Same-sex couples deserve the same marriage rights granted opposite-sex couples this is the prevailing sentiment of the majorities of several national legislatures. Within the course of a single month, the legislatures of Uruguay, France, and New Zealand have all passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, and the U.S. state of Rhode Island seems to be following suit. It is a good sign not only for loving same-sex couples, but also for people who decide to become ordained ministers in order to marry them.
The first of April's "gay marriage votes" was held in Uruguay. In that country's congress, the senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage by a wide margin, and a week later, on 10 April, the lower house also approved the bill in a 71 to 92 vote. The bill's passage makes Uruguay the second country in Latin America to legalize the practice, after Argentina. Elsewhere in Latin America, several Brazilian states allow the practice, as well as Mexico City and Quintana Roo in Mexico. (In Mexico only civil marriages are recognized as legal, hence it makes no difference whether a wedding minister marries a same-sex couple or an opposite-sex couple.)
Uruguay was not the only country in the southern hemisphere to validate marriage equality. New Zealand's Parliament also passed a bill legalizing the practice, in a 77 to 44 vote; the law is expected to take effect in August after royal assent is given by the governor-general. Louisa Wall, the lesbian MP who sponsored the bill, said she was "very proud to be a member of a Parliament that has voted overwhelmingly to give New Zealanders, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender, the right to marry", echoing some of the same sentiments as Universal Life Church ministers. It was also a joyous occasion in New Zealand: after the bill's passage, lawmakers broke out in a Maore love song called "Pokarekare Ana".
Vive la RÃ©volution
It is not the same story in France, where the idea remains highly controversial. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of them Roman Catholics from the French countryside, have converged on the streets of Paris in recent weeks to protest a proposed marriage equality bill, and show their support for Biblical principles by violently beating gay people. Despite the furor, the legislation was approved by the French Parliament's lower house, the National Assembly, in a vote of 331 to 225. It is expected to be approved by the Constitutional Council and signed into law by President
FranÃ§ois Hollande by the summer wedding season. The new law makes France the most populous country in the world to allow same-sex marriage.
Yet the spring-time burst in same-sex marriage bills does not end with France. The tiny U.S. state of Rhode Island is poised to follow in the footstep of its New England neighbors and become the tenth U.S. state to enact marriage equality. Three months after gay marriage legislation was approve by the Rhode Island House of Representatives, it was also approved by the state's Senate in a 26 to 12 vote. Soon, ministers who get ordained online will be able to marry same-sex couples in the Ocean State, too.
The recent spate of successful marriage equality bills around the world should encourage us as
Universal Life Church ministers. Not only are more people acknowledging the basic rights of same-sex couples, but they are opening doors for people who become ordained ministers online to exercise their beliefs by officiating same-sex weddings. With luck, the pace of change will only grow faster.