Gay Couple Will Receiving Blessing in Lutheran College’s Chapel

Augustana College is a private school (in Rock Island, Illinois) affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. That’s a relatively liberal church to be affiliated with, but what just happened there is still a news story because you wouldn’t expect it from a church-affiliated-anything: Two gay students were given permission to have a commitment ceremony in the school’s chapel:

Eric Palmer (left) and Ethan Tarvin (Anthony Souffle – Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Tribune‘s Bonnie Miller Rubin has the story (if it’s behind a paywall, try this link instead):

“I didn’t have to wrestle with this… It was a matter of integrity,” said [Augustana] President Steve Bahls, citing the school’s anti-discrimination policy. “If you say you don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation but you can’t use our chapel, then you’re a hypocrite.”

For [Eric] Palmer and [Ethan] Tarvin, their choice of venue for a fall 2013 wedding wasn’t about activism, but deep ties to the campus where many life-changing experiences occurred.

“Augustana is just a very sentimental place for us,” said Palmer, who met Tarvin in 2011, when he registered him to vote. The two hit it off and got engaged last April Fools’ Day.

Said Tarvin: “I met Eric on campus, proposed on campus and it seemed only logical to have the ceremony in the chapel… It really represents my personal, professional and religious life.”

Even though the story went public in November, Bahls says the firestorm he was expecting never came.

“That was probably the biggest surprise is how this has been overwhelmingly accepted — not unanimously, but for every negative comment, I received a dozen that were positive,” said Bahls, who called each critic to discuss his verdict.

It’s a smart move for the college, which would’ve no doubt faced student retaliation if the President denied the couple the space.

Your move now, Wheaton College.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • ortcutt

    This is a blessing ceremony not “getting married”. Getting married is a legal procedure and it can’t happen unless that state allows it. Hopefully, the Illinois legislature will adopt marriage equality this year so that Palmer and Talvin can actually get married in the chapel.

  • pagansister

    Excellent! Am glad the president of the college actually follows the anti-discrimination policy. Well done. An example of what Christianity claims to stand for.

  • Hemant Mehta

    Gah, you’re right. Not sure how I screwed that up, but it’s fixed now.

  • Phil Cleaver

    Personally, I am generally against letting 21 year olds get married… just sayin’.

  • pagansister

    I’ve been married 48 years—-we were both turning 20 within the month after our marriage—it can work—-and no, I wasn’t pregnant. That was 3 years after and we had both graduated college.

  • pagansister

    Still great, even though I guess they aren’t legal until Illinois does it’s thing.

  • David Starner

    Getting married is not solely a legal procedure; a marriage is a social construct. I see no reason why two people getting married should not be considered as such just because the law won’t sign off on it.

    Formally speaking, the marriage ceremony are not uncommonly separate from the legal aspect. People will get legally married in court and then have a wedding some time later when it’s convenient for the family. Or vice versa; have a wedding, come back from the honeymoon and then get married. In this case, they may run off to Ohio or Massachusetts before or after the wedding proper and get married.

  • ortcutt

    As any competent lawyer would tell you, marriage is a legal status. You might not accept that, but that doesn’t change the fact. People can have any number of ceremonies that are separate from the legal formation of a marriage. I had a dinner after my wedding. There’s no problem with that, but that’s not “getting married”.

  • David Starner

    You ask a lawyer a legal question and get a legal answer. What a surprise. Being male or female is also a legal status; that does not make the law the final answer on those questions, either.

  • starskeptic

    The point was the word “generally”….

  • Pseudonym

    Whether or not you would expect it from “a church-affiliated anything” depends, of course, on the church.

    Congratulations to Ethan and Eric! I hope they have a great day.

    I expect to see this story in the next “What has religion done for us this month?” video.

  • pagansister

    Good point,starskeptic.

  • David Starner

    The word “letting” was more concerning to me. If you said they shouldn’t, that’s one thing, but you’re saying that generally someone should interfere with the rights of adults to get married.

  • starskeptic

    You’re right – frankly, I didn’t even notice the word…

  • Bethlehem Eisenhour

    church of the devil…..

  • Phil Cleaver

    The “generally” was the intention, the “letting” was just rhetorical.

    My wife and I got married after knowing each pther for six months and I’m generally against that as well ;)