Seven years ago we ended our 18 year engagement , left Indiana to elope to Iowa. Actually our marriage had been affirmed in a church years before. This wasn’t recognized legally.
See, we lived in Indiana. We actually met in Philadelphia in 1989. We fell in love later, in 1991. But marriage wasn’t legal. Mind you many denominations and faith communities affirmed same gender marriage, but States did not. Then slowly they began to get our of religious side of marriage.
When Mike Pence and others point out they respect religious freedom they are full of it. They respect THEIR religious freedom and their interpretation. They are of courses entitled to it. But stop insulting those of us of many faiths who believe otherwise.
I was an ordained UCC minister serving as a Pastoral Associate in Indianapolis. And Indiana continued to discriminate. My denomination was one of the first mainline denominations to affirm same gender marriage. (in 1992 over 11 larger denominations did). Even though there is separation of Church and State, we could not be married in our own Church. Our pastor, faith community I served in , our Church could not host our marriage. We wanted to be be married IN our denomination- IN our church.
We began to look to Iowa, which had recently affirmed same sex marriages. We spoke often with a UCC minister at Faith United in Iowa City. He properly counseled us about the commitment of marriage etc. And we made a date. July 16th.
Without a word to my Senior Pastor on why I needed 2 days off, and with only 2 friends, it was off to Iowa City!
Aside from Alice and Bill, we had no one coming to celebrate with us. In true extravagant welcome, Rev. Bruce Kittle asked if he could invite others. We were thrilled. Faith UCC also provided music, a violinist ( a perfect addition as my wife plays violin). As it turned out, we were the first same gender marriage. And many of the guests were from local denominations- United Methodist, a rabbi, Presbyterian and others I forget. They witness our vows to one another. And the Church provided everything. And we were married.
Iowa was wonderful. From the county clerks office , the rehearsal dinner (the 4 of us), and the wedding, there was never any bias toward us. We were married!
I never forget driving home and stopping at a rest area to upload wedding photos. A dear little old woman was manning the rest area for hospitality. Iowa had WIFI in their rest areas in 2009. I hesitated as I struggled to get on the computer and she asked if she could help me. Discrimination runs deep.. here is this lil old lady and I thought would she call me a sinner ? or worse?
She was thrilled. She complimented me on my dress, and my beloved in her tux. She looked at each photo. I cried.
and then…. we crossed the State line back to Indiana. And that Sunday, I announced our wedding. And for some in our congregation, and later my family, it sunk in how the laws of Indiana were discriminating. Many thought we were. Many thought we could. And I do believe I was the first UCC ordained openly gay person to be legally married in the Indiana Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ, if not the entire denomination.
Yet what hurts , what resonates, is when the the Pastoral Associate cannot be married in her own church.. ,,. then I remember Iowa and Faith UCC and look into my wife’s eyes and our wedding party. And I am happy.
Religious Freedom means all religions.
And love is love.