by Linda Noonan
It looked like Christmas Eve, with a room full of people lighting one another’s small candles, except that it was a balmy evening in April. Miranda, 8 years old and eager to play a role in this big event, sprinkled flower petals on the ground and then lit the first candle, whose light was passed through the pews until the room was aglow. Soon the light made its way to her two mothers, Kim and Karen, as they stood surrounded by friends and family ready to light the Unity Candle signifying their lives together and exchange their wedding vows.
At the last minute, before the guests blew out their individual candles, they raised them high as they burned brightly, as a sign of their love and support for these two women who had been together for so long. Karen and Kim have jobs that support children and families. One serves our community as an elected official, one as a local lacrosse coach, and one as a youth group leader in our congregation. They are raising a child. They go to work, go to church, attend parent-teacher conferences. And for almost 25 years were denied the right to marry.
Marriage is much more than a piece of paper from the state. It is a state of mind, heart and soul between two people who love each other and who choose to share one common life together. But that piece of paper matters. People who love each other and commit to partnership and union have been denied that civil right in a consistent and federally recognized way in our country.
I performed my first “gay wedding” in 1999. I’ve done more than 40 since then – some of them legal in the eyes of the state and some not. But all were sacred ceremonies of union, commitment and love. The Supreme Court ruled last Friday that it is legal for people, regardless of their sexual orientation, to marry the person of their choice.
“When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free,” President Obama said following the announcement of the Court’s decision.
I serve a congregation that works to be a safe place for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and is an anti-racist community – addressing racism in our own lives, the church and the world. “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey,” we say on Sundays, “you are welcome here.”
There is still work to be done. Many denominations are behind the cultural and now legal curve. People who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender continue to face harassment, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But there is still much to celebrate in this recent decision.
I no longer think of the same-sex weddings I officiate as “gay weddings.” They are simply, weddings. Now the Supreme Court sees them that way as well.
The Rev. Linda Noonan is Senior Pastor at Chestnut Hill United Church. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org