Throughout the campaign to pass marriage equality in Washington state, many religious voices were raised in opposition. Both the National Organization for Marriage the the LDS pumped in millions of dollars for its defeat. Their efforts proved ineffective, however, and marriage equality finally became reality. This past week, couples lined up to receive their marriage licenses. Choral groups serenaded those in line. It was a celebratory event that spread throughout the downtown area. Then, on Sunday, couples were finally able to marry. The King County Courthouse opened to hundreds of couples that streamed through line to be married. Two couples were married Sunday evening at a performance of the Seattle Men's Chorus. And, at Seattle First Baptist Church, couples married en masse. During the evening, the Paramount Theater opened for a giant wedding reception with speeches by the governor and other dignitaries, but more importantly, for dancing and celebration. So many have waited so long to do something so normal and so holy; it was time to party.
My own denomination, heck, even my own congregation, is not of one mind on marriage equality. We will be offering the same kinds of marital support at my church for all couples. If two people support and love one another, live in fidelity, and pledge their troth one to the other, it is my obligation and privilege to stand with them and to offer blessings upon their union. Somewhere along the line, Protestants ceased to recognize marriage as a sacrament. While I understand the reasons for so doing, something was lost. You see, I don't "perform" a wedding or "marry" people. In this sense, marriage is a sacrament. The wedding is an outward sign of an inward grace - how we refer to sacraments. This weekend, there were many outwards signs of much inward grace. And, every church I serve will support grace in all of its forms.
I have been pretty quiet about the weddings taking place across the state - all over my city. But, I have watched them. The photos of joyful children literally hopping up and down with excitement for their two moms or two dads. Families in tears of joy. Couples in shocked disbelief that their state and some of their churches and synagogues were welcoming them in the exact same way as every other couple.
This seems like a problem for the privileged. Marriage equality. In some ways it is. But in many ways it is about basic civil rights. Basic human dignity. Basic spiritual nurture and care. There is nothing superfluous or ancillary about these things.
I know that millions upon millions of people think that marriage equality redefines marriage, perverts family, and harms children. The data don't support these prejudices, as much as fringe research projects are lifted up as proof. I know that many people are "turned off" by gay marriage by what I call the "ick factor." Yet, more and more people are opening their hearts and changing their minds. Even eight years ago, these weddings would have been but a distant dream. Today, they are reality. Let me say that again. Today, these marriages are reality, not only as an inward grace, but in the code of law...at least state law.
By no means is the fight for equal rights over. By no means is the struggle for equal spiritual care and nurture over. Sadly, religious people tend to be further behind on this than other people. However, those who try to paint all religious people with the same brush are wrong. Hundreds of couples will have weddings just as mundane and as sacred as every other couple...in churches...with ugly bridesmaid dresses...with bickering parents...and friends who show up drunk to the rehearsal. What a wonderful thought. Churches and synagogues will welcome people to no fanfare at all. That's really my dream. The celebration that is going on right now is wonderful. History is being made. But, what a day it will be when Adam and Steve can be married just as easily and without any more attention that Adam and Eve. Then we can focus more on their love and less on the political struggle. That's what will support and strengthen these families - the simple opportunity to be families.
Congratulations, history makers. Thank you to all of the civil servants who made this weekend's weddings possible. Blessings to all of the churches that threw open their doors in welcome...and repentance.
One more photo-essay, just because they are all wonderful.
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- Into Deeper Darkness: Shooting in Newtown
- Marriage Equality Finally a Reality in Washington ...
- Remembering Thomas Merton (Jan 31, 1915-Dec10,1968...
- "The Beginning is Near" - A Sermon for Advent 2C
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- What happened to love and grace?
- Sermon Advent 1C "Dark and Light-An Advent Rhythm"...
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