Can we have a same-sex marriage in St Mary’s Cathedral?
The law in Scotland currently does not allow same-sex couples access to Marriage though it will soon. The law is due to change on 16 December 2014 and this will allow same-sex couples to register their intent to marry. The first legal weddings for same-sex couples in Scotland will be on 31 December 2014. The law currently allows same-sex couples to enter into a Civil Partnership which is similar to marriage but is a different institution. Clergy and laity in this congregation have been active in trying to get the law changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. Even when marriage is open to same-sex couples in Scotland it will not be possible for a same-sex couple to contract the legal part of their marriage in St Mary’s unless our denomination as a whole asks for permission to do this. Both clergy and laity in the congregation are working towards making this possible. For the time being, the legal parts of the celebrations need to happen elsewhere but the religious parts can happen in church.
So can we have our Civil Partnership or our Marriage blessed in St Mary’s?
Yes – there are circumstances in which clergy in the Scottish Episcopal Church can bless a same-sex couple at the time of them registering a Civil Partnership or after entering into marriage. The clergy, the Vestry (the elected committee which runs St Mary’s), the musicians and the staff are all committed to treating same-sex couples in the same ways in which opposite-sex couples are treated.
So can we register our Civil Partnership in St Mary’s?
Once again – the law in Scotland prevents this unless the whole denomination wants it to happen. It is possible to register a Civil Partnership elsewhere (for example at the local Register Office) and then come to St Mary’s for a celebration service of blessing.
Can we exchange rings in church?
Yes – of course.
Can we make vows to one another in church?
Yes – of course.
Bells? Choir? Organ? Photographs?
Yes – of course, on the same terms as for any other wedding.
What order of service can we use?
The Scottish Episcopal Church (which St Mary’s belongs to) does not have an order of service for blessing same-sex couples. A number of resources are available both from Scotland and elsewhere in the world and an appropriate form of words can be devised as part of the pastoral relationship between the couple and the priest.
How long have you been doing this kind of thing?
The first public same-sex blessing that we know about in St Mary’s was conducted in 2008. However, the clergy here have been supportive of gay couples for decades and it would be surprising if a blessing of some kind or another had not been offered before then.
What does the rest of the church think about same-sex blessings?
The Christian Churches have divided views about same-sex blessings as they do about lots of things.
Does the Bishop/the congregation/the General Synod know?
We don’t do things in secret and the debate about same-sex blessings is a lively one in Scotland. The experience of St Mary’s Cathedral and those seeking blessings here is a part of that on-going conversation. The congregation here aspires to be a welcoming one and it doesn’t really matter whether you are straight or gay in this place. The members of the clergy who work at St Mary’s include both men and women and both gay and straight people. The current Provost regularly speaks out about LGBT inequality and has been a speaker at Pride Scotia.
Doesn’t the Bible have bad things to say about gay couples?
The Bible has a lot to say about a lot of things and the clergy and others in the congregation will be happy to chat more about how we understand the Bible in relation to same-sex couples. There is an LGBT network within the congregation.
It is a gay church then?
St Mary’s is a church working to be open, inclusive and welcoming. We don’t think that God’s love is limited – straight people are loved by God just as much as gay and lesbian people are loved by God.
Who do I talk to about this?
Speak to a member of the clergy whom you can contact via Jo Russell in the Cathedral Office.