In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Unitarian Universalist Church—which has found itself involved in both the Civil Rights movement and the feminist movement—is at the forefront in the fight for marriage equality.
And they have been since 1984.
Yeah, they were way ahead of the game. And their pro-equality stance got a boost back in 2011, when the Reverend Gail Marriner took over as head of the congregation.
“[Marriage equality] is a big issue within our church; we’re just way ahead of the curve. I've been in ministry 18 years and the full time that I’ve been in ministry, my association has been doing rites of passage for gay and lesbian peoples and transgender and bisexual folks when they have wanted to marry.”—Gail Marriner
And while she loved performing those ceremonies, calling them “wonderful and joyful,” she wasn’t keen on the idea that they were not only illegal, but they couldn’t use the word ‘marriage.’ So, Marriner decided to stop performing marriage ceremonies for anyone in her flock until she could perform them for everyone in her flock.
“The place that I get tangled, in this point in time, is that as a Unitarian Universalist minister, when I sign a marriage license for a mixed-sex couple, I give them access to 1,400 benefits under the law. I have not signed a single marriage certificate since I’ve been here, and I won’t—until I can do that for any couple in my congregation that chooses to marry.”—Gail MarrinerShe, instead, refers couples who wish to marry to other local UU clergy; and for couples within her own congregation, they get an explanation from Marriner as to why she won’t validate their marriages.
“They’ve been willing to go along. It’s not that they can’t get married; it’s a statement of conscience.”—Gail Marriner
And, some day, maybe someday soon, Marriner will stop having those long sit-downs with members of her congregation, and she might also stop referring other couples to other churches for their weddings. See, last month, the New Mexico House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee approved House Joint Resolution 3, which would allow voters to weigh in on the issue of same-sex marriage on the 2014 election cycle. The proposal must first clear two other committees before it reaches the 70-member House for a vote.
Until then, Marriner remains firm in her marriage stance, saying something I’ve always said, that God is love, and adding that “the inherent worth and dignity of every person is a result of being created in God’s likeness.”
“My hope is that I will be able to act on behalf of the state of New Mexico and sign those marriage licenses for any couple in my congregation who wishes to formally proclaim that they want to be married and share their lives together.”—Gail Marriner
My hope is that more and more members of the clergy, and more and more Americans, begin to understand that it’s just love, it’s the desire to make that commitment, out loud and in public, it’s just a desire to have the world know that we matter, that we want the same things as other folks. We want our love acknowledged, celebrated and legalized like it has been for straight people for eons.