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HEARTS OF THE CITY | Navigating the Real World

May 29, 1996

A rotating panel of experts from the worlds of philosophy, psychology and religion offer their perspective on the dilemmas that come with living in Southern California.

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Today's Question: News reports point to the possibility of same-sex marriages becoming legal in some states. We also read of religious rites performed by some clergy to bless the union of committed gay or lesbian couples. Have you been willing to perform religious rites, even if they are not called weddings? If you haven't been willing to do it, do you refer couples to clergy who might perform a religious ritual?

The Very Rev. Lynn Jay

Vicar, St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Santa Clarita; chair of the Los Angeles delegation to the 1997 Episcopal General Convention

Marriage is described by the Book of Common Prayer as a sacrament "in which a woman and a man enter into a lifelong union, make their vows before God and the church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows." I have long believed that our sexuality is not a matter of choice but is determined for us by our genetic makeup. Medical science seems to be coming to that same conclusion. I also believe that love is love. Frankly, I have never been asked to bless a same-sex union. I think I could not perform a same-sex marriage (and the church does forbid it), but I could bless the committed union of a gay or lesbian couple.

Rabbi Janet Marder

Director, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Pacific Southwest Council

I have officiated at religious services for Jewish couples who are lesbian or gay. Having known many such couples who are as devoted to one another as any heterosexual spouses, I have regarded it a privilege to ask God's blessings on their union. I consider myself pro-marriage and pro-family and therefore want to do everything possible to support and encourage stable, loving, long-term monogamous relationships in the gay community. I do so as a matter of conscience, since the Central Conference of American Rabbis [the Reform rabbinic organization] has not yet taken a position on this matter.

Father Thomas P. Rausch

Professor and chair of theological studies, Loyola Marymount University

The American Catholic bishops have stated: "Homosexuals, like everyone else, should not suffer from prejudice against their basic human rights. They have a right to respect, friendship and justice." The Catechism of the Catholic Church moves Catholic teaching a step forward in acknowledging that a homosexual orientation is not a matter of choice, though it continues to teach that homosexual activity is immoral. As an official minister of the Catholic Church, I could not bless a same-sex union, nor do I think I could refer [gay couples to other clergy]. But, like the church, I must struggle to find ways to offer gay people respect, friendship and justice.

Compiled by JOHN DART / Times staff writer

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