Before the passage of Proposition 8 in California that removed the State Constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry, I was asked to officiate at a woman’s marriage to her partner of 10 years. Her mother and stepfather were there, as was her Great Aunt. Her partner didn’t have any family there, which might have been due to their geographical distance from California.
There were about 15 people in attendance, and the ceremony took place in the backyard by the gazebo of a rest home in which her Great Aunt, about 90 years old, lives. The couple exchanged rings and, as part of their vows, together read their “ketubah,” a Jewish document that in this case spelled out their love and commitment to each other, as well as their commitment to peace and love in their home for themselves and for anyone who would visit them.
It was a beautiful ceremony, and lasted about 15 minutes. I was honored that I was asked to do the ceremony.
Both the mother and stepfather of one of the women were so happy for the couple and for their being able to witness the marriage between these two devoted people! It was so beautiful to see the radiance on their faces, as well as the radiance and profound happiness on the faces of the two women whose marriage all of us were privileged to witness.
This marriage, along with all other same-sex marriages, highlights the downright foolishness and evil that would allow a Britney Spears’ 55-hour marriage to have more dignity, more credibility, and legal protections than the marriage of this same-sex couple and all same-sex couples.
“Breaking the silence that has enshrouded her since her Jan. 3  Las Vegas wedding and ensuing 55-hour marriage, Britney Spears told MTV’s ‘Total Request Live’ in a telephone interview Wednesday ‘I do believe in the sanctity of marriage, I totally do.’ “But, she confessed, ‘I was in Vegas, and it took over me, and, you know, things got out of hand.” [“Bride Britney: Vegas ‘Took Over Me’,” People Magazine, January 15, 2004.]
Spears, also 22, and Alexander wouldn’t be the first couple to have an instant marriage followed by an instant divorce.
“Dennis Hopper and the Mamas and Papas’ Michelle Phillips were married for eight days in 1970. Zsa Zsa Gabor was apparently married to Felipe de Alba — her eighth husband — for one day in 1982. [ ] “Other short-lived marriages include Janet Jackson and James Debarge (three months), Tom Green and Drew Barrymore (five months) and Jennifer Lopez and Cris Judd (15 months).” [“What was Britney thinking?” CNN.com, January 6, 2004.]
And, of course, there are many other short-term marriages among heterosexual couples of which nothing is heard from the arrogant arbiters of morality” and those who foolishly or cynically claim to be defending “traditional marriage” when they bend every effort to rescind and/or prevent the legalization of same-sex marriage.
When it’s alleged by assorted ignorant and/or hateful homophobes that same-sex marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry! How can same-sex marriage be a threat to the institution of marriage, when such a marriage as that of Britney Spears’, the other ridiculously short-term heterosexual marriages, and the roughly fifty percent divorce rate in the U.S., and the higher divorce rate in California are not even seriously emphasized as such a threat by all too many homophobes?
If those who oppose same-sex marriage were really concerned about the threats to heterosexual marriage, they would be spending their money and energy, taking out all sorts of advertisements, calling attention to these alarming phenomena. But, actually, their rhetoric concerning the so-called “threat” to the institution of marriage is a mere smoke screen to try to sanitize and “religiously justify” their basic hostility to both same-sex marriage and to Gay people as well.
The “religious” homophobes take pains to say that they “love” Gay people, and one at a “Yes on 8” rally even had the temerity to tell me that his best friend was a lesbian who had helped him when his home was destroyed by a fire not too long ago; who often went fishing with him and had him over to her home on many occasions.
Yet, he was vociferously and publicly fighting against California’s Proposition 8 that sought to strip away the right to marriage of same-sex couples, and he apparently saw no contradiction between his profession of “friendship” toward this woman on the one hand, and his mean-spirited and hateful stance toward what same-sex relationships she might have now or in the future on the other; feeling free to carry signs and spewing rhetoric designed to prevent her and all committed same-sex couples from living fulfilling lives under the protection of law as accrues to him and his spouse and to all heterosexual married couples.
What can possibly threaten the institution of marriage when a loving same-sex couple such as the one at whose marriage I was privileged to officiate is married? Are heterosexuals going to divorce their spouses so that they can now marry a person of the same sex? Is a child better off being raised by a single parent than by two loving parents of the same sex? How is any same-sex marriage going to in any way adversely affect someone’s heterosexual marriage? Clearly, the answers to these questions are patently obvious, save to those who lack sufficient intelligence and/or decency!
During the ceremony in which I officiated, both women had a combination of smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes. Indeed, during a part when I spoke at the ceremony even I choked up.
This marriage probably meant as much to me as it did to the other witnesses to this happy event! In my small way, I was able to help make two wonderful people happy; publicly affirm their dignity; publicly affirm that their love and marriage were every bit as valid as the love and marriage of any loving heterosexual couple; take part in, now hopefully, legalizing their union as spouses for life that would be validated by the force of law. Moreover, it also helped potentiate my fervent desire that all same-sex couples who wish to make a lifetime commitment to each other be allowed to marry, as part of same-sex couples and Gay people one day obtaining all of the civil and sacramental rights that are currently enjoyed by heterosexual people and couples.
It is so important for same-sex marriage to be instituted in every state of the union, and recognized by both civil and religious authorities as being legal and binding; its spouses deserving of all of the rights, responsibilities, and credibility of heterosexual marriage!
If there had been music at their reception, we all would have danced! As it was, we were all so happy for them, and for the fact that we could participate in helping make their marriage both legitimate (which I have no doubt existed in the eyes of God 10 years before this ceremony when they committed themselves to each other) and legal.
If any decent person had been fortunate to witness and participate in this happy and dignified occasion, and seen the looks of happiness on the faces of both women, and seen the joy and reverence with which the couple and participants saw this marriage, he or she would want same-sex marriages to be legal in every state of the union, and properly respected and revered within secular and religious society that have for far too long horribly abused LGBT people as well as the love that same-sex couples have enjoyed for millennia.
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.