Originally published on Advocate.com May 25 2004 12:00 AM ET
As wedding season approaches, a Unitarian minister in New Hampshire has joined several of her peers in refusing to sign marriage licenses. The Reverend Tess Baumberger says she won't sign any licenses until she can sign them all. Doing otherwise would discriminate against same-sex couples, she said. That means two people will handle wedding duties at the city's Unitarian Universalist Church. Baumberger will perform the wedding, and a justice of the peace will sign the license.
"I love doing weddings," Baumberger said. "I'd be happy to do everything but sign the license." Baumberger came to her decision slowly, she said, after a bisexual friend fell in love. Baumberger asked her friend if she intended to marry the man she'd been dating and was struck by her answer. "She said no because if she had fallen in love with a woman, she couldn't legally marry," she said.
Since she announced her decision, state legislators have passed a law that forbids New Hampshire to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. The move came in anticipation of Massachusetts allowing gay and lesbian partners to marry. So far, Baumberger hasn't had the chance to practice what she preaches. She has explained her position to the few couples who have called her about their upcoming weddings, but no one has scheduled a ceremony.
But the Reverend Kendra Ford of the First Unitarian Society of Exeter, who has taken a similar position, has had a different reaction. Couples, both gay and nongay, have sought her out because of her position. She performs wedding ceremonies, then leaves it to the couple to get their license signed by a justice of the peace elsewhere. "I decided this was a slight inconvenience, especially compared to the great difficulties that same-gender couples encounter in the world," she said.