I won’t equivocate – I support marriage equality (aka gay marriage).
I actually started this blog post on Monday, but the news caught up to it.
I began it because I was struck by the vice-president’s comments about marriage equality over the weekend and then again by the Secretary of Education’s. I wondered when the president would formally state that he was for marriage equality and stop evolving.
Of course Tuesday’s North Carolina vote was terrible. I think a generation or two from now people will look back on the amendment and say, “What were they thinking?”
When President Obama stated that he supported marriage equality I was glad. His announcement was anti-climatic – a sort of “It’s about time” moment for me. And, I believe, he wasn’t evolving as much as weighing the cost-benefit of endorsing marriage equality (despite what his critics on the right say, this is a pragmatic president (much to the dismay of his critics on the left)). Still, it is pretty historic when a president speaks to expand civil rights.
I know that marriage equality remains a stretch for a lot of people. As for me, one of the proudest votes I cast was for marriage equality at the 2005 General Synod of the United Church of Christ. For me, when two people love each other enough to bind themselves to each other for life – noting that love should be treated as a verb and not a noun – marriage is right irrespective of gender.
Marriage is not the same as a civil union. Sure, all the rights and responsibilities of marriage can be made certain for civil union, but tell a heterosexual couple that their marriage will be henceforth reclassified as a civil union. I don’t think they’d appreciate it.
I think one of our issues around marriage equality comes because we blur the lines between the sacred covenant of marriage and the civil aspects of marriage. Unlike some countries where marriages for civil purposes are performed by a government official and a religious marriages are performed by clergy, we don’t separate them. When I perform a wedding ceremony, I also functioning as a state officer – I have to sign the marriage certificate and file it with the proper authorities.
Actually, performing a wedding is a sort of odd experience. Despite having done many weddings over the years, I am still really careful when I fill out the Massachusetts form. Maybe I’m nervous having had a form rejected several years ago because I used blue ink instead of black. If I’m invited to the reception, I don’t go until I have filled out the paperwork and mailed it to the town clerk. When I do weddings outside of Massachusetts, I always check with the state where the wedding will be held for its regulations before I formally accept the invitation to perform the service.
I could choose to do only religious marriages, which means I don’t have to do the state’s paperwork, but solemnizing a marriage for the state makes things easier on the couple.
What was at stake in North Carolina, what the president endorsed, was marriage recognized by civil authority. North Carolina chose not to allow by enshrining the prohibition against gay marriage in its constitution.
But none of the states where gay marriage is permitted are forcing religious institutions to perform gay weddings or even solemnize a gay marriage. Clergy are under no obligation to perform a gay wedding if they have moral qualms about it.
The issue of making gay marriage legal is the rights and responsibilities that a couple immediately receives upon being married. All the work to make (or keep) gay marriage legal is to ensure that two people who love each other through the ups and downs of life can have those same rights and responsibilities regardless of gender. It seems only right and fair.