The Painful Ordinariness of Marriage Equality
This post was written by Rev. Eric C. Kaminetzky, minister of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington State. Voters in Washington face a referendum on marriage equality–Referendum 74–this coming Election Day.
The painfully ordinary plea from citizens of Washington State who wish their marriages to be recognized within the laws of the State of Washington is this: treat as equal all couples who enter into civil, legal unions. What is painfully, and perfectly ordinary about this plea is that it lifts up lessons this state and the larger union of the United States have learned before, and again: separate but equal is neither.
As a Unitarian Universalist minister serving a congregation in Washington State, I have contact with families of many descriptions, and I see in them all the same joys, sorrows, needs, and potentials. As the minister of the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church, I hold the metaphorical keys to the religious kingdom of marriage in our institution and it is my joy to support couples and their families in joining their lives.
Unitarian Universalist ministers and congregations have been offering marriage ceremonies to couples of all genders and identities for decades, and we recognize our right to do so, even under the present laws of the State of Washington. When Referendum 74 passes and civil, legal unions are called and counted as marriages, my Unitarian Universalist colleagues and I will celebrate the crumbling of the walls of division, and we will, for the first time, be able to offer succor and support, religious and civil, for marriage regardless of the participants genders. That day will be joyful, and many things will change.
What will not change are our rights as clergy to perform religious marriage ceremonies. Our civil law cannot now forbid us from performing them. More importantly, when Referendum 74 passes, our civil law will not be able to require us, or leaders of any other religious organization in the state, to perform them. The laws of the State of Washington have no power to prevent us from performing religious marriage ceremonies, and they will have no power to require us to provide them.
On the day Referendum 74 passes, and with the support of my congregation, the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church could choose to go out of the marriage business altogether. And while I can think of no reason why we would, what is important about your support of Referendum 74 is that it is unrelated to and will have no effect on religious marriage.
Referendum 74 simply recognizes that a civil, legal union between two people is civil marriage, and that civil marriage is a civil, legal union between two people.
I am a biological and gender identified male, civilly, legally, and religiously married to a biological and gender identified female. We were married by a Unitarian Universalist minister at a Unitarian Universalist congregation in the State of New Jersey, and the Court Clerk in the town where we married was glad to take our application and our money to register and recognize our civil, legal union as a marriage. When we moved to the State of North Carolina, our marriage was recognized without a hitch. And now, we live in the State of Washington, where again no question is asked by anyone when we say we are married. And isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? For everyone?
Washington State is full of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people who have, in other states and countries, entered into civil legal unions with or without the benefit of religious ceremony. In those states and countries, they have the right to call themselves “married.” In our state they do not.
The test of whether a couple can marry under the civil law is not and should not be administered by the church, synagogue, mosque, coven, or meeting. It should be, and on November 6th it will be, administered by you, and me, and every other registered voter who cares about the integrity of our laws and about the right for all couples who enter into civil, legal unions to be treated as equals under the law.
How painfully ordinary.