January 24, 2000
I applaud and am encouraged by the Vermont Supreme Court's ruling that
the State of Vermont must "extend to same-sex couples the common benefits and
protections that flow from marriage under Vermont law."
Since its 1976 General Convention, the Episcopal Church has consistently
expressed "its conviction that homosexual persons are entitled to equal
protection of the laws with all other citizens," and it has called upon
our society "to see that such protection is provided in actuality." The
Vermont Legislature has the opportunity to meet this call by permitting same-sex
couples to exercise the responsibilities, and enjoy the benefits and
protections, of civil marriage. Such action will serve to strengthen the
social fabric and is not a threat to the integrity of traditional
The interests of the state in licensing civil marriage and those of the
church in the blessing of a marriage are quite different. The civil
rights flowing from marriage primarily concern property, inheritance, and the
responsibilities and privileges of couples in matters of privacy,
insurance, custody of children, and decision-making about one another's welfare.
These are issues faced by both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
The rites of the church offer God's blessing on, and the support of the
faith community for, relationships of faithful, loving commitment. The
union of two human beings in mind, body and heart is one of God's greatest
gifts. Heterosexual and homosexual people are equally capable of entering into
life-long unions of love, mutual support and fidelity.
A diversity of opinion may be found among-and within-faith traditions and
Christian denominations about homosexuality and whether same-sex couples
should be permitted to marry. While many Episcopal clergy feel called to
participate in the blessing of same-sex relationships, the Episcopal
Church is not of one mind about extending the rites of the church to same-sex
couples. It is, however, committed to justice, inclusivity and continued
I believe sexual orientation is not a matter of what a person does in a
particular sphere of his or her life but a matter of who a person is.
Homosexual persons choosing to live together in a life-long union are not
committing a sin. God creates diversity in human beings. God also creates
within us the urge to seek mates with whom to share our lives. God's
great gift of love and the expression of that love cannot, and must not, be
denied for those among us who happen to be homosexual.
The struggle for equal rights and benefits under the law has a long and
honorable history. This latest chapter holds promise that we are moving
toward full inclusion and acceptance of all our brothers and sisters. I
pray for us in Vermont and elsewhere to find the peace and understanding
I believe God intends for all of us.