As we approached the wedding venue, Ted whispered, “Just so you know, we’re sitting on the groom’s side.” I snorted in response; we were attending our first same-sex union. It was all the groom’s side. This led to a plethora of other questions: would both grooms walk down the aisle (they did), would they have attendants (they did, the women of honor), would there be cake (yes, SEVEN!)?
When Ted asked me to go to his co-worker’s wedding, it didn’t even occur to me to ask whose it was; I just said “Yes.” Later, people asked me why I was attending this wedding if I was Catholic. Luckily, Busted Halo came to the rescue (as it so often does). I remembered looking up this issue a while ago, and I think the advice remains sound:
While the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is reserved to one man and one woman, this doesn’t preclude Catholics from attending celebrations that aren’t Catholic sacramental weddings. Civil weddings don’t pass muster in the Catholic Church, nor do some unions celebrated in other religious communities. That’s not the point here …But all the guests would probably express love and friendship for the couple and a desire to support them at an important time in their lives. If someone invites you to a gay wedding or to a wedding of a different religion — especially if that someone is a friend or relative of yours — don’t hesitate to go. You are called first and foremost to love that person and to honor the relationship you have with him or her.
With that sage advice in mind, I felt no qualms in attending, and I am so glad I did. Still, I understand many of my fellow-Catholics would disagree with my attendance and I am OK with that. It is my personal belief that same-sex couple may save the institution of marriage. It is ironic, with all the buzz now about how Millennials are anti-marriage, that the same-sex microcosm is staunchly pro-marriage. These grooms had to fight for this right and they do not take it for granted. They are lesson to all of us on the importance of marriage, its sacred commitment. They would probably be the last people to tell you “marriage is just a slip of paper.”
In a similar vein, there are some public policy pundits who consider same-sex marriage a conservative trend. In a 2013 Op-Ed, Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow – Governance Studies, at the Brooking Institute stated that: marriage equality could be “the greatest social conservative movement of our time”:
… It is part and parcel of a re-commitment to family values, not a flight from them.
Same-sex marriage is socially conservative in that sense — and in a deeper sense, too. The movement is about equality and rights, yes, but it is also about responsibility and obligation. Marriage joins couples not just in a contract with each other but also in a pact with their community, their kids, their God and millenniums of custom. Gay and lesbian Americans yearn for those bonds.
…In seeking marriage, gays are asking to join Burke’s mighty stream of tradition. They are asking to be constrained, not liberated: to be tied to a commitment larger than themselves, larger even than each other.
There is also the fact that we must never forget the humanity of those involved in these hot-button social issues. There are real people and real hearts involved. I couldn’t help but be moved as I watched the joy on the faces of the the grooms and their parents came down the aisle. I witnessed the joyful – and in some cases – relieved weeping among the guests, even from a tween girl. I knew we were part of something special.
The words of the Rev. Angela Kaufman in her excellent homily when she talked about the grooms’ desire for relationship that would be “more holy and sacred together than it was apart” and the idea that they wished to “make a covenant with God.” I was somewhat miffed that there was no “obey” in the vows. I wonder if that gets thrown back in there for two wives? “Obey” doesn’t really work for me. However, the vows did call for love, honor, duty, service, and faith. I liked the reference to service. I think this is something we tend to forget or choose to overlook in marriage. Service is NOT romantic. One part of the vows that I don’t remember hearing before, “to forgive you as we have been forgiven,” gave me a jolt. I may need to practice that more at home. Finally, the words “safe haven,” “safe place,” and “protection,” used throughout the service were notable. It led me to understand that the journey that led to this walk down the aisle was not an easy one.
As we headed off to the cake (Did I mention there were seven?), I realized I didn’t need be afraid of attending a same sex union. Not only did I learn something from the ceremony, but I clarified what our role in a same sex union: To love them.