The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature on this blog that highlights Catholic parishes and faith communities that support and affirm LGBT people.
Marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples became the law of the land in June 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared freedom to choose who to marry is a constitutional right. As a result, now all 50 states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses for civil weddings to same-gender couples.
This new legal and political reality does not apply to churches and other houses of worship. Each religious faith is still able to decide for itself who is eligible to marry whom, according to their own beliefs and teachings. So, while Catholic lesbian and gay people may decide to marry civilly, under current church policy, they will not be able to marry in a church ceremony.
As a result of the new civil framework for marriage, more and more such couples, and families headed by such couples, are becoming more visible in local communities, including faith communities and institutions. Catholic lesbian and gay couples and their children are starting to be a familiar sight in parishes and schools.
Are Catholics prepared to welcome such couples and families into their parishes, schools, and other religiously sponsored programs? The following list of suggestions is intended to help such institutions and individuals offer a welcome, motivated by sincere Christian hospitality, to these couples and families so that they can participate fully in church life.
Welcoming Lesbian and Gay Couples and Families
- Make it known that all children will be baptized, not only those of heterosexually married couples.
- Include lesbian and gay couples in all aspects of parish life: prayer and liturgy, educational programs, social events, and service opportunities.
- Invite gay and lesbian couples to participate in marriage preparation and enhancement programs.
- Open bereavement support groups to lesbian and gay people whose spouses have died.
- Acknowledge and celebrate the love and commitment of lesbian and gay couples in the same ways that heterosexual couples are affirmed.
- Educate one another about sexual orientation and the reality of lesbian and gay people.
- Institute a non-discrimination policy for sexual orientation, gender identity, marital and relational status.
- Welcome families headed by lesbian and gay couples to all family events that the parish sponsors.
- Allow local Scouting programs to accept lesbian and gay mothers and fathers to be Scout leaders.
- Make sure that everyone knows that the children of lesbian and gay couples are welcome in educational programs, parish schools, and all appropriate sacramental preparation programs.
- Include discussion of lesbian and gay people in all parish programs concerned with diversity, multiculturalism, social justice, sexuality, and faith sharing.
- Listen to, converse with, and be present to parishioners or community members who may disagree about welcoming lesbian and gay people and families.
What are your suggestions for how Catholic parishes and other institutions affirm civilly married lesbian and gay couples and their families? Offer your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 7, 2016