Gay marriage

Cardinal Timothy Dolan. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Sunday that Pope Francis is asking the Catholic Church to look at the possibility of recognizing civil unions for gay couples, although the archbishop of New York said that he would be “uncomfortable” if the church embraced that position.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera last week published an interview with the pope in which Francis reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage “is between a man and a woman” while acknowledging that governments want to adopt civil unions for gay couples and others to allow for economic and health benefits, for example.

Francis said the churches in various countries must account for those reasons when formulating public policy positions. “We must consider different cases and evaluate each particular case,” he said.

Mark Zmuda was fired two month ago from his job as a teacher at Eastside Catholic School. Photo by Catherine O’Donnell

Forced out of his Catholic school job for marrying his same-sex partner, a gay teacher in suburban Seattle has filed a wrongful-dismissal suit against his former school.

Mark Zmuda claims that as vice principal of Eastside Catholic School, his duties were “purely administrative and unrelated to any religious practice or activity.” He filed suit in King County Superior Court against and the school and the Archdiocese of Seattle. The suit follows at least eight similar suits filed across the country.

In a news conference Friday, Zmuda, 38, said that prior to accepting the job, he read anti-discrimination statements in the employee handbook and relied on them when accepting the job in 2012.

In December, the school fired Zmuda, saying he violated terms of his contract, which require adherence to Catholic Church teachings. The church forbids same-sex marriage, and court rulings have upheld religious institutions’ rights to hire and fire according to the tenets of their faith.

Richard Wolf 2-28-2014

A man exits the Supreme Court building with an American flag after its rulings on same-sex marriage. RNS photo: Adelle M. Banks

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer may have ended the latest controversy in her state by vetoing a “religious freedom” bill that threatened gay men and lesbians, but the nation’s legislatures and courts are just getting started.

While religious liberty remains a “core value” in Arizona, Brewer said Wednesday, “so is non-discrimination.” And therein lies the balancing act that’s at the root of several other disputes.

The answer isn’t simple. Congress and the states often carve out exceptions for religious beliefs. The Supreme Court has consistently made room for religious exercise. And unlike race and gender, sexual orientation is not a protected class — yet.

“Conflict Between Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Belief” graphic courtesy of Public Religion Research Institute. Via RNS

Americans’ attitudes toward the lives and choices of gays and lesbians have changed radically since Massachusetts first legalized same — sex marriage a decade ago.

new survey finds a significant shift toward tolerance across every religious, political, and age group and every region of the country, said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute. PRRI’s survey, released Wednesday, reveals the ramifications of these changes in family, church, and community life.

“Only the issue of marijuana looks anything like this in terms of rapid movement in favorability,” Jones said. “But with that one exception, it’s unusual to see this much change in a relatively short amount of time.”

Archbishop Raymond Burke gives the keynote address at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2009. RNS photo: David Jolkovski

As Pope Francis led the world’s cardinals in talks aimed at shifting the church’s emphasis from following rules to preaching mercy, a senior American cardinal took to the pages of the Vatican newspaper on Friday to reassure conservatives that Francis remains opposed to abortion and gay marriage.

Cardinal Raymond Burke acknowledged that the pope has said the church “cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods.” But in his toughly worded column in L’Osservatore Romano, the former archbishop of St. Louis blasted those “whose hearts are hardened against the truth” for trying to twist Francis’ words to their own ends.

Burke, an outspoken conservative who has headed the Vatican’s highest court since 2008, said Francis in fact strongly backs the church’s teaching on those topics. He said the pope is simply trying to find ways to convince people to hear the church’s message despite the “galloping de-Christianization in the West.”

Pope Francis passes a crucifix. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy Catholic New Service/RNS

High-level debates over Catholic teachings on marriage and divorce and other hot-button issues heated up on Wednesday as a highly anticipated effort to overhaul the Vatican bureaucracy slogged through the devilish details of financial reform.

The multitrack talks launched months ago by Pope Francis ramped up this week as some 185 cardinals converged on Rome to watch the pontiff add 19 new members to their select ranks this weekend, part of what some called “the most critical week” of Francis’ year-old papacy.

Anticipation is mounting for a series of closed-door discussions on Thursday and Friday, when the cardinals will hold what are expected to be frank talks about issues such as contraception, cohabitation, gay marriage, and whether divorced and remarried Catholics can receive Communion.

Mark Zmuda was dismissed from his job as a teacher at Eastside Catholic School. Photo by Catherine O’Donnell.

A lifelong Roman Catholic, Mark Zmuda took a job as a teacher at Eastside Catholic School in part because he believed he could be a good Catholic role model.

He was dismissed in December from his job as a vice principal and swim coach, precisely because he did not measure up as a Catholic model: Zmuda, who is gay, married his male partner.

“I do model Catholic teaching, and my religion is very important to me,” Zmuda. “I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”

Adam Ericksen 1-28-2014
cattias.photos/Flickr

The Grammy awards televised 33 same-sex marriages on Sunday. cattias.photos/Flickr

Call me old fashioned, but our culture hit a new low at the Grammys when 33 couples were married. Some of them were gay and lesbian couples.

Indeed, it was a bad day for marriage.

First, Macklemore sang "Same Love," then Queen Latifah officiated a wedding for 33 couples, and then Madonna sang her 1986 single "Open Your Heart."

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Macklemore’s Same Love. I love its pro-same-sex marriage message because of my Christian faith, not in spite of it. I’ve written about why Christians should embrace same-sex marriage herehere, and here, but Macklemore’s theological argument in the song is as good as any.

giulio napolitano/Shutterstock

Pope Francis greets the pilgrims in St. Peter's square. giulio napolitano/Shutterstock

The year 2013 ushered in a number of data milestones in American public opinion. Here is a sampling reported by the Pew Research Center.

Christian Piatt 11-26-2013

Methodist minister Rev. Frank Schaefer (not to be confused with Frank Schaeffer) has come up against what some might call a conflict of interest in living out his call as a minister of the gospel. Some might even call his experience a crisis of faith, but for Schaefer and his son, Tim, the struggles they have faced in recent weeks and months have yielded beautifully unexpected blessings.

Schaefer's troubles with the larger Methodist Church go back some six years to when he performed a wedding ceremony for Tim, who is gay. Although his son realized this would present Schaefer with a dilemma (the United Methodist Church does not allow their ministers to conduct same-sex marriages), he also knew that it would hurt his father deeply not to be asked to perform the ceremony, regardless of whom he was marrying.

The wedding was performed in Mass., where same-sex marriages are legally recognized.

Though it took some time, charges were brought against Schaffer within the denomination, and he has recently had his license for ministry suspended. He is now facing an ultimatum: either he has to renounce his support for the performance of same-sex marriages or he will be defrocked within a month.

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops gathers for Mass. Photo via RNS/by Nancy Phelan Wiechec, courtesy of Catholic News Service

As the U.S. Catholic bishops began their annual fall meeting on Monday, they were directly challenged by Pope Francis’ personal representative to be pastors and not ideologues — the first step of what could be a laborious process of reshaping the hierarchy to meet the pope’s dramatic shift in priorities.

“The Holy Father wants bishops in tune with their people,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican ambassador to the U.S., told the more than 250 American churchmen as he recounted a personal meeting in June with Francis.

The pontiff, he added, “made a special point of saying that he wants ‘pastoral’ bishops, not bishops who profess or follow a particular ideology,” Vigano said. That message was seen as an implicit rebuke to the conservative-tinged activism of the bishops’ conference in recent years.

Almost since his election in March, Francis has signaled that he wants the church to strike a “new balance” by focusing on the poor and on social justice concerns and not overemphasizing opposition to hot-button topics like abortion and contraception and gay marriage — the signature issues of the U.S. bishops lately.

Pope Francis outside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 4. Photo via RNS, by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service.

In an unusual move, the Vatican has asked the world’s bishops to quickly canvas the faithful for their views on topics like gay marriage, divorce, and birth control ahead of a major meeting of church leaders set for next fall.

But it’s not clear how or whether the American bishops will undertake such an effort, or if they will only send their own views to Rome.

The letter from the Vatican to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was dated Oct. 18 and it asked that a series of questions be shared “immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received” in time for a February planning meeting in Rome.

Photo by Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal – courtesy The Star-Ledger/RNS

Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday that he was dropping the fight against same-sex marriage in New Jersey by withdrawing his appeal of a major case that was being heard by the state Supreme Court.

Starting one minute after midnight, gay couples have been getting married after the Supreme Court refused on Friday to delay the first weddings while it heard Christie’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that legalized gay marriage last month.

Christie said the court, in rejecting his plea for a stay, had made strong statements that settled the larger case.

American flag in a school. Photo via RNS/shutterstock.com

American flag in a school. Photo via RNS/shutterstock.com

Massachusetts’ highest court on Wednesday will consider whether the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is a violation of students’ rights.

Since the addition of the phrase “under God” in 1954, the pledge has been challenged repeatedly as a violation of the separation of church and state. In 2004, one case reached the Supreme Court, but ultimately failed, as have all previous challenges.

But the current case before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, is different because lawyers for the plaintiffs, an anonymous atheist couple, won’t be arguing about federal law but rather that the compulsory recitation of the pledge violates the state’s equal rights laws. They argue that the daily recitation of the pledge is a violation of their guarantee of equal protection under those laws.

Corrie Mitchell 8-13-2013
RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Participants celebrate the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling in Kansas City, Mo. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

A new voice is emerging in the evangelical community, and it’s turning away from the church’s vocal opposition to homosexuality in favor of a more tolerant attitude.

Researchers at Baylor University found that 24 percent of evangelicals were “ambivalent,” meaning they support civil unions or legal recognition of gay relationships, despite harboring a moral opposition to homosexuality.

“What you have is this increase in people coming out publicly and saying, ‘I don’t want to be a part of this anti-gay rights movement as an evangelical,’” said Lydia Bean, assistant professor of sociology at Baylor and co-author of the study.

The study, “How the Messy Middle Finds a Voice: Evangelicals and Structured Ambivalence towards Gays and Lesbians,” analyzed national data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, conducted by Gallup.

Martha T. Moore 7-17-2013
Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.com.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie – red gov in a blue state – is walking a fine line on gay marriage. Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.com.

As activists push states to recognize gay marriages, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — conservative Republican governor in a blue state and a 2016 presidential possibility — is walking a fine line between two electorates and two elections.

Christie vetoed same-sex marriage legislation last year and severely criticized the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a ban on federal rights for same-sex married couples. At the same time, he is “adamant” that same-sex couples deserve equal legal protection, wants a referendum on gay marriage, and vows to abide by a same-sex marriage law if New Jersey voters approve it.

He’s tiptoeing between constituencies. First are the voters of New Jersey: polls show they favor same-sex marriage, and Christie wants them to re-elect him in November by a big margin.

Photo courtesy RNS.

Queen Elizabeth II on May 8, 2007. Photo courtesy RNS.

England and Wales became the 16th and 17th countries in the world to recognize gay marriage after Queen Elizabeth II gave “royal assent” to a same-sex marriage bill.

Under the new law, gay men and women will be able to join together in civil ceremonies or in church services — although no religious denomination will be forced to carry out such services.

Cheers, laughter, and clapping broke out in the House of Commons when Speaker John Bercow announced the bill had been approved.

Richard Wolf 7-11-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

LGBT supporter at the Supreme Court on June 26. Photo courtesy RNS.

The legal battle over same-sex marriage has shifted from the Supreme Court to state capitals and lower courts as supporters seek to build on their recent victories and opponents hope to thwart that progress.

Armed with Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, lawyers representing same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, and vowed to follow with others in North Carolina and Virginia.

Those cases will be added to at least 11 pending from New Jersey to Hawaii.

Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Couple celebrates outside Supreme Court. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

The twin Supreme Court rulings on Wednesday that further opened the door for gay marriage in the U.S. were not entirely unexpected, and the condemnations from religious conservatives angry at the verdicts were certainly no surprise either.

So the real question is what gay marriage opponents will do now.

Here are four possible scenarios that took shape in the wake of Wednesday’s developments:

Karyn Wiseman 6-26-2013
 Photo by Katie Anderson / Sojourners

Woman holds up Supreme Court decision on June 26 outside the Supreme Court. Photo by Katie Anderson / Sojourners

In the Methodist tradition in which I was I raised, there is a concept of perfection. We “strive for perfection” in loving each other and loving God. It is not about avoiding all mistakes. It is about growing in love for neighbor and being hospitable to all we come in contact with. This is the point of our theology: as we grow in faith and love, we become closer to God. In the end, resisting God’s call to love others is pretty hard to do.

And yet we know not everyone we meet is irresistible. We all have moments when some folks are harder to love than others. Sometimes those we find difficult to love are members of our own families. Other times they are friends we’ve had a conflict with. And for some of us, they are hard to love simply because of whom the other person loves.

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