At the end of 1999, the Hawaiian Supreme Court closed down hope that its state would be the first in the nation to grant gay couples the right to wed. In Vermont, the very first Civil Union law for gay couples was still a year away.
It was then, despite a country that was all but ignoring marriage equality, that a minister fresh from seminary was asked to officiate at her first gay wedding, a Holy Union ceremony.
Reverend Marian Hale felt protective of her first couple even though they had acknowledged to her that some of the people in attendance looked on the event somewhat as a joke. They however did not.
She was gratified that one of the groom’s parents had flown in specifically for the ceremony, but equally pained by the fact that the mother of the other groom, who lived across town, was specifically boycotting it. Marian fought the specter of rejection due to the absent mother, and worked to keep it from affecting the beauty of the day. Her goal was for her young couple to feel nothing but the love and adoration that was due them.
To that end, she created a ceremony by which roses, for one groom, and lilies for the other, would be combined in a crystal vase signifying their union. This blend would be done by the families and friends in attendance.
As the ceremony progressed, Marian noticed the face of the father who had flown in. She could see that he had come as a matter of duty. He sat back gingerly toying with the rose. She could feel her heart sinking as she feared more parental rejection was in the making.
Finally he stood and came to the front. As he placed the rose in the bowl, the full weight of what his son was doing hit him. He started to speak, and then weep as , for the first time, the love, respect and honor he felt for his son and his new son in law came spilling out. As the son hugged his tear stained Dad, Marian saw that the father had, in that moment, undergone the process of true acceptance.
The spirit of the congregation welled up, and with honor and dignity, the couple was declared as one. They were no longer single, but a family.
Marian stayed after for the reception. She chatted with the guests and found that for most, this was their first gay wedding as well. All were moved by its impact on them.
When it came time to say good bye, Marian saw the groom whose mother had not been in attendance. She went up to him and expressed her regret over what his mother had missed. She anticipated some hurt or anger, but only heard forgiveness in his response, “I accept that she’s doing what she feels is right for her, and only hope that one day soon she’ll be able to come visit us, spend time with us.”
That night, Marian felt a transformation of sorts happening within herself, and when she woke the next morning… in her own word…”The world had shifted. The words that came almost immediately are these:
If that had been a heterosexual wedding at that day and time, there could be all kinds of reasons, agendas if you will, for this event to be taking place. There can be a baby on the way, pressure from the family, even pressure from the church. There can be tax reasons, other financial reasons – or even a Green Card!
For this gay wedding, none of these agendas applied. It happened solely because two people wanted to stand side by side and be witnessed making a life commitment to one another, that was the only reason for it. It was, and is so clean, so pure, so simple.”
What Marian saw was what hundreds of thousands of LGBT couples know. Our marriages ARE… not WILL BE. We fight for marriage equality because our families require the protections, and the abilities to cope with life events. Our children deserve this and our spouses deserve this.
In the end, however, we have something that no political party, no federal Constitutional amendment, no family rejection and no public mocking can take from us– our deep ability to adore our soul partners and to commit.
They can mess with our legal recognition. But they can never make our love illegal.
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Image by Ono Kono