In June the Church Pension Fund Trustees voted that the Pension Fund would begin providing "parity of benefits for legally-married same-gender spouses," to come into effect July 1, 2011. The CPF sent out a letter to that effect this last week.
The letter speaks specifically of marriage, there is no mention of civil unions. It says, "under the laws of the State of New York, employers subject to New york State law must recognize same-gender marriages that are validly solemnized within or outside the State of New York for the purposes of providing benefits to employees." What then happens to those in a civil union, the purpose of which is to provide all the benefits of marriage?
Well, it will have to be worked out.
As I understand it all clergy are part of the CPF and that means that eligibility is both possible and required. That is, clergy in same-gender marriages must report a change in personal status.
An interesting question has come up concerning marriage and / or civil union where it is possible. Does the Church now expect that gay and lesbian couples be married or have civil unions where such legal possibilities exist? In particular does the Church expect such to be the case when one of the couple is in ordained ministry? Now that gay and lesbian couples can be married in some states, does the Church expect them to be married?
If the Church were to insist that gay or lesbian clergy in relationship either formalize those commitments by legal marriage, where possible, or cease to cohabitate, that would draw these couples into the same set of expectations faced by straight couples.
The CPF's actions are commendable and responsible and done without comment as to the moral value of same-gender marriages. It was a vote taken in reference to the State laws of New York.
The wider question is, now that gay couples can marry, must they if they are part of the church?