In the past week, I have performed 19 same-sex marriages. Many people have asked me how I, as a pastor, can engage in performing the sacred rite of marriage for same-gender couples.
I could get into the fact that the texts from the Bible that are used to condemn homosexuality are being grossly misapplied to the same-gender couples who desire to make a lifelong marriage commitment. I could say that the constitution and the rules we perceive from a faith perspective are not the same.
I could point out that marriage equality has been a financial boon for Utah counties, having issued almost 1,000 licenses at $40 a pop in Salt Lake County alone, not to mention rings, cakes, flowers and such.
I could defend my participation in many ways. Yet I think the most compelling affirmation of same-gender marriage has come as I have performed ceremonies at the county building.
Over and over again I have quickly recited the vows and declared married couples who have been in committed relationships for 14, 18, 20, 22, 27 years. The couples in more than half of the weddings I have officiated have been together 15 years or longer.
They are people in love who have committed "to love, honor and cherish each other in sickness and in health" long before the state of Utah afforded them the protections of legally recognized marriage. They know what marriage is.
So why bother? What is so important about the piece of paper? Aside from the legal protections, marriage is unique and it is something that comes from our common humanity.
Marriage takes place in the context of community and family who witness the vows being given one to another. A couple doesn’t just exchange vows to each other, they do it so everyone can hear and can remind them of those vows. It keeps them honest and it emphasizes the graveness of the act.
The affirmation of the entire community brings this unique connection to each marriage.
So I would add my voice to so many who are begging Gov. Gary Herbert to indeed stand on the side of what is truly the tradition of marriage and stop challenging judge Robert Shelby’s decision.
From what I have seen in the past several days, marriage equality will only strengthen this sacred institution.
The Rev. Curtis L. Price is Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City.
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