CAMBRIDGE, MA: Two Episcopal Lesbian Leaders Marry in Boston Cathedral
Massachusetts Bishop Tom Shaw officiates at first lesbian marriage
By David W. Virtue
January 3, 2010
In an act that will further alienate The Episcopal Church from the Global South and raise tensions for the Archbishop of Canterbury at the upcoming Primates meeting in Dublin, two top Episcopal leaders were married at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston on Saturday.
The lesbian service "united" Episcopal Divinity School dean and president, the Very Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale and Mally Lloyd, Canon to the Ordinary. It was the first lesbian marriage solemnized by Thomas Shaw SSJE, Bishop Diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
"God always rejoices when two people who love each other make a life-long commitment in marriage to go deeper into the heart of God through each other. It's a profound pleasure for me to celebrate with God and my friends, the marriage of Katherine and Mally," said Shaw. Some 400 guests attended the marriage.
Though the Episcopal Church's canons and formularies still state that marriage is between a man and a woman, the church at its General Convention in July of 2009 decided to allow "bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-gender marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this church."
In November 2009, Shaw announced his decision to allow clergy in the Diocese of Massachusetts to solemnize all marriages--a long wait for many given that same-gender marriage was legalized in Massachusetts more than five years earlier.
Ragsdale, 52, became dean of the historic Episcopal Divinity School in October 2009. She is the first woman to hold that position.
Same-sex marriage in the state of Massachusetts was permitted on May 17, 2004, as a result of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that it was unconstitutional under the Massachusetts constitution to allow only heterosexual couples to marry.
At that time, Massachusetts became the sixth jurisdiction in the world (after the Netherlands, Belgium, Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec) to legalize same-sex marriage. It was the first U.S. state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Although the U.S. District Court in Boston ruled in two related cases on July 8, 2010, that the provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act barring federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples are unconstitutional, the final judgment is stayed pending the federal government's appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. An appeal was filed on October 12, 2010, by the U.S. Justice Department. Consequently, same-sex couples in Massachusetts are not eligible to receive federal recognition of their marriages, pending the outcome of the appeals process.
The dean is also known for her radical view on abortion. In April 2009, the then new Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, gave a sermon describing abortions as a "blessing" for the women who undergo them. She also said that people who run abortion clinics are "heroes" and even "saints".
Speaking in Birmingham, Alabama, she said that "when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion - there is not a tragedy in sight - only blessing."
According to a diocesan press release, this is a second marriage for Canon Lloyd. She was married to a man in her first marriage. It is the first for Dean Ragsdale, 52. "It's astonishing how the world is changing," Dean Ragsdale said, "when I grew up, I never believed I would be able to have someone special in my life and now to have almost 400 people show up to support us at our marriage ceremony is wonderful."
Canon Lloyd commented: "We have a lot in common, we each have a spiritual life that the other understands and respects and we also understand the amount of travelling and often late hours that our work requires. Somehow too when you are in your fifties, certain things just aren't as big a problem as they seemed in your twenties."
Perhaps. However this action will only confirm in the minds of orthodox Anglicans around the world that the Episcopal Church has walked apart, snubbing its nose at Lambeth resolution 1:10, the Windsor Report and a Covenant designed to hold the Anglican Communion together.
It will also mean the Archbishop of Canterbury will not be permitted to yawn if and when the issue is raised at the Primates' meeting. It also further confirms why some eleven orthodox primates will not be attending the Dublin meeting called by Dr. Williams.
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