Now, we come to our long-planned and long-awaited wedding day. We had planned on getting married in early 2013, but had to postpone it three times because of work requirements. After marriage became legal in California, again, and all the legal challenges were settled, we decided on Sept. 17, and determined that nothing could stop us this time.
One of my favorite parts of the book Lord of the Rings, which was omitted from the movie, is the description of the wedding of the king, Aragorn, and his beloved Arwen, who chose to marry him, even though he would die someday, and she would be immortal.
“Then the king welcomed his guests, and they alighted; and Elrond surrendered the scepter, and laid the hand of his daughter in the hand of the king, and together they went up into the high city, and all the stars flowered in the sky. And Aragorn, the king Elassar wedded Arwen Undomiel in the City of the Kings, upon the day of Midsummer, and the tale of their long waiting and labours was come to fulfillment.”
I feel like our tale of long waiting and “labours” had finally come to fulfillment, after 27 years. A lot has changed in 27 years, and to illustrate this, I am including a photograph of our Commitment Ceremony in Los Angeles, in the Restoration Church on Dec. 13, 1986, and also a photograph of our recent ceremony in Sacramento, on Sept. 17, 2013. You can see how both of us have aged, waiting for this day to come.
A lot has changed in our families as well. We would have liked to have planned something formal, months in advance, but instead we had to opt for an informal ceremony in the branch county offices. We would have liked to have our families in attendance, but in the 27 intervening years, Thom lost both parents and a beloved grandmother, and I lost my father. When we first met in 1986, my oldest child was 16, and just beginning to date. Now, three of my four children are married, have children that are beginning to date as teenagers. All four have their own homes. My ex-wife has remarried twice. We have nephews and nieces who have gotten married and had children. I just received a wedding invitation from a great-niece, who is getting married. One of my nieces is a grandmother. In the meantime, Thom and I have been shoved to the back of the line, patiently waiting our turn, and most of the time, wondering whether we would even get a turn at all.
We flew from Austin to Sacramento on a Monday, had the ceremony and met briefly with family on Tuesday, and flew back on Wednesday. The weather was beautiful. It was a nice change to get out of the Texas heat. We arrived at the county offices an hour ahead of our appointment. We filled out the rest of our paperwork, and met the lady, who was going to officiate for us. Her name was Mary. I remember sitting in the waiting room as couple after couple came in: an Hispanic couple, a Black couple, even a biker chick and her boyfriend came in. Two by two, in matched sets, everybody with his or her mate.
It reminded me of the Opera The Magic Flute, and my favorite character Papageno. He was a comic character, a bit weird and out of place, but anxiously seeking for a wife. Eventually, he was given a women, Papagena, who was just like him, and they had a happy family, together.
Or in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where the prankster fairies magically mix up all the couples, but things finally get sorted out in the end. There was a recent movie called Were the World Mine, which builds on this same theme. Both, the words in the play, and in this song in the movie illustrate how we felt that morning.
On the ground
To your eye.
Gentle lover, remedy.
When thou wakest,
In the sight
Of thy former lady’s eye.
And the country proverb known—
That every man should take his own—
In your waking shall be shown.
Jack shall have Jill.
Nought shall go ill.
The man shall have his mare again, and all
shall be well.
We invited everyone we could reach from Thom’s family to attend, since they lived in the Sacramento area. Thom’s sister, and one of her daughters came and were very excited about being our witnesses and taking pictures.
We had a very nice ceremony in a small room decorated like a wedding chapel. The ceremony was your standard ceremony that we are all familiar with. It could have applied to any couple. At the end, we were handed a marriage license. It did not say “Gay marriage license”. It just said “Marriage License”.
So this is what it feels like to be “equal under the law”.
When we said our vows, even they were a given for us, just stating them publicly, in front of witnesses caused me to choke up. When I lost it, Thom lost it. After the ceremony, Mary remarked at how emotional we all got. She performs ceremonies all day, every day. She’s seen it all. But, no wonder we got emotional! We have waited long for this day. Even Thom’s sister and niece both got emotional, too. They knew this was long over-due.
Everywhere we went, people were friendly and asked us why we made the trip to California. We told everyone we came to get married. Everybody wished us “Congratulations.” The lady at the rent-a-car agency. The clerk at the hotel. The woman in the shop at the mall, who helped us pick our frames for our wedding pictures. In fact, most of the people in our families offered their best wishes.
However, there were a few on each side, who just couldn’t seem to choke out the word “Congratulations”, and seemed to laugh the whole thing off as if it were some kind of a joke. They know who they are, and we know who they are. There is a certain family member for whom we planned and conducted her wedding reception. We paid for a night for them in the best hotel in town, for their honeymoon, the same as my dad did for me and my first wife. Thom took off from work to make the arrangements, and paid for much of the festivities our of his own pocket.
In return for this, they refused to let Thom stand in any of their wedding pictures with all the rest of the family, and they refused to even let him ride in the same car. Nothing has been said about this in the intervening years, but we have memories. If they would care to step forward and offer a long-overdue apology, speaking for myself, I would accept it. What Thom does about it is his business. But, our marriage and our relationship is just a valid as anybody else’s. If you don’t respect and acknowledge it, then you don’t respect and acknowledge me.
The evening of our wedding, we held a dinner at a fancy restaurant in town. As before, we invited anyone who would come to the wedding to come and enjoy the meal. I paid for everything. You could order anything on the menu that you wanted. Thom’s one sister came with her two daughters, a husband and a boyfriend. I wished more people could come and we could meet them. After all, a stranger that their brother has been living with for 27 years is coming out on a visit, and you will get to meet him. This reminded me of the story about the “supper of the bridegroom” mentioned in the Bible. The invitation came out to all, but not everyone would attend.
Now, we are back home, printing out wedding pictures, framing them, and hanging them in the hallways. We are going to print a copy of our marriage license, and a copy of the ceremony and hang them in the front foyer. It will be the first thing you see when you come into our home — the home that we dreamt of and built together. The home that I can now leave him when I am gone. The Texas home that I wished we could have been married in. I like to picture friends and family gathered there, as I mentioned before, Thom coming down the staircase, and me waiting for him in front of the fireplace. Then, afterward, holding a reception in our beautiful tree-shaded back yard.
That would have been lovely, and would only add to the great memories we have had living here, and hope to continue to build in the coming years.
Now, a little bit about the civil and religious background, without which we could have been married 27 years ago.
The fundamentalist churches would have us believe that the church owns the institution of marriage. Nothing would be further from the truth. In Greek and Roman times, marriage was something that families did in order to convey property and keep it in the family. The only governance by the state was to oversee all contracts, and to ensure that non-Romans could not inherit the property of Roman citizens. The vital essence of marriage, today, is still a contract. It is subject to contract law, same as under the Romans. Marriage does not belong to any church, much to the protestations of churchmen.
Marriage LAW really only comes into play when the marriage breaks up: death and divorce. The church has no legal role to play in either of these two events. The church merely exists, in this instance, to conduct ceremonies as duputies of the state and possibly provide a place where the two parties met.
The early Christian church believed that the end of the world was nigh, and they focused most of their attention of preparing for the return of Christ. They placed little emphasis on marriage and the family. In fact, it is very difficult to preach from the Bible that Jesus taught “family values”. He said “be in the world, but not of the world.” Marriage is of the world. On the contrary, he urged people to leave their families and follow him. Paul taught celibacy. To the early Christians, marriage was considered a necessary evil, and they introduced ceremonies, not to sanctify or ratify the marriage, but merely to remove the taint of sin. Nobody entered into a marriage for love or procreation. It was assumed that procreation would happen anyway, and it was common practice to have mistresses or lovers on the side. But, in the midst of all this, we have evidence of same-sex marriages being performed. In fact, we have written records of such ceremonial prayers in monasteries throughout the Roman world, including St. Catherine’s monastery, located on the slopes of Mt. Sinai, and in the Vatican, itself.
Then, there is the quote from Jesus that states: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.” If you read the context, this is not a definition of marriage, but a condemnation of divorce! The Bible condemns lustful and unholy practices, whether they take place between two men, two women, or a man and a woman.
The Bible doesn’t not single out homosexuality because this concept of sexual orientation did not exist until modern times. Neither does the Bible condemn loving, committed, monogamous relationships between men. It simply ignores them. Fundamentalist Christians love to condemn the Mormons by citing the warning in the Book of Revelations not to add or take away from the words of “this book of prophecy”. They mistakenly believe that this warning applies to the book as a whole, and not just to the Book of Revelations, which is, indeed, a book of prophecy, put together in the Christian era together with other books of law, prophecy, and history. But, by their own logic, they are added their own words, meanings, prejudices, judgments, and superstitions to the Bible. They are adding doctrines and beliefs which are simply not there.
In another glaring example of misreading the Bible, we often hear somebody scream “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” The truth that you can read for yourself in Genesis is that God created Adam (a term translated alternatively as “Adam” and “man”), as a composite being, from which God later split off Eve as a separate being. Before this event happened, the two were literally ONE FLESH, as Christ and the Book of Genesis states.
The original man was formed in the image of God: male AND female. ONE FLESH. The word for God used in the Bible is Elohim. It’s a feminine word with a masculine plural ending. There is in fact more than one God, and like the original “Adam”, in whose image he was created, God is Male AND Female. There are many names given in the Bible that are translated as God, but the name that is usually given when speaking of God making a covenant is the name Elohim. In fact, some writers interpret the name Elohim as meaning “male and female joined together by a strong covenant”.
People all over this country are beginning to see the injustice of prohibiting same-sex marriage. Every poll taken in recent years shows increasing support, across the boards, but mostly in Blue states and among younger voters and better educated voters, for gay marriage. Where, given the chance to come up for a popular vote, same-sex marriage wins.
Opponents, however, will cite California, where a slight majority pushed through Proposition 8.
The Mormon church heavily supported and contributed to the defeat of marriage equality in California. But, for the Mormons who read this, I quote two LDS scriptures, the first from the Book of Mormon, and the second from the Doctrine & Covenants.
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law–to do your business by the voice of the people. Mosiah 29:26.
We should do our business by the voice of the people (majority), but once in a while the majority creates a law which is inconsistent with our other laws. In this particular case, the conflict is with the US Constitution, the “supreme law of the land”. The US Constitution states that all US citizens have the right to equal protection under the law. Therefore, any law which is passed, without a compelling benefit to the state or nation, that seeks to abridge the rights of a select class of individuals, is, on its face, unconstitutional. We have an established process — the court system — in this country for reviewing the constitutionality of all laws. Anyone with standing can challenge the constitutionality of a law, and if the challenge has legal merit, the law is struck down. This was the case with Proposition 8 and with DOMA.
We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. D&C 134:4.
The Mormon church does not read its own scripture. If it does, it does not understand them. A church has no right interfering with the rights and liberties of men, as long as those rights and liberties do not bind the consciences of the members of the church.
Fundamentalist churches claim it is a “religious principle” to restrict the rights and liberties of others. This view is without precedent in the Bible. Jesus never taught this doctrine. Neither did Moses. Neither did any of the apostles. This doctrine simple cannot be found in the Bible, and it is a violation of their own stated beliefs against adding words to the Bible that are not written in this book. And, it is solemn mockery before God, and taking the name of the Lord in vain to put words in His mouth that he never said, or to utter condemnations that He never made.
We read in Section 59 of the Doctrine & Covenants that God has created all things for the “benefit and use of man, to please the eye and to gladden the heart”. But, these things are to be used with judgment. “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” NOT the commandments we put in God’s mouth, but those commandments, spoken by the mouth of God, himself.
There is a time and place for mankind to partake of every blessing provided by God, whether it be food, drink, the beauty or nature, the wonder of science, the joy of the arts, and even the thrill of sex, EXCEPT for this one thing, which man, himself, not God, has singled out as being taboo. There is a time and a place for everything. There is a right way and a wrong way to enjoy everything life presents us. We are told to follow “moderation is all things”, and that “to the pure, everything is pure”. But, what does this mean in our everyday lives? How do we apply this?
In the temple, we learn that God does not condemn having “desires, appetites, and passions”, but we learn that they are to be “kept within the bounds the Lord has set”. To more perfectly fulfill our temple covenants and, thus, not be placed in the power of Satan, as we are warned, maybe we ought to spend more time reading those scriptures that lie upon the altars of the House of God, which we raise our rights hands and promise to obey. Maybe, instead of just condemning everything we don’t agree with, we ought to learn what bounds the Lord has set.
It’s not that hard. God delights in fidelity and chastity in both men and woman. He wants us to learn to keep and honor our covenants, whether we make them to Him, to our fellow humans, and especially to our spouse, regardless of their sex or gender. All, he asks us to do is to make promises and keep them. Those cast out of the kingdom, according to the Book of Revelations is “whosoever loves and makes a lie”. Instead of condemning those in same-sex relationships as sinners, the church ought to encourage faithfulness and chastity and condemn only those who are unfaithful to their covenants.
The day, Thom and I met, we were ready and willing to commit our all to each other — even without the constraints and restrictions of society and the church forcing us to do so. We were willing to make these commitments of our own free will and choice, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly over the years, for obeying His voice and doing this. If the church and the American public were of the same mind, we would have been married 27 years ago, and not be forced to wait for an entire generation to be married and have children, before we finally got our turn.
But, is religion and obedience to the Bible really the issue? Why is it that when you try to point out to these people the things that are in their own Bible, their own Book of Mormon, their own D&C, and their own temple ceremonies, and they fall on deaf ears. Logic dictates that they don’t hear and understand because they don’t want to hear and understand, just as the Jews in Christ’s day did not, as Christ said, have the truth or the love of the Father within them. Instead, they would rather vent their hatred and destroy the good name of religion, the LDS church, God, Christ, and Christianity, along in the process. I’m proud to be a disciple of Christ. I like telling people about the power of the Gospel, but when people are exposed to this rampant negative attitude, the only logical explanation for which is abject hatred, they will not listen to my words, or the words of anyone who tries to talk sense and logic to them. To the leaders of the LDS church, tolerance is no longer a virtue, but a trap.
To the leaders of the LDS church, I say, with apoligies to FDR, that the only thing we should not tolerate is intolerance, itself.
Large American businesses are ahead of the public, even. Large corporations like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, Exxon, and AT&T, to name a few have begun offering marriage benefits to same-sex couples, regardless of whether they reside in the state in which they were married. When Thom first got on my benefit plan at AT&T, we had to jump though a lot of legal hoops to get that recognition. We have to pay a fee and sign a legal paper that had no legal validity. We had to prove we were living together, had joint financial assets, and paid joint utility bills. And, we have to recertify that we are still “recognized domestic partners” EACH AND EVERY YEAR. Now, after we got legally married, we just had to FAX in a copy of our marriage license. I expect this to be the end of it.