With the demise of DOMA and approval of same-sex marriage across several states, the times they are a changing for sure! Same-sex marriage is a game changer, and a name changer as well. Those of us who craft words have had to invent some new language for wedding ceremonies. I’ve joined several same sex couples in symbolic “marriages of the heart” here in Oregon where such unions are not yet legally recognized. I’ve also officially wed several others in Washington State where they recently won that legal right.
When interviewing same-sex couples in order to customize their ceremony, I’ve had to revise my questionnaire a bit. “Bride” and “groom,” has become Bride #1 and Bride #2 (or Groom #1 and Groom #2). Beyond that, there is a wide variety of preferences of terminology from couple to couple. When asking two women, for example, how they would like to be referred to in their ceremony—I’ve offered some suggestions: “wife,” “partner,” “beloved,” “spouse?” The responses have been a mixture of “yes’s” and “no’s,” some of them quite strong, on the term “wife,” in particular. One who had been with her partner for over a quarter century, was emphatic: “No way, we’re too feminist for that!”
I’ve even had two females who wanted to be referred to as “husband and wife.” Husband, really? But it was not surprising when I met them on their wedding day. One wore her hair in long, flowing curls and dressed like a traditional bride—in a long, elegant white gown, and she carried a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Her “husband,” on the other hand, sported a short haircut, and white tux pinned with a boutonniere. If not for the womanly voice of the latter, I might have thought she was a he.
I notice the State of Washington had to revise it’s form as well. There are still two sides on the form, with spaces for each of the party’s names, date and place of birth, parents’ names, etc. But instead of the previously-stated “husband” and “wife,” this has been revised to, “Person A” and “Person B.”
One other unique wedding that raised a gender issue comes to mind. The groom was a transsexual, or at least that was his legal status. Technically he was a hermaphrodite or to use the modern term, “intersex.” He openly shared his story with me. He had been born with both boy parts and girl parts, he said, and it was up to his parents to decide his gender. They had chosen to raise him as a girl. Other than remembering that as a kid he cried when they dressed him in a frilly dress, he had been pretty much okay living as a “she” until puberty, when male hormones kicked in and became predominant, resulting in a low masculine voice and facial hair—but ironically, he also grew breasts. His girlfriend fell in love with him as a man. They asked me to perform their wedding, a symbolic-only union because his birth certificate and ID still list him as female. There is a legal process to go through as well as some surgery before he can fully transition and legally become a male. Interestingly, this couple brought their child to their wedding. I have no idea whether the groom was a step-parent claiming the role and title of Dad, if there was a natural birth, adoption, or even surrogacy—nor did I dare to ask! If someone wants to volunteer information, that's one thing, but I'm not one to pry.
Whether it’s a traditional marriage between a man and a woman, or a same-sex union with or without the State’s blessing, it is my honor to help couples declare their love and lifetime commitment as partners, under whatever label they prefer. Yes, the times they are a changing, and I say thank God for that! And, by the way, I will not make any God references for those desiring a nonreligious ceremony. I just substitute the word “love” where I might have said “God,” and really, to me it means the same thing. There is no need to get hung up on names and labels. The only thing that matters, no matter what you call it, is love, the primary essence that unites us all.
It is Sunday now, a perfect, sunny 85-degree day for Amanda and Lynn to tie the knot. Their wedding is a stroke of serendipity; they only planned it three days ago. It was Lynn who got the bright idea mid-week as they flew in from Tennessee to attend a friend's wedding. As the plane passed over Mt. St. Helens in Washington State (where same-sex marriage has recently been legalized), Lynn turned to Amanda and remarked, "We could elope." Now that's a unique place to pop the question; not much room in the aisle of a Boeing 777 to get down on bended knee, a good enough reason to skip that tradition. But then Lynn and Amanda are not a traditional couple.
After looking into it, they learn that they do not have to be residents of the Washington State to obtain a marriage license there. However, there is a three-day waiting period after obtaining a license before the marriage can take place. What better time of year and what better place than the glorious Pacific Northwest to play tourist for a few days?
By Thursday they have license in hand and call me to make arrangements. Then they line up some friends including two to serve as witnesses of record. Sunday rolls around, and presto, I officiate for Amanda and Lynn before their friends under the shade of a lovely big evergreen tree in Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver. Thus, their 18-year relationship is legalized. Serendipity!
We're legal to marry same-sex couples in the State of Washington! We love performing "marriages of the heart" such as the one we did for Jenny and Diane two Decembers ago. Now the outer form can reflect the inner love. To all the loving same-sex couples out there: we will be happy to come marry you in Washington State! We hope that Oregon will soon follow suit. Either way, and irrespective of your gender, whether it's a ceremony "of the heart," or with the legal piece of paper, we're on board to help you celebrate your love and commitment to one another.
I'm the founding minister of Wedded Your Way. I love helping people tie the knot!