When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act last week, I thought back to my marriage ceremony over six years ago. I had just received the call to be the rector of St. Mark's, and Jayson and I were preparing to move from Buffalo to Honolulu. Jayson and I had been living together, but New York did not have civil unions or marriage equality at the time. When the time came for us to live together, we chose to meet with an Episcopal priest who did the same premarital counseling that I require of all couples I marry. The process took about six months, and when it was completed, we began to share the same residence. If we could have been married at the time, we would have done so.
At some point thereafter, Connecticut passed marriage equality, and we decided to make the road trip to New Haven to get married. Early one morning Jayson and I, with two friends, one a priest and one a deacon, made the six hour trip to New Haven, Connecticut from Buffalo. If we planned it right, we would arrive around noon, get the license, get married, have a little celebratory lunch, and then return to Buffalo, driving the six hours again. It was a wild day in many ways. The look on the face of the judge when I told her I brought my own priest and deacon to do the marriage service was priceless. A good friend of mine from Boston drove down to take some photos. We even received permission to have the service in a little chapel of a beautiful Episcopal church in New Haven. Afterwards, the five of us went for pizza and beer. And the priest and the deacon and Jayson almost killed me when I waited to make sure I had my identification documents with me when we arrived in New Haven. Luckily, I had everything in order, and now you know the story of the legal marriage of me and Jayson in Connecticut.
A few weeks later we had our legal marriage blessed by the Episcopal bishop of Western New York, the Right Reverend J. Michael Garrison, with a beautiful ceremony at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo, New York. We hired their excellent choir to sing, Jayson had flowers flown in from Hawai'i for the floral arrangements, we threw a party in the undercroft of the cathedral for our friends, and then a few days later we flew to Honolulu to live permanently. For those who attended the blessing mass, many were deeply moved. For many of our gay friends, it was the first time they had a positive experience regarding being gay and being Christian. Many of our straight friends remarked that they wish they had a service like ours. My dad frowned upon the language of "the blessing of a union," and went around calling the whole ceremony a marriage - a point he brought home with striking clarity when he preached the sermon. In the end, the service was a great witness of Christ's reconciling power in our world.
I am grateful that DOMA was overturned. I am grateful that Hawai'i has civil unions. I am grateful that our governor supports marriage equality. I look forward to when Hawai'i is like Connecticut, and takes the next step to make equality more of a reality for the GLBT community. We had the chance earlier this year, but our politicians did not choose to take such prophetic action. Perhaps now they will be motivated to move further down the road towards marriage equality. Perhaps it is only a matter of time - I hope so.
On this celebration of American independence, let us pray that we continue to discover "America" - that place where all of God's children are valued as fully human and as a delight in the sight of the Lord. May freedom continue to ring in new ways, and let's be sure to give thanks that the Episcopal Church, like times before, is graciously ahead of the curve when it comes to the dignity and worth of every child of God.
Father Paul Lillie+