However, even those things are only a possible benefit, and not as probable as if the two persons were married.


It was pointed out that Priests were breaking Canon law by blessing Same Sex marriages, which was seen as a sign of a break of their Ordination vows. But those who did so felt they were upholding their Ordination vows, because Canon law also states that no one is to be discriminated against. As usually happens in both church law and governmental law, laws are only changed after enough people are breaking them to trigger the change of the law.


The last discussion is scheduled for March 13, with how Same Sex Marriage fits in with the Church’s Mission.

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