Religious leaders ponder civil unions |

Religious leaders ponder civil unions

Abigail Eagye

ASPEN – The idea of homosexual unions, by any name, is a politically charged topic. This month, Colorado voters will have the chance to legalize “domestic partnerships,” which supporters say is not gay marriage, by passing Referendum I.Leaders of several of Aspen’s religious organizations have shared their thoughts on the measure, which, if it passes, will confer rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples who choose to enter the legally binding relationship. None said they tell their congregations how to vote, but they did share some of their personal thoughts and general church doctrine.

Nationally speaking, the topic of same-sex unions is a “hot-button” issue in the Episcopal Church, said Christ Episcopal Church’s Father Bruce McNab.Locally, he says his church has no official policy on the measure, and he intends to vote for it.The Episcopal Church grew out of England’s Anglican Church, and, McNab said, “Most of the Anglican Communion, of which our church is a part, is very conservative.” When it comes to the issue of homosexuality, though, “the North Americans tend to be a little more left of center,” he said.Several years ago, an Episcopal church in New Hampshire elected an openly gay man, Eugene Robinson, as bishop, causing a nationwide rift in the church. Following that ordination, some Episcopal churches in the U.S. chose to realign with the more traditional Anglican Church.

Rabbi Mendel Mintz, of the Jewish Resource Center Chabad of Aspen, said he doesn’t give his congregation political advice, and he declined to comment on his personal views.At the Aspen Jewish Congregation, Shereen Sarick, director of education, said the group’s leaders don’t give political advice either and that she, personally, doesn’t have a problem with same-sex unions.Of the four major sects of Judaism – Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform – she said the latter two have ordained homosexual clergy. Sarick herself has officiated at a gay wedding, and she has a friend who is a lesbian Rabbi.”But each synagogue has its own nuances,” she said. “They come up with their own ways of dealing with it.”When it comes to Colorado’s Referendum I, Sarick “would like to think it’s a nonissue. … [We] don’t even deal with it as a congregation.”

The Rev. Mike O’Brien at St. Mary Catholic Church opposes the referendum because he thinks a broader discussion needs to take place first to determine whether such a statute is redefining marriage.”In my mind, the referendum seems very unclear. There should be more debate and more discussion,” he said. “What is marriage? How is this different from marriage?”If the domestic partnership the referendum defines is not marriage, as proponents say, then perhaps Colorado doesn’t need legal partnerships as much as it needs stronger laws offering the protections outlined in the ballot measure, O’Brien said.Proponents of the measure say legal contracts have loopholes that the law would close, but O’Brien wondered why the state couldn’t seek to close those loopholes some other way before taking the extra step of changing the law.”Why not beef up the … power of attorney,” he asked. “Isn’t that simpler?”O’Brien said decisions such as the Referendum I question need to be based on what is best for society. If conferring legal rights to unmarried couples benefits society, he wondered why the referendum doesn’t cover heterosexual couples that would like a legal union but don’t wish to marry.”If it’s a good idea, why isn’t it good for everybody?” he said.But O’Brien is concerned that if the referendum is driven by a desire to be politically correct, it could have unintended consequences in the long run. He cites the examples of divorce and drugs, both of which became widely accepted in popular culture during different points in American history. But today, he said, we are in a position to see the “devastating” ill effects on society as a whole.”Are we just trying to placate people through political correctness?” he asked. “We need to have honest discussion, not politically charged discussion.”

Jane Huffington maintains the reading room at the Christian Science Society of Aspen. She said the Aspen congregation doesn’t receive instruction on political issues, but, instead, the church encourages all members to study doctrine and make up their own minds.”Nobody says you’re wrong,” she said of moral discussions such as same-sex partnerships. “Everybody is expected to lead a moral, upright life and be respectful of others.”Huffington couldn’t comment on whether the Mother Church, the governing body of Christian Science branch churches, has a specific stance on homosexuality or Colorado’s Referendum I. But she did say church philosophy is one of inclusion.”No one is excluded from God’s care or God’s love. That is one of our tenets,” she said.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism