A Wedding Is Not Always Just a Wedding

marriage-355For me, last Saturday was worthy of great celebration—my play daughter was getting married!  Early twenties, beautiful, intelligent, compassionate.  Why not expect that this day would be in the cards for her?  She had met her spouse 6 years to the day before their nuptials.  How romantic!

She had been a student of mine in middle school.  I taught several of her sisters and a brother as well.  The entire family had been to our home numerous times around the holidays.  We had gone out to lunch together.  My husband and I were guests at the older sister’s wedding not more than a year ago—a big church wedding followed by a reception about which nearly every girl fantasizes.

This one, however, was to be small and intimate—family and close friends, an outdoor wedding in a lovely setting.

My husband and I were among the first there so it gave us the opportunity to watch as other guests took their seats, all waiting eagerly for the ceremony to begin.  I just knew that her older sister and possibly her mother would be there.  I was hoping her father would walk her down the aisle.

When the music commenced and the ceremony began, in marched the adorable flower girl, casting colorful blossoms on the white runner.  Following her were the ladies and gentlemen in waiting.  And after that, finally, was the father with tears in his eyes, walking in his beloved daughter, kissing her at the pulpit.  Then, at last, appeared my student, all grown up, in a fitted, old-fashioned, beaded gown and matching veil.  She was escorted, not by her father or her mother, but by a sister and brother.  I could not hold back my own tears—my “little girl” was about to exchange vows and be truly happy—with a bright future ahead of her.

Yes, this was a same-sex wedding.  As it was proceeding, the image of then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D) briefly crossed my mind:  “This door’s wide open now.  It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not”—he exclaimed before a wildly cheering crowd of California Prop. 8 supporters, way back in 2008.  I thought of so many other friends and associates who could now join their lives—officially, lovingly, committedly—with the one they loved the most.

I had promised them this day would come—they were hesitant to believe me.  Now it is real.  Now a lot more than marriage is real.  Hundreds of laws will protect these partners.  They can have children together; they are entitled to healthcare benefits covered under each other’s benefits packages.   They can work at their chosen professions, and so much more.

I remember during my early days of teaching when gay teachers had to hide who they really were (and this was right after it was legally possible for my husband and me to marry—only since 1967).  Black and white, gay and straight, Jew and gentile.  This is another step higher on the civil rights ladder.  These are the outcomes about which people like Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed, spoke, sacrificed, and sometimes died.

But that Saturday was a day for celebration, jubilation, and happy tears.  Though there may be the occasional backlash among those in the extreme right, let our enthusiastic cheers drown out their self-serving and selfish voices.    To paraphrase a statement by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and some lines from the historical fiction novel, Catherine, Called Birdy, When we die and arrive at the Pearly Gates, God is not going to ask us what our titles were or how much money we made.  God is going to ask us what we did for the least of those among the multitudes.

That wedding marks a day of exaltation, of new beginnings and bright futures.  And those who witnessed it will carry with them a new spirit to share with the doubters.  Soon, I predict, such weddings will be as commonplace as having a bi-racial man or a woman or Latino or Muslim as President.  Realistically though, such marriages are likely to become less extraordinary and more mundane before we ever witness other political miracles.  Just sayin’ . . .

Rosemary Jenkins

Sunday, 28 October 2013

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