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Memorial Church Should Offer Same-Sex Commitment Ceremonies



We read the article by Molly Hennessy-Fiske about same-sex commitment ceremonies with much interest and appreciation. As continuing members of the Harvard community since 1991, we had wondered if Rev. Peter Gomes and Memorial Church had clarified the policy on the use of the church by same-sex couples for religious commitment ceremonies.

We have sent you a copy of the letter that we mailed to Rev. Gomes and his reply. We had initially made the request verbally of his office. The response involved issues of civil ceremonies and state law as being the reason for not allowing same-sex ceremonies in Memorial Church. We then decided to formalize and broaden our search by asking several churches in the Harvard area if we could use their chapels, sending the requests by certified mail.

Our request was for the use of the church for a same-sex blessing or union ceremony. We specifically did not request a "marriage" or "wedding." We knew that we were not allowed the legal right to be married. Our goal was simply to find a suitable religious location to commemorate our relationship. Rev. Gomes' reply specifically denied the use of Memorial Church for "blessings of same-sex unions," appearing to understand that we were not asking for a wedding or marriage.

In response to the other requests we made, Rev. Robert Tobin of the Christ Church, Ms. Laurie Auffant of Old Cambridge Baptist Church and Rev. Thomas Mikelson of the First Parish and First Church graciously offered the use of their churches. Along with the refusal of Rev. Gomes was that of the Episcopal Divinity School, which stated that it had not developed a policy on same-sex union ceremonies and therefore was not allowing any couples, regardless of the gender of the participants, from outside of the Divinity School to use the chapel.

To clarify a small point in the article, we were both Clinical Fellows on the faculty at Harvard Medical School at the time we requested the use of Memorial Church. The article stated that we were medical students when actually we were completing our residencies at Harvard-affiliated hospitals.

Rev. Gomes has done important work on behalf of the gay and lesbian community over the years and we believe that, with his leadership, the issue of the use of Memorial Church for same-sex union ceremonies will be quickly resolved. We look forward to the Board of Ministry addressing this issue at its February meeting. --Phillip Hernandez, M.D.,   clinical instructor in psychiatry,   Harvard Medical School;   James M. Slayton, M.D.,   Harvard Business School, Class of 1997

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