The parades and celebrations that had been planned in recognition of this anniversary have been cancelled. All Pride activities have been moved to “on-line” gatherings. Weddings have also been scaled backed, re-imagined or postponed. But even in the midst of all of these changes, it is good to remember. So I found myself looking back over postings on this blog and recalling moments of justice. I want to share some of those memories with you.
Let me begin three years before the Supreme Court ruling. Washington State had its own rocky road to love and justice, but in 2012 we joined Maryland and Maine to become the first states to grant marriage equality by virtue of popular vote. It was a moment that I never imagined I would see. I remember exactly where I was the night of that election. I don’t recall whether or not I cried then, but I do know that now, eight years later, I tear up at the memory. On December 6th, as a result of that vote, the first “marriage equality” marriage licenses were issued in King County. Our congregation was there. In a post I called “When Love Wins” I wrote about that night.
Five of us headed downtown to be there when the first licenses were issued.
“We crammed into a Toyota sedan and headed down to the County Administrative offices to join the party.The first task, as always, was actually to find the building. Downtown Seattle, it turns out, can be daunting to even seasoned Seattleites. But after just a few wrong turns, we found ourselves driving down James Street past several news vans and a long line of couples spilling out of the courtyard and onto the sidewalk. It was wonderful.
“Honk,” one of the passengers said to the driver, and I prepared to wave a friendly greeting to the crowd.
“I’m not going to honk. It’s undignified,” the driver answered.
“Oh,” I said quietly. “I would’ve honked.” Then I settled back into my seat.
The second task, of course, was to find parking. We drove on down the block and circled back. Every space was filled, even the hidden ones that the retired county worker who was with us knew about. In our search we drove past the waiting couples once again. The driver gave a sweet little “beep” on her horn and the folks in the crowd cheered and waved. We all waved back.
Finally we found a parking place way up the hill on the other side of the freeway. We piled out of the car and started walking. It was cold out, and I was grateful to have my robe and stole to put on over my jacket. I left the hood of my jacket out in case of rain. “It gives you a monkish look,” one of my friends said, and meant it as a compliment.
When we got to the courtyard where couples were gathering, the line was snaking around to corner. As we walked up people took our pictures and someone said, “Which of you are getting the license? You’re the two hundredth couple!”
“Well, actually, none of us are here for licenses,” I said. “We came down to celebrate with everyone else.”
To their credit, the folks remained enthusiastic and kept snapping pictures. As we walked on through to the waiting area, I heard someone say to the couple behind us, “You’re the two-hundredth couple!”
. . . . Throughout the crowd there was a deep sense of community, and connection, and contentment. Someone was handing out roses to every couple. Someone else had made buttons to honor his sister and her partner who were getting their license, and most folks in line had one of them on. The Liberation Gospel Choir was offering free coffee, and I heard that someone had brought Krispy Kreme donuts, though I never saw any of those. One couple, concerned that I was not warm enough, put one of those little hand warmer things in my cold hand after our hand shake. How sweet (and warm).
One memory connected to that night came later. The couple that gave me the hand warmers that night later contacted the church and asked me to perform their wedding. And a few years later I performed a memorial service for one of them. I am still in touch with the surviving spouse.
The following Sunday our congregation had a celebration too. I wrote about it in a blog called, “Let Them Eat Cake”
“This last Sunday the weddings began. And while I don’t think it will be long before the exuberance of this historic moment fades, for now I am still feeling wonderfully swamped by stories of joy and justice that have come from more than a week of marriage equality in the state of Washington. So let me offer one more post before moving on.
First I will take you to the narthex of our own church. It is Sunday morning after worship, and we have announced that while we do not have any weddings scheduled here on this historic day, we do have wedding cakes. The cakes are to celebrate the many couples in our church who, although they have not the option of being “lawfully wedded” until now, have taken vows, made life commitments to one another, raised families, and lived together in holy matrimony.
By the time I get to the lounge where the cakes are displayed, a group of young children have surrounded one of the cakes. They know immediately what it is.
“Who’s getting married?” one of them asks. We adults all look at each other, wondering for a moment about how to answer. Eyes turn to me. I am the pastor, after all. Not sure what I will say, I plunge in.
“Have any of you heard about the new law in our state about marriage equality?”
A few kids say they have.
“Well, today is the first day of that new law. So this cake is for gay and lesbian couples, who have not been able to marry until today.”
After a moment of silent reflection, one child asks the most important question: “Does everyone get some?”
We all laugh. “Yes,” I say, “Everyone can have a piece of cake.” And so the cutting begins, and the cake is distributed, first to the children and then to everyone else, until it runs out. And it turns out the cake does run out. I do not get a piece of it. But that was just fine. I love it that so many folks lined up to celebrate. I love it that my congregation has so thoroughly embraced the justice journey of marriage equality that children gathered around a cake have no bigger question than whether or not they get a piece.
I told the cake story again when, two years later, on June 26, 2015, the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling was announced. The title of that post was, “Cake for Everyone.”
Last Friday when word came down of the Supreme Court’s decision about marriage equality, the high school youth of my church were on a mission trip. Our Youth
Director Margaret wanted to choose the right moment to gather them together and give them the news. When that time came, she got everyone’s attention.
“I have something important to tell you all,” she said, and the usually boisterous group got quiet. “Today the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality as a constitutional right across the country.”
The response, Margaret reports, was immediate and spontaneous. Everyone began to cheer. For some, the cheering was accompanied by tears of joy. And then one of the young people said, “I want to be at our church this Sunday for worship. I want to be with the whole congregation. I want to be a part of the celebration”
The Mission Trip schedule called for them to worship together as a group on Sunday morning and then return to Seattle Sunday night. But in that moment, their thoughts turned not only to their own future, but to their faith community.
In the end, they decided to stay where they were and finish the mission trip as planned. But I love the fact that they knew that their joy would be met, matched and amplified by a whole congregation of folks who have worked so faithfully to arrive at this moment.
After telling the story of the children and the cake again, I concluded,
That story stays with me because, like the story of the reaction of our youth last week, it reminds me that my congregation has so thoroughly embraced the justice journey of marriage equality that children gathered around a cake have no bigger question than whether or not they get a piece.
And now, the answer is not just for my congregation and my state. Now, all the youth of my congregation know that wherever their life’s journeys takes them across this country, they can choose marriage. They also know in their hearts that their congregation will celebrate with them. And when a child looks at a wedding cake and asks, ‘Does everybody get some?’ this time my answer applies to the whole nation. ‘Yes,’ I get to say, ‘Everyone does.’
So I come back to the present. I know we continue to have a great deal of work to do in our journey toward love and justice. Even with marriage equality now the law of the land, GLBTQ+ people face discrimination and danger. For some, the simple task of getting a license can be daunting. In this pandemic time, medical benefits continue to be denied by executive order. Day-to-day encounters with hatred and bigotry continue. We still have such a long way to go.
Still, this is Pride Week. This is Anniversary Celebration time. I think I’ll bake a cake this weekend. Bread for the journey.