I'm pleased to share with you an extended excerpt of a wonderful new essay by my friend, the Rev. Jerry Maneker. It's called "On Officiating A Same-Sex Marriage Ceremony". When Jerry informed me via email that he'd married a Lesbian couple, I urged him to share the experience with his readers. The resulting post, which appears at his Christian LGBT Rights blog, is every bit as compelling as I'd hoped it would be:
I was asked to officiate at a woman's marriage to her partner of ten years. Her mother and stepfather were there, as was her great aunt. Her partner didn't have any family there, which might have been due to their geographical distance from California. In any case, there were about fifteen people in attendance, and the ceremony took place in the backyard (by the gazebo) of a rest home in which her great aunt, about 90 years old, lives.
The couple exchanged rings and, as part of their vows, together read their Ketubah, a Jewish document that in this case spelled out their love and commitment to each other, as well as their commitment to peace and love in their home for themselves and for anyone who would visit them. It was a beautiful ceremony, and lasted about 15 minutes. I was honored that I was asked to do the ceremony, and now their marriage is legal in California. The only gift they asked of those who were invited was for the attendees to vote NO on Proposition 8, which I have no doubt that all in attendance will do.
Both the mother and stepfather of one of the women were so happy for the couple, and for being able to witness the legal marriage between these two devoted people! It was so beautiful to see the radiance on their faces, as well as the radiance and profound happiness on the faces of the two women whose marriage all of us were privileged to witness. This marriage, along with all other same-sex marriages, highlights the downright foolishness and evil that would allow a Britney-Spears-fifty-five-hour marriage to have more dignity, more credibility, and legal protections than the marriage of this (couple) and all same-sex couples! And, of course, there are many other short-term marriages among heterosexual couples of which nothing is heard from the arrogant arbiters of "morality", and those who foolishly or cynically claim to be defending "traditional marriage", when they (try) to rescind and/or prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage!
The "religious" homophobes take pains to say that they "love" Gay people, and one at a "Yes on 8" rally even had the temerity to tell me that his best friend was a Lesbian who had helped him when his home was destroyed by a fire not too long ago, who often went fishing with him, and had him over to her home on many occasions. Yet, he was vociferously and publicly fighting (for) California's Proposition 8 that seeks to strip away the right to marriage of same-sex couples, and he apparently sees no contradiction between his profession of "friendship" toward this woman on the one hand, and his mean-spirited and hateful stance toward (her) on the other; (he felt) free to carry signs and (spew) rhetoric designed to prevent her and all committed same-sex couples from living fulfilling lives under the protection of law . . .
What can possibly threaten the institution of marriage when a loving same-sex couple such as the one at whose (wedding) I was privileged to officiate is married? Are heterosexuals going to divorce their spouses so that they can . . . marry a person of the same sex? Is a child better off being raised by a single parent than by two loving parents of the same sex? How is any same-sex marriage going to in any way adversely affect someone's heterosexual marriage???!! Clearly, the answers to these questions are patently obvious, save to those who lack sufficient intelligence . . .
During the ceremony in which I officiated, both women had a combination of smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. Indeed, during a part when I spoke at the ceremony, even I choked up! This marriage probably meant as much to me as it did to the other witnesses to this happy event! In my small way, I was able to help make two wonderful people happy; publicly affirm their dignity; publicly affirm that their love and marriage were every bit as valid as (that) of any loving heterosexual couple, (and) take part in legalizing their union as spouses for life, (a union) that would be validated by the force of law. Moreover, it also helped potentiate my fervent desire that all same-sex couples . . . one day (obtain) all of the civil and sacramental rights that are currently enjoyed by heterosexual people and couples. It is so important for same-sex marriage to be instituted in every state of the union, and recognized by both civil and religious authorities as being legal and binding; its spouses (are) deserving of all of the . . . credibility of heterosexual marriage!
If there had been music at their reception, we all would have danced! If any decent person had been fortunate (enough) to witness and participate in this happy and dignified occasion, and (had) seen the looks of happiness on the faces of both women, and seen the joy and reverence with which the couple and participants saw this marriage, he or she would want same-sex marriages to be legal . . . for far too long . . . secular and religious society (has) horribly abused LGBT people, as well as the love that same-sex couples have enjoyed for millenia!
Just before Jerry told me about this ceremony, I'd purchased a used copy of By Myself, the autobiography of actress Lauren Bacall. I'd been reading the section where Ms. Bacall describes her May 1945 wedding to screen legend Humphrey Bogart. It had also been an outdoor affair with family members in attendance. Her vivid description of the happy event made me better understand how that Lesbian couple must've felt when Jerry officially pronounced them partners for life. She wrote:
The only shadow cast that day was from the trees. It was clear blue sky all the way, as I was sure our life would be. I couldn't forget Bogie's tears. Every time I looked at him, I welled up. How had I lived before him? I couldn't remember my life before him . . . it seemed that everything that had ever happened to me had led to this day with him. I had no doubt that this happiness would last forever. I could not imagine living a minute without him. From now on, I would not have to; we were together now, like the man said: "Til death do you part."
Fifty years after the wedding happened, Lauren Bacall's emotions remained as strong as they'd been on that sunny morning. What a powerful impression that ritual must've left on her! Who could doubt that the hearts of those betrothed ladies overflowed with the same joyful sentiment? And how could anyone be so cruel as to take away their joy? Yet thousands of "Bible-believing" Californians plan to do just that when they vote to enact the Proposition 8 ballot measure on 4 November 2008.
I'll never understand what makes millions of Straight American voters believe they have the right to place restrictions on the intimate relationships of tax-paying, self-supporting, Gay American adults! Why do they feel justified in imposing their heterosexist worldview on us? What makes them want to punish us for not being heterosexual? Does it really offend them so much, that we don't conduct our love lives exactly the same way that they do?
I suppose their attitude must be an expression of human nature's dark side, a need to feel superior to persons unlike yourself! Maybe it's also, in some cases, a way of masking suppressed homoerotic impulses, of making sure something that feels psychologically threatening is never given legitimacy. Whatever it is, it strikes me as appallingly arrogant and petty!
It strikes me as patently unconstitutional, too. The electoral process should never be used by one group of Americans to deny Civil Rights to a another group! I thought we'd learned that lesson during the 1960s. Obviously, I was wrong!
If "marriage protection" amendments voted into State constitutions fail to meet democratic standards (and they unquestionably do), they fail the Christian values test even more miserably! Christianity is a giving religion; we faithful are not about depriving non-Christians of anything! Despite what you may hear from Fundamentalist radio and televangelists and self-hating, Gay Right Wing Christian wannabes like David Benkof, we aren't about imposing our beliefs on others, either. Instead, we seek to convert non-believers with the example of our own lives, which we (hopefully) live after the shining example of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
If you can even imagine the Savior preaching suppression of same-gender relationships, then you haven't read the Gospels very closely! You haven't attempted to discern the meaning of the Savior's teaching about eunuchs who have been so from birth (Matthew 19: 11, 12). You haven't paid attention to the Apostle Paul's letter to Galatian churches about the irrelevance of Hebrew law. You also haven't read the Old Testament story of Jonathan and David (the Savior's direct ancestor) with full comprehension! Nothing's more dangerous than a "Bible-believing" Christian who doesn't know what the Bible says!
"Love Makes A Marriage" continues with Part Two.