Op-ed: How I Married 110 Same-Sex Couples
I stared at the screen in shock. Not that I wasn’t pleased — I couldn’t have been more pleased — but I could not believe marriage equality was becoming a reality in New Mexico so rapidly. Only two days before, the Doña Ana County clerk began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Now, the Santa Fe County clerk had been ordered by a judge to start issuing them or explain later in court why she would not. Collective breath was held. Then came word that she would start issuing the licenses to same-sex couples at 2 p.m. Oh, my! I had read an El Paso Times article about Bob Diven, a humanist celebrant in Las Cruces, who just went to the courthouse and offered his services. I contacted Bob on Facebook, saying I stood ready to do the same when Santa Fe County followed suit. It was rather cavalier of me, it turns out, as I assumed I’d have time to get my ducks in a row.
I had just officiated my first wedding for some dear friends the week before and had taken care to craft the ceremony to match their wishes and personalities. Now they were going to start issuing licenses in no time at all, so there would be little time to prepare if I wanted to follow through on these lofty prior intentions.
There was no way to make it there by 2 p.m., but I put it into high gear and cranked out some business cards so folks would at least know who was marrying them. The last thing I threw in the car was my new white robe and multicolored stole with an abstract black ribbon pattern running its length. I hadn’t used it yet, and this would be the perfect occasion, providing the justification for buying it just was simply because I thought it was the most beautiful, colorful, silky thing.
A group wedding with eight couples and two officiants was under way. The officiants were from a liberal religious tradition, and they gave a practiced, smooth ceremony.
Then came the prayer, and the admonitions to become part of a faith community for the sake of their relationships caught my attention. I became uneasy, with a familiar feeling I had as a volunteer for the Red Cross after September 11, when I heard a speaker reference religion to a diverse, grief-stricken group. One-size-fits-all assumptions of religious uniformity are an ill-fitting garment for those in sorrow or happiness. I saw what looked like discomfort for some, and mine grew into a resolve to provide a secular option for any others who wanted to marry that day.
As we made happy plans for those getting a license, one woman waiting in line to submit a completed form said she wished she and her partner had known I was there. That was all I needed to hear. I stayed for the rest of the day, until the office closed late and the last of 15 marriages was registered.
Perhaps serving as a secular officiant is a chance for restitution, in a way. An apology for the way I used to judge, as I was raised to do by loving parents and a nurturing community. The same upbringing that propelled a brother into ministry where prayers are said in order to bring about impossible and unnecessary change, all the while claiming love, ultimately propelled me in a different direction. It’s about the possibility of providing options to those who have been denied the simple human dignity of partnering with the recognition and approval others take for granted.