17 July 2009

Eyes on the Floor - DOMA

Richard Helmer has a op-ed on the Lead titled Eyes on the floor: Matters of conscience, matters of psyche. The article is about C023.
    Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That this 76th General Convention reject the belief that the existence of marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership between same-sex individuals has a detrimental effect on opposite-sex marriage; and be it further

    , That the Convention
    call on Congress to repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage" statute passed on September 21, 1996 [Public Law No. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419, codified at 1 U.S.C. § 7 and 28 U.S.C. § 1738C]; and be it further

    Resolved, That the Convention call on all Episcopalians to work against the passage of so-called "Defense of Marriage" state statutes and state constitutional amendments, and, in states where such statutes or constitutional amendments already exist, to work for their repeal.

    Referenced Statutory Language:

    28 U.S.C. Section 1738C reads as follows: "No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian Tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship."

    1 U.S.C. Section 7 reads as follows: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."


    "Defense of Marriage" statutes and constitutional amendments increasingly have little relationship to marriage, let alone its "defense." Most of the amendments and citizen propositions passed in the last five years have included provisions such as that in the 2004 Ohio amendment, and "this state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status or relationship of unmarried individuals that intends to proximate the design, qualities, significance or effect of a marriage." This is intended to prohibit the recognition of domestic partnerships, civil unions and all benefits for partners of state employees - even when those benefits are achieved through collective bargaining. Ironically, even non-LGBT Ohioans have been affected since the courts ruled that unmarried persons may not seek protection from state-sponsored spousal abuse programs. The federal Defense of Marriage law has the effect of denying various benefits for same-sex partners - joint tax filing, survivor benefits under social security, and the state tax exemptions.
It is an excellent read dealing with DOMA and GC09's resolution passed by the deputies to urge all Episcopalians to work to repeal DOMA.
While I now am very clearly a supporter of same-sex marriage, both civilly and theologically, I remember once being in such a position myself: holding an inner tension that could not quite reconcile my care and concern for my LGBT neighbors and their rights with my world-view and emotional – visceral even – attachment to a particular understanding of marriage. It was this tension that I held for a long time in an attempt to find a middle position in the midst of an evolving conscience – or as my bishop put it to me in conversation this evening, a matter of change in the psyche.

Somehow, this tension about marriage and sexuality hits us at the very core of our self-identity. Maybe this is because all of us grew up and developed as thinking and reflecting individuals in relationship with a particular understanding of marriage – for good, for ill, or for both. To change that particular understanding is, of course, to send some unsettling questions into the deepest places of our souls – those places that formed even before we could speak. And to change those deep places requires of us a true inner leap of faith, of stepping into the unknown. I remember when I did precisely that on matters concerning human sexuality. It took me nearly six months to settle into a new understanding of the world. I was grateful to have a community – at that time a university chaplaincy – to support me during that time.
A San Diego deputie explained the debate this way
Some other significant legislation of the day included a resolution to ask Episcopalians to oppose Defense of Marriage Acts at the state level and work to overturn the federal law and in squeaker, a resolution to petition the government for a single-payer, national, all-inclusive health care plan - our deputation was divided on this one.

There is some disagreement among the deputies on whether the Church should advocate for public policy since it appears to speak for every member of the Church when we know that not every member agrees with the position approved.