My late wife and I were visiting her family during and after the 1984 General Assembly, when the delegates voted to support ministers who performed same-sex union services. The vote made it to both the local and national news. So, I received quite a bit of ribbing about it. I did not receive my first request to perform one until seven years later, in 1991. I was really looking forward to performing a service, and welcomed the opportunity when a lesbian couple in my congregation asked me to perform their ―Holy Union,‖ as they were called.
It did not take long for me to join others who were asking ―Why not marriage?‖ Holy Unions were pseudo-marriages. They were symbolic, but carried no legal standing. So, I began inserting a line into each service that basically said ―When the state catches up to God and our faith and recognizes the depth of your love and commitment to one another, I will gladly sign your marriage license.‖ That day has now come, and I hope to hear from some of those couples.
Undoubtedly, there will be attempts at overturning
the law. Change does not come easy. I understand the discomfort that some opponents of same-sex marriage are feeling. After all, nearly all of us grew up with the image of a family consisting of a mother, father, and assorted children. While not all of the children were necessarily biological—some were adopted, and, most of us grew up knowing single parent families, I honestly doubt whether many of us imagined a ―family‖ or ―marriage‖ in which the partners were either two men or two women. This has been a ―learning experience‖ for all of us. Now our challenge is to teach others what we have learned about the new family pictures that will become increasingly more common with the passing of time. One reason for hope is that young people are overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage. As more of them take their places in the political establishment, it is likely that future generations will look back on the same-sex controversy the same way that many of us look back at the controversies over interfaith or interracial marriage. If we ourselves are not part of an interfaith or interracial marriage, we probably know people who are. Today, few people would think of returning to those old laws or social mores which kept the races and religions apart.
As Unitarian Universalists, our faith has had a history of taking stands promoting equality. New York’s passage of marriage equality is one more step along this journey. Let us take a moment to pause and give thanks. Then, let us resolve to continue working to further the cause of equality.
See you in church!
Your ministerial partner for the journey,