This week, I’m all aflutter about the decision in my home state of Pennsylvania to allow same sex marriage. Of course, it’s been the law in my chosen state for ten years (we moved here in 2004, too, the same year it came through), but this feels different. Pennsylvania is such a big state—the part I’m from is basically Ohio—and while it’s may not be such a paradigm shift for Philadelphia, for Erie, this changes a lot. Admittedly there was something Onion-satire-like about the headline on the Erie Times-News: “Another same sex couple applies for marriage license.”
In Massachusetts, this is old news. Still, there’s something about the place where I’m from recognizing the right to marriage for all people that feels healing. My right to marry my spouse was never questioned because my beloved happens to be male, but that is not the case for one of my high school best friends, who had three weddings with her wife—one commitment ceremony, one legal NH civil union (presided over by yours truly), and one party when that civil union became a legal marriage on January 1 2011. Phew. They had to buy a lot of champagne.
Marriage is a sacrament, a gift, and a blessing. There’s an old image of the church that imagines us as “the bride of Christ”—this is not an image that I feel particularly drawn toward, but it reminds us that the covenant of marriage is holy—and the failure of the church or the state to extend equal benefits to all is just an injustice. Of course I believe in separation of church and state, but I also want a wedding I officiate in church to be legal in the eyes of the state. I haven’t been to Pennsylvania in years, but I still feel so grateful for this. Judge John Jones, in the PA case wrote, “In the sixty years since Brown was decided, 'separate' has thankfully faded into history, and only 'equal' remains. Similarly, in future generations, the label 'same-sex marriage' will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by 'marriage.' We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history"
This is the country we are becoming; we’re not there yet, but slowly, slowly. This is what we say we’ll do in our baptismal covenant: to strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being. With each state where marriage for all becomes a reality, we get just a little closer to making that possible. Oregon went this week, too. I’ve written this stuff in my parish newsletter before. I’ll write it again. It’s like that parable Jesus tells in Luke 15:
Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.
Every time, every time there is a victory for peace and justice, we are called to rejoice. So today, I’m rejoicing for those two couples in my hometown who’ve gotten their marriage licenses. Easter continues!
PS--for the face of gay Erie, PA, I present Jessie and Ricardo, also known on facebook as "The gay guys who ride around Erie on a bicycle made for two," a fan page with almost 6000 followers."
Interview: Art in Tandem