Dear Mrs. Davis,
You are probably getting a lot of mail, email, and open letters, so it’s likely you’ll miss this one. But should you happen upon it, I want to say I support your faithful refusal to recognize religious marriage between members of the same sex. Those who know me may be surprised that I, a woman who is married to a woman, would take this stand. But I am also a person of faith—in fact, approved to be an ordained minister and in search of my first call as pastor and teacher, so I know the importance of holding fast to what we believe.
You and I could have a theological discussion on the biblical basis for our beliefs, and it’s likely that neither of us would persuade the other. So I’m not going to make that case.
What I want you to consider, however, is that there is religious marriage, and there is secular marriage. For example, the Roman Catholic Church will not recognize any marriages performed outside the church in a religious capacity. So your marriage is invalid in the Roman Catholic Church, and that probably doesn’t bother you, because you’re not Roman Catholic.
Similarly, many people (including my parents) had secular weddings. Many churches would not recognize this marriage in a religious way, though some do.
And my wife and I, before marriage equality came to Illinois, had a Holy Union in a church –a marriage that was recognized only by the church, and not by the state. We later had a legal wedding in Iowa.
What I’m hoping you will understand is that you are not being asked to recognize these marriages in any religious way. You can still say, “My faith says you’re not married.”
The courts are not asking you to change your beliefs about whether God recognizes a particular marriage, or that your church or you yourself recognize the spiritual, religious aspect of any particular marriage.
What you are being asked to do, however, is to certify that there is no legal barrier to these couples having a civil marriage. I am hopeful that you can see the difference between these, and grant licenses so that these couples’ marriages will be recognized by the state.
May you be blessed with peace,
United Church of Christ
Cindi Knox holds a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary and is in search of her first call as pastor and teacher in the United Church of Christ. In addition to writing for New Sacred, she also writes for RevGalBlogPals, does pulpit supply, and volunteers with a queer youth drop-in. She lives in Joliet with her spouse of over 25 years, Mary. Find her at http://facebook.com/cindik.online