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As Florida Marries, Catholic Archbishop Threatens 'Discipline'

As Florida Marries, Catholic Archbishop Threatens 'Discipline'


Some religious leaders in Florida aren't feeling sunny about marriage equality, including the Catholic archbishop of Miami, who said staff could be dismissed for supporting the cause.

Wedding bells are ringing for same-sex couples in the Sunshine State, but some religious leaders and congregations have a less than sunny perspective on marriage equality -- Miami Roman Catholic archbishop Thomas Wenski in particular.

Wenski issued a letter, addressed to employees of the Archdiocese of Miami, criticizing the courts for imposing "the redefinition of marriage" and calling on employees to "publicly represent the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese in everything you do and say." The letter includes an excerpt from the archdiocese employee handbook, which suggests "discretion when posting on social media sites," lest "online activity indicative of prohibitive behaviors" lead to reprimand or dismissal. So archdiocese workers may be keeping their support for marriage equality or even their own marriages secret -- or facing the threat of censure or firing. There have been several cases of employees of Catholic institutions around the nation being fired for marrying a same-sex partner.

Of course, the Catholic Church isn't the only source of religiously based opposition to marriage for same-sex couples.

"What we've seen today is a judge who has thrown out the constitutionally protected rights of all voters," the Christian Family Coalition's Anthony Verdugo told NBC's Miami affiliate. (Watch the segment below). Verdugo's remarks referenced the Florida constitution's ban on same-sex marriage. The ban was passed by voters in 2008, but several courts have found it violates the U.S. Constitution, resulting in a suspension of the ban this week, although the cases remain on appeal.

But while same-sex couples can now legally wed in Florida, those doing so may have limited options if they want to wed at a place of worship, the Orlando Sentinel notes.

"For most of Central Florida's churches and synagogues, nothing changed this week with the legalization of gay marriage. Among the mainstream denominations and the largest nondenominational churches, there will be no same-sex marriages performed," the Sentinel reports.

Notwithstanding widespread rejection of same-sex marriage rites by faith groups, the story also quoted some LGBT-affirming clergy members ready to bless such unions. Opponents of equal marriage rights have long raised the specter of clergy members being forced to officiate for same-sex wedding ceremonies. However, religious institutions are not compelled to offer such services to same-sex couples.

The owners of an Idaho wedding chapel made headlines last year, with many right-wing outlets spreading claims that they were facing fines or jail time if they didn't welcome same-sex couples. However, officials of the city where the chapel is located have clearly said they are not threatening any action against the chapel owners because there is a religious exemption to the city's antidiscrimination ordinance.

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