Weddings, Funerals, & Marriage Equality
As the Faith Director for Mainers United for Marriage, I am constantly called upon to tell my story. The folks I encounter working to bring marriage equality to Maine inevitably ask, “Why do you want to work on marriage for LGBTQ couples?” Many assume that I will share my desire to marry couples in my congregation, or friends of mine who have been in long-term loving relationships for many years. They think I will lift up the joy of performing marriage ceremonies and hosting weddings in the beautiful Unitarian Universalist church in southern Maine where I have served as minister for 10 years.
But, for me, marriage equality is more about funerals than about weddings. It is about the lives that are shattered when someone dies and they do not have a legal contract that binds them together. I tell the stories of grumpy families of origin who show up and claim custody of estranged grandchildren or demand the rights to their children’s home and money, leaving the deceased’s partner with nothing but grief and exponential loss. I tell the stories of partners who are left behind with no pension benefits or insurance. I tell the stories of families who claim the body of their loved one, plan a funeral, and exclude the lifelong partner because they “never agreed with their lifestyle anyway.”
If you think the issue of marriage equality does not belong in church; you’ve forgotten that it is already there. LGBTQ advocacy, including marriage equality IS a religious issue. It’s an issue about love, inclusion, and non-judgement. It’s about the greatest commandment that Jesus issued, to “Love one another, as I have loved you.” It’s about the Golden Rule, a variation of which appears in every major religion. It is about the Unitarian Universalist first principle of honoring the inherent worth and dignity of all people. It is about the oft-recited covenant: “Love is the spirit of this church, service is its law; this is our great covenant to dwell together in peace, seek the truth in love, and help one another.” Each and every time we talk to someone about the freedom to marry, we should think of our conversation as a prophetic encounter, inspired from the Holy that is within each one of us.
Here in Maine, people of faith are hard at work across the state advocating for marriage equality and “Yes on 1.” We kicked off the summer with an amazing Pride Parade in which some 400 people of faith marched through the streets of Portland. Many congregations are lending the campaign office space and organizing phone banks, door-to-door canvasses, and so much more. We are “Standing on the Side of Love” in ways that we never have before.
Even if you don’t live in Maine, Washington, Minnesota, or Maryland (the four states with marriage-related ballot measures), you can still get involved in the work for marriage equality this election season. Through the Vacation for Equality program, you can spend a week, two weeks, or a month—the time commitment is up to you—working on one of the equality campaigns. You can also use HRC’s revolutionary Call4Equality tool that uses the power of Facebook to help you get in touch with the people you know in these states. Please join me this fall in standing on the side of love for marriage equality.