How the Steamroller Will Hit the Church
There have been a lot of suggestions going around that in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage nationally, the Catholic Church in the US should announce that priests will no longer perform civil marriages.In order to be treated as married under the law in the United States, you need to file a witnessed marriage license in your state. The way it worked for us in California was: you go down to your city hall or other government building to pick the license up. The city clerk fills it out but then leaves the final signatures blank. You take the form with you and give it to the priest who is performing your marriage. After the ceremony, the priest signs the form, asserting that he has performed a marriage ceremony for you. It’s then signed by husband, wife, and two witnesses and filed with the state. At that point, the man and woman are considered married in the eyes of the law. Obviously, it’s not just priests that can process a marriage license for the state. Any kind of religious minister (Christian or non) can, as can “non denominational” ministers of their own religion. You can also have a strictly civil ceremony performed by a city official.
The theory among some Catholic circles seems to be that since the priest is performing a civil marriage by signing the marriage license, and since same sex couples can now get civilly married, if priests continue to sign marriage licenses they will set themselves up to be forced to perform same sex marriages.Being penalized for not performing same sex marriages is not the first thing that Catholic organizations need to worry about in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. The first step will be an uptick in suits against Catholic organizations demanding equal treatment of civilly married same sex couples. We’ve already seen this go down with Catholic-run adoption organizations being shut down in places like Massachusetts and Illinois for not placing children with same sex couples. That will increase. A lot. Expect Catholic organizations to be forced pretty quickly to provide spousal benefits to same sex partners, and expect a lot of Catholic charities that get government funds to help with their work to lose their funding in retaliation for not recognizing same sex marriage.
But I do think that there will come a point, though perhaps not for ten years or so, when penalties start to be imposed on churches that do not endorse same sex marriage. And I don’t think that refusing to sign civil marriage certificates will help one bit.
Read more: the-american-catholic.com