Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No on 8 Speech

I spoke at an Interfaith Forum last evening in Santa Clarita addressing California's Proposition 8 which seeks to eliminate the rights of same-sex couples to marry in the State of California. I was one of a panel of 3 on the No side. Here is the text of my five minute prepared speech:

My husband and I were married two years ago in a Unitarian Universalist Church. We had about 170 guests, my family, my husband’s family, our friends, some of his work associates, and members from my church here in Santa Clarita. My mother and father walked with me down the aisle. My husband’s mother and father walked with him. The congregation sang a hymn from our Unitarian Universalist hymnal titled, “Let Love Continue Long.” To honor my husband’s Jewish heritage his two brothers held the tallit shawl over our heads as his mother performed the Havdalah blessing for ushering in the Sabbath, and symbolically for us ushering in a new way of living, thereafter, as a married couple.

Marriage is more than a couple pledging their mutual love. We didn’t need a wedding to prove our love. Marriage is more than a couple committing to support each other. We had already been together ten years at the time and were registered domestic partners. We understood that a marriage is something more: more than an expression of love and commitment, much more than the legal arrangement of domestic partnership.

For the ten years I’ve been a minister I’ve told every couple that I marry, that a wedding is the spiritual act of taking the private relationship of a couple and setting it into the context of something larger than just the two of them. It’s about creating a covenant: first of all between the couple and God, secondly between the couple and the two families that their marriage unites, and lastly a covenant between the two of them and the larger society that depends on the institution of marriage for stability and progress. The married couple agrees to take on the responsibility of not just loving each other, but for using the strength of their marriage to contribute to the larger good: the happiness of their family and friends, the health of society, and to further the divine goals of God.

We were married that day in the eyes of our faith. We were married with the enthusiastic support of our families and friends. We were married in the eyes of God. But in our case, two years ago, we were not married according to the laws of our state.

I can’t say that the lack of a marriage license did anything to diminish the joy of the day. But lack of legal recognition from the state where I’ve lived for more than forty years did hurt. The Sunday after the wedding I explained to the children in my church that my husband and I had been married spiritually but not legally. After the service one of the children came up to me and said, “When you said your wedding wasn’t legal, does that mean it was illegal?” And I explained to her no, my husband and I hadn’t done anything against the law, but in this case the law had done something against us. It’s wrong for our state to deny any of its citizens the same fair and equal treatment guaranteed by our foundational, constitutional principles.

That’s a mistake that our state has at last corrected. Our state supreme court has recognized the right for all Californians to receive fair and equal treatment under the law. It is that basic right that Proposition 8 would eliminate.

My husband and I were legally married last month. It is my marriage and the marriages of thousands of other couples who had been waiting 10, 20, 30 or more years and were finally wed this summer that are threatened by Proposition 8. It is the equal right of all young people throughout California to look forward to their wedding day that is threatened by Proposition 8, and a yes vote would destroy that hope and dream for some of them.

My Unitarian Universalist faith tells me that the laws of our state should be as inclusive as is the love of God: no one left out, no one pushed aside. My faith tells me that it is our responsibility to care for the least among us, for the powerful to defend the weaker, for the majority to preserve a place for the minority and to invite them to a seat at the big table. My faith tells me that while my religious beliefs may differ from yours that both your beliefs and mine are best protected by a government that favors neither religion in crafting its laws. My faith tells me that God seeks our joy, individually and universally, and that God sees love in all its forms as the surest route to joy. The God I worship celebrates love wherever it appears, nurtures love and protects love, and uses the love God finds to further the progress of love throughout all creation, leading us all eventually back to the one love that gave us all birth.

If you haven't yet made a donation to the No on 8 campaign you can do so here. If you've already given please give again. We really need your help.

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