Give Same-Sex Marriage Legal Blessing

Give same-sex mar­riage legal blessing
Excerpts from a ser­mon by The Rev. Don Southworth 

Uni­tar­i­an Uni­ver­sal­ist min­is­ters have been offi­ci­at­ing at same-sex mar­riages and com­mit­ment cer­e­monies for many years. This week, when I was read­ing the Geor­gia state law on mar­riages and mar­riage licens­es, I dis­cov­ered that I could be guilty of mar­ry­ing peo­ple with­out a license, which is a mis­de­meanor that car­ries with it a fine of $500.

If I am ever arrest­ed, I will be hap­py to pay it.

Hav­ing your min­is­ter stand up and tell you that he is in favor of same-sex mar­riage, and that he believes any time two peo­ple pub­licly declare their love and com­mit­ment to each oth­er, and state their desire to build a life togeth­er, we should cel­e­brate and grant them all rights of mar­riage, is prob­a­bly not that big a sur­prise. But the cur­rent cli­mate and con­ver­sa­tion about same-sex mar­riage demands more than nice words about love and commitment.

We must engage in con­ver­sa­tion and dia­logue, not only with each oth­er, but with those peo­ple who will do every­thing in their pow­er to heap abuse, hatred and dis­crim­i­na­tion on same-sex cou­ples who only want to love each oth­er and be giv­en equal rights. And we must take action.

The insti­tu­tion of mar­riage has a long and some­times dis­grace­ful his­to­ry. In ancient times, there was lit­tle reli­gious mean­ing to mar­riage. Mar­riages, most of which were arranged, were all about prop­er­ty and inher­i­tance and lit­tle about romance, love or commitment.

When peo­ple bring the Bible into the debate about why homo­sex­u­al­i­ty is a sin and mar­riage is only between a man and a woman, it is wise to ask what part of the Bible’s sex­u­al mores they believe in. Do they take their teach­ings from the part in Leviti­cus that reads “A man who sleeps with anoth­er man is an abom­i­na­tion and should be exe­cut­ed.” Or do they take their teach­ings from the part in Leviti­cus that says if a bride is found not to be a vir­gin, she should be exe­cut­ed on the spot? Do they believe in polygamy, con­cu­bines or forc­ing child­less wid­ows to have sex with their dead hus­band’s broth­ers in order to ensure the dead man has a male heir?

Suf­fice to say that the Bible is con­fus­ing at best when it comes to trans­lat­ing how sex­u­al­i­ty and mar­riage should be done today. Jesus said noth­ing about homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, and that’s good enough for me.

The insti­tu­tion of mar­riage will not be harmed if we let more peo­ple into it, peo­ple who are as lov­ing and as com­mit­ted as any­one else. It could be argued that same-sex mar­riage might even help the insti­tu­tion. We het­ero­sex­u­als have not been doing too great a job.

Last year in Cobb Coun­ty, for exam­ple, which has more church­go­ing, sup­pos­ed­ly right­eous peo­ple than any coun­ty I have ever lived in, 4,306 mar­riage licens­es were issued and 3,392 divorces were grant­ed. The gays and les­bians I know can do at least as well.

Our gov­ern­ment is not guar­an­tee­ing the free­dom and equal­i­ty of same-sex cou­ples and that is wrong.

I can march in Gay Pride parades, I can offi­ci­ate at same-sex mar­riage and com­mit­ment cer­e­monies and treat them the same as het­ero­sex­u­al mar­riage cer­e­monies, and I can preach about how same-sex cou­ples love as deeply as any­one. But I have decid­ed that is not enough. For three years, I have signed wed­ding licens­es know­ing that each time I did so I was par­tic­i­pat­ing in discrimination.

Last month I went to our board of trustees and the Com­mit­tee on Min­istry to ask them if the covenant I have with the con­gre­ga­tion demands that I sign mar­riage licens­es. The board and the com­mit­tee believes it is implic­it in my covenant that I sign licens­es, but after lis­ten­ing to my con­cerns, they have told me they would sup­port amend­ing my covenant to let me per­form the reli­gious cer­e­mo­ny, the reli­gious rit­u­al of mar­riage, and not per­form the civ­il rit­u­al of mar­riage, the sign­ing of a mar­riage license. I am hop­ing the con­gre­ga­tion will also sup­port me.

At Lit­tle League games, school plays and Thanks­giv­ing din­ners, gay and les­bian cou­ples and par­ents are liv­ing ordi­nary lives. They have made moral, emo­tion­al and finan­cial oblig­a­tions to each oth­er and seek only the recog­ni­tion and pro­tec­tions a legal mar­riage affords.

It is time to extend these rights and respon­si­bil­i­ties to all Amer­i­cans. When we do, I will glad­ly sign mar­riage licens­es again. May it be so. Amen.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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