It was a quiet, simple and private marriage ceremony at the couple’s home. Present were the couple, their toddler-age daughter, another couple who served as witnesses, and the officiating minister, along with her husband.
As people of faith, the couple wanted to make a covenant commitment and each spoke tender vows to one another and before God. It was a sacred event that forever united them as family, and tears of joy flowed freely.
I’ll never forget my wedding day.
My wife, Stephanie, and I spoke Scripture-based vows popular in many heterosexual weddings — the words Ruth spoke to Naomi. “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.”
The Biblical text from which our vows were taken says, “Ruth clung to [Naomi].” The Hebrew word for “clung” is dabaq. This is precisely the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:24 to describe how Adam felt toward Eve.
My marriage was a religious service in which my wife and I pledged to love, honor and cherish each other — in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer — in accordance with God’s will. We promised to take care of each other the way that we believe God cares for us.
Our vows were no different than those pledged by any other couple married in the United States that day. What was different: our marriage was not considered “legal” in the eyes of our state. I challenge anyone to question whether it was legal in the eyes of God. My wife and I, and all who witnessed, can attest to the Spirit of God present that day.
Yet my spouse and I were denied hundreds of practical benefits of our state, such as contractual rights that have to do with taxes, insurance, the care and custody of children, visitation rights and inheritance, even though we are law abiding, tax-paying citizens, who contribute to the good of our country.
If, as those who like to quote the Bible say, we’re all children of God, made in God’s likeness and image, then why deny full access to marriage based on sexuality? As a pastor of a church I know that no one can force me to officiate their wedding. It is my decision to perform a marriage, recognized by the state or not. The same would be true whether or not a pastor, their church or their denomination accepts or rejects same-gender marriage. So it seems to me that allowing same-gender-loving couples the full, legal rights of marriage would honor the equal rights of all our citizens as provided for in the Constitution and By-Laws of the United States of America.
Fortunately, the majority of Americans are now in support of the rights of LGBTQ people to marry, according to the latest public opinion polls. Soon, it seems that the federal courts will, in all likelihood, declare the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as “one man and one woman as husband and wife” unconstitutional.
Prop 8 in California has been ruled unconstitutional. Washington state is on the verge of passing marriage equality, joining six states and the District of Columbia that have already legalized same-sex marriages. Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey may not be too far behind. Clearly, we are at watershed moment for LGBT equality.
Meanwhile, I celebrate, with gratitude, my marriage as a holy, blessed and recognized union that God has put together — and that no one can separate.
Now that I married my best friend, the love of my life, I just want the benefits that go with marriage in America — the benefits due us by law.
Jo Hudson is senior pastor of Cathedral of Hope, a congregation of the United Church of Christ, based in Dallas, Texas.