by Iain Stanford
Over the last several weeks, the blogosphere and Facebook have been alive with different opinions, questions and concerns about the various resolutions regarding marriage equality in The Episcopal Church. As I read the various arguments, I keep wondering if people realize that we already have same sex couples in The Episcopal Church who were married using the service for Holy Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer. Let me explain.
At the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2012, the church spoke loudly in support of transgender people as full members of our Church by adding gender identity and gender expression to the non-discrimination canons. As a trans person, though, the canons for marriage and the use of the BCP can become a bit, well, surreal.
Take for example the fictional couple of Jim and Francine. On their day, they walk through the red doors and up the aisle, the celebration begins with the words from the BCP, “Dearly Beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.” (BCP 423) And a little later, the priest pronounces, “they are husband and wife.” (BCP 428) Now several years go by, and Francine slowly acknowledges all those feelings when it comes to gender. All her life, people have asked, “are you a girl or boy?” She talks to friends, therapists, and yes, even her priest. Eventually, she knows that God is calling her to move forward, to become Francis. She does! After transition, they are now Jim and Francis. They live into what it means to be a same sex couple in society. And yes, they are still married in the eyes of the Church.
I can hear some people say, “But they came to the altar like any other heterosexual couple.”
Which begs the question: what is the connection between the outward and visible sign or signs of gender and marriage?