Originally published on Advocate.com October 21 2003 12:00 AM ET
About a dozen clergy members in Connecticut and Massachusetts announced Friday that they will refuse to sign marriage licenses for heterosexual couples until unions between same-sex couples are legally recognized. The Reverend Kathleen McTigue, senior minister at the Unitarian Society of New Haven, located in Hamden, Conn., helped to spearhead the effort. McTigue, who performs marriage ceremonies for both straight and gay couples, said it has long troubled her that she can sign a marriage license for one couple but not for the other. "I feel like, in the 17 years of my ministry when I have officiated for marriages, I'm participating in a bias, an inequity that is built into the legal system," McTigue said. "The only way I know to stop participating in the bias is to stop participating in the legal dimension of it."
The clergy members involved in the protest include Unitarian Universalists, a Presbyterian minister, a Jewish rabbi, and ministers from the United Church of Christ. A special vespers service was held Friday night in Hamden to recognize same-sex relationships and announce the group's decision to refuse to sign marriage licenses. McTigue said they will still officiate at wedding ceremonies for heterosexual couples but will leave the signing of the legal document to a justice of the peace. "This is a solution to a dilemma that has disturbed me the whole time I've been an ordained minister," she said.
Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said he believes that only a small minority of churches in Connecticut are supportive of marriage members of the same sex. He said the overwhelming number of churches believe marriage should exist only between a man and a woman. "It is oftentimes overlooked how small it is," Brown said of the support for same-sex marriage. Earlier this month a Quinnipiac University Poll found that 44% of Connecticut residents support marriage for same-sex couples while 50% said they opposed it. Support for civil unions was stronger. About 51% supported the concept, while 43% did not.
The issue is expected to come up when the Connecticut legislature returns to the state capitol for its regular session in February. By that time the Massachusetts supreme judicial court is expected to have ruled on a lawsuit seeking legal status for same-sex marriages. Brown said his group has collected more than 80,000 signatures from Connecticut residents who want the state legislature to pass a so-called Defense of Marriage Act that would spell out that marriage is recognized only between a man and woman. Meanwhile, supporters of changing the state's marriage laws or introducing a civil union system, similar to the one in place in Vermont, said they will push for legislation next year as well. Last session marked the third year in a row proponents have fought to open the marriage laws. Last year legislators enacted a measure allowing any person to legally designate another to make decisions for them, such as health care choices and organ donation.