The Church Pension Fund and Same Gender Spouses

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?


  1. That is what +Michael expects in Oregon

  2. This is something I've addressed over at Friends of Jake, and Gay Married Californian.

    Demanding that LGBT couples marry or "union" often has negative consequences (based largely on DOMA), including increased tax liability,increased expenses, and my personal favorite, the ever-present threat that you need to file a gift-tax statement for the "rent" your same-sex spouse doesn't pay you for the house you own in your name and live in together....yes, that really can happen.

    ON THE OTHER HAND: if we want equality, we should embrace it, even if it is not quite complete. Basically, I am saying that yes, we should be willing to sacrifice if necessary to pave the way. It matter that much.

    Therefore, if you can "union" or marry, you should. And if you can "union" OR marry, you should marry. Regardless. It should absolutely be expected. It may not be "fair" financially, but if we want to live equally, we have to be willing to embrace not just the rights, but the responsibilities.

    If it's expected for straights it should be expected for gays.

  3. I think that's a reasonable expectation when an Episcopal clergyperson is involved.

    The difficulty w/ CUs (among others!), is that some couples may decide they don't want to get a CU (or DP) pending the adoption of marriage equality in their state: "I wanna Go Whole Hog, or not at all." That seems understandable.

    How then would we regularize the couples (inc. Episcopal clergy) where neither marriage, CU/DP is expected for some time (pending some kind of Federal action)? Are same-sex couples just to be invisible to TEC in those states? [I wouldn't think we would require them to marry in another state---knowing that marriage (legally) means less-than-zilch where they live---would we?]

    Feh. Just one more reason to get FEDERALLY-BACKED marriage equality ASAP!

  4. Unfortunately, some corporations in New York are using the new marriage law as an excuse to cut off benefits for all domestic partnerships, including those for heterosexual couples. It looks like we may see the rise of corporate shotgun marriages, any two people get married just to retain benefits (like health insurance). I don't blame the new law, I blame the evil scoundrels who own and run the economy these days.

    I also wonder what a clergy couple is supposed to do in a gay-hostile state with an amendment to the state constitution forbidding gay marriage, and in many cases, banning anything like civil unions as well? I'm sure there are such couples. Not everyone wants to move to New York or San Francisco. There are a lot of these legally gay-hostile states in the South and in the Midwest. Are such couples out of luck until DOMA is repealed? (not likely soon in Washington DC where the far right does the scalp dance while Dems cave at the first sign of trouble).

    I agree that that what's needed is federal legislation on both marriage and civil rights, but I may be in my dotage before that ever happens. I thank God that I live in decadent old New York where I and my partner of many years can now enjoy full civil and marriage rights.

  5. I would hope so. And I am glad the CPF has already done this, although I hope the benefits are also retroactive to the date when a license/union has been obtained, and not to the date of this finding by the CPF.

    IT --as if substantial sacrifices of inequality haven't already been made.... sigh...

    Counterlight, what you describe as the behavior of the corporations makes me want to vomit....

  6. I think that until the situation is a level playing field for everyone in your entire nation, that requirements should be held off. If a couple determines that marriage at the present moment, even though it is legal in their state, would create a hardship for them because it is not yet legal federally, it should be left to them to make the personal descision that best fits them.

    At the same time, businesses and organizations should be extending the benefits available to as many as possible.

  7. I know that in Massachusetts, Tom Shaw expects gay, partnered clergy to be married, at least if they are living in a rectory.

    I'm not sure the CPF change goes far enough. It should include civil unions (which are essentially equivalent to marriage).

    In Montreal, we have one priest joined to his partner in a UK civil union. Canadian law recognizes that as the equivalent of marriage. What would their status be, say, in New York? and under CPF?

  8. Historically in the States, marriage laws were left to the individual states, and other states automatically recognized as legal and legitimate a couple's marriage when made in another state.
    This situation changed with the Defense of Marriage Act back in the 1990s, a punitive measure intended to stop the spread of same sex marriage from state to state. Now, no state is obliged to recognize any marriage, especially a same sex marriage.
    As a result, legally married couples in Massachusetts are not legally married in Oklahoma. Legally married same sex couples to have any of the federal protections, especially in matters of tax liability, as heterosexual couples. (The town of Cambridge, MA is the only town to pay a special bonus to same sex married partners to make up for the federal tax penalty).
    On top of all of that, gays and lesbians, couples or single, have no legal protection at all on the federal level. There is no federal legislation that says that lgbts are indeed covered by the 14th Amendment, that they are protected in matters of employment, housing, and services. What laws exist are a patchwork of state and local laws frequently vulnerable to repeal.

  9. +Provenzano in LI has given a time limit when an LGBT clergy person living in the rectory with a partner must be married.

    My tendency is to agree with these bishops, except the playing field is far from being level, as IT points out

    My understanding is that, if a clergy person is married in a state where there is marriage equality but retires from a state where s/he has canonical residence, that clergy person is still considered legally married by CPF, even though that state, diocese and bishop do not consider it marriage and the church there will not bless the covenant.

    I'm glad the CPF is doing this - marriage is marriage - but this is part of the 'micro oppression' with which LGBT people live.

    I'm curious as to whether this affects only clergy or if this is for lay pensions as well.

  10. Counterlight, once the dust clears (and I agree that under current fluid status n changes should be made),

    I think the question is whether civil unions/dps are available to straights. If they are, what is their purpose? marriage lite? I don't think that LGBT people should have a "less than" back door out of marriage that is not present for straights.

    And then the question is, what is the purpose of providing benefits to an employee's family? And should that be limited to spousal sorts of relationships, or should we expect our employers to pay for mothers, siblings, etc?

    @Jim, civil unions vary widely state to state and do not have all the same rights as marriage in all states.

    In many states the Canadian civil union OR marriage would not be recognized if between a same sex couple. Right now the Federal Government would not reognize it either.

  11. Question, as we enter the brave new world.

    Does being 'gay' put one in a special category pre-marriage? Bishop Chane seems to think so. You don't need to get married (if the civil option exists). +LI seems to say otherwise.

    Re: CPF benefits. If a clergy-person 'marries' his partner in a state where that is possible, and then moves to a state where it is not, what happens? What does CPF do?

    Should non-Gay couples insist on equal rights with Gay couples, re: not marrying?


  12. Three days of silence is a bit unusual for this blog site.



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