Flying Out Over Boston: Some Thoughts on Marriage Equality and the End of DOMA

We are flying out today, over Boston, the city where marriage equality got its start. We are flying out over Old South Church, the place where we were married. We are flying in to California, a place where yesterday morning our marriage wasn’t legal. And we are flying to General Synod, the biannual meeting of the United Church of Christ, the church that recognized our marriage before the federal government ever did.

Our marriage certificate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is packed in my bag. I don’t know why. I know it’s not rational, but I just want to keep it close this week.

Yesterday morning it sat on our coffee table as my wife and I did what we have been doing on many mornings for the last two weeks. With MSNBC on the television, and SCOTUSblog pulled up on the laptop, we sat next to each other on the couch holding hands and praying.

When the decision on DOMA came in, it took our breath away and we broke down sobbing. In a good way. I have never cried for joy harder than I did yesterday morning. My father texted us: One down.

It took seven months and nine days after our wedding for the federal government to recognize our marriage. Every day was a day too long, but we are so aware that we were some of the lucky ones. Couples we know who have been married for years felt the full weight of discrimination for so much longer. And then there are the couples we have known who had at least one partner who didn’t live to see federal marriage equality. We mourned for them yesterday.

Yesterday I thought about all the same-sex couples whose marriages I have officiated as a pastor. I thought about two of our closest friends who were married in Massachusetts and who are welcoming twin boys in a few weeks. Their sons will never know a country that does not recognize their moms’ marriage as equal.

I thought about two other friends from Maine who had to be married in Massachusetts because their state did not yet recognize equal marriage at the time. And I thought about two men I married from California last month who will now return with a marriage that will be honored.

And I thought about all those couples from the South who have flown to Vermont in order to have a legal marriage that they knew would mean very little in their home states. I thought about friends I grew up with back home. They are still waiting, and we won’t forget them.

Last night, as I do many summer evenings in Vermont, I went fly fishing. There was a group of high school students swimming nearby. They were celebrating the end of DOMA and talking about what it meant.

When they got close I told them that my wife and my marriage had become federally recognized that day. They smiled and cheered and congratulated me. And they told me that for most of their friends and classmates, equality is a no-brainer. As one young man told me, in fifty years we are not going to believe that we had to debate this.

That gives me hope, because I can’t imagine having a similar discussion during my high school years. I know the world is changing.

Yesterday my wife and I began to jokingly call each other “Federally Recognized Spouse”. As in, “Federally Recognized Spouse, are you coming back downstairs?” We talked about needing to file an amended 2012 tax return. We then spent the rest of the day working on our gay agenda of doing laundry and packing for our trip. But, lightheartedness aside, when we went to sleep last night we did so a little more equal than we had woken up that morning.

Today, flying out with her at my side, I know that we are only traveling towards a more equal future, and that God’s love is there and that it has been with us all along.

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The Best Wedding Present Ever

Applying for our marriage licenses.

Applying for our marriage licenses.

My partner Heidi and I early voted a few weeks ago, but this morning we are going to do something else that’s important: apply for a marriage license. If you’re on the fence about whether to go vote, please remember your friends whose marriages could be greatly affected by who wins this presidential election. The next president will decide the Supreme Court for years to come, and the Supreme Court could pave the way for federal recognition of our marriage. There’s nothing you could get us at Crate and Barrel that would make a better wedding gift than your vote for equality for all.

Of Maine and Two Marriages: Lessons from a Grandmother I Never Knew

My grandmother was born in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Italian immigrants. She grew up in a Roman Catholic parish there that ministered to the immigrants and their families. The church was the center of my grandmother’s community, and a foundation of the family.

As a young woman she met a soldier stationed in Portland. He was from a family with deep New England roots and Protestant faith. They fell in love, and my grandparents were married in 1936.

Not long after the marriage my grandmother went to speak with the priest at her parish. He condemned her marriage, and her husband’s faith. He told her that her marriage was not real. And then he gave her an ultimatum: unless you raise your children in the Catholic Church, you will go to hell.

That story rippled down through the generations. My mother and her siblings were not raised in the Catholic Church, and neither was I. It took me years to understand exactly what that told me about my grandmother. The fact that a young, Italian-American girl in the 1930’s stood up to an authority figure whom she had been taught held the very keys to heaven and hell tells me all that I need to know about her, and about the courage one must sometimes have to stand up for love.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Maine and marriage this year. I’ve been thinking about it because for the first time in American history, marriage equality for same-sex couples might be won in a state by a popular vote.
I have married same-sex couples who reside in Maine, but who have to leave the state on their wedding day in order to have their marriage legally acknowledged. I have seen how the lack of legal recognition of their marriage impacts everything from their taxes to their parental rights to their children. Their life is made unduly harder by the biases of others. And, unlike in the case of my grandparents, it extends beyond church walls and brings judgement and injustice into their very homes.

I believe religious institutions have every right to make their own decisions about whom they will marry. But I don’t believe religious institutions have the right to impose them on others; particularly when we are talking about civil, and not religious, marriage. I also believe that more and more religious institutions will start to see people doing exactly what my grandmother did: walking out the church doors because they trust love, their own or their friends’, more than threats and judgements.

Earlier this year my partner and I went to Portland and stood in front of the parish where my grandmother grew up. I was excited to be in a place that had formed her childhood. And then I remembered this story. I realized that the conversation with her priest that had so shaped her life, and my mother’s, and my own, had likely been in this place. And I felt sad and angry for all the pain that condemnation of her love had caused her.

I never met my grandmother. She died of cancer seven years before I was born, with a rosary under her pillow. She said the prayers of her faith every night. But my grandmother never returned to the religious institution of her youth. She lost her church, but she didn’t lose her faith. I find that kind of faith remarkable. I wish that I had known her.

I wish too that I had been able to send her an invitation to my own wedding this fall, just two weeks after the vote will be taken in Maine. My mother assures me she would have come, and she would have loved it.

I imagine that if she were there, voting results in hand, we would either celebrate the prophetic stand of her home state for love. Or we would mourn that they weren’t quite there yet. I hope it would be the former, but if it were the latter I imagine I’d know what she would tell me: choose your love. Don’t choose the judgement. And don’t let anyone tell you this marriage is not real.