Monday, December 27, 2004

Got Scot?

In the transition in Massachusetts marriage law, same-sex couples get state tax breaks this year, but still have to file old-style, single federal forms. With no U.S. law recognizing their marriages, they fall under an odd set of tax regulations.

Fundamentally, they have to create two separate federal income-tax filings. One is the basis for their derived state taxes, and the other set for the U.S. ones.

Likewise, benefits, such as health insurance for a spouse are pre-tax and tax-free in Massachusetts, where the couples are married. The Feds keep them taxable.

No one seems ready to file jointly with the federal forms and start the legal action.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Poor Mouthing Benefits

According to an Associated Press article datelined 12/18/04, some big employers are initially refusing to add same-sex spouses to federally regulated health-care plans. These include Caritas Christi Health Care, General Dynamics and FedEx.

General Dynamics has 3,000 Massachusetts employees and finances its plan itself. Other self-insured companies in the same situation have added same-sex spouses married in Massachusetts. These include Gillette, National Grid USA and UniteHere (a labor union).

An attorney for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Michele Granda, said, "There are some good legal reasons why we might be able to challenge..." In a hint of GLAD's position, she wrote in a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe, " Employers who choose to treat some married employees differently from other married employees are discriminating, plain and simple. Those who do the right thing are to be commended."

At the state's second-largest utility, NStar, a same-sex married couple will file a grievance against the denial of benefits. They are union members who say this violates collective bargaining agreements.

The other side of the coin is that some employers who offer benefits to same-sex spouses are phasing out coverage for unmarried same-sex couples in Massachusetts, now that marriage is legal. A Globe article reports that these include "IBM Corp., Raytheon Co., Emerson College, Northeastern University, the National Fire Protection Association, Boston Medical Center, Baystate Health System, and The New York Times Co., which owns the Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Older Boston Marriage

The euphemistic Boston Marriage received new life a few years ago in a David Mamet play of the same name. Historians, sociologists and others may find irony in the current same-sex marriage trends in Massachusetts.

Lesbian couples living together certainly did not start in May 2004. In my own childhood, I knew them and of them even in classic Southern cities such as Danville, Virginia, the last capital of the Confederacy (literally). Yet rather than a Santa Fe Marriage or a Danville Marriage, the unsanctioned same-sex unions apparently entered the language with the Massachusetts connection because one figured in Henry James' The Bostonians. That famous novel had a lesbian couple as its main characters, although by modern sexual and political standards it is quite tame.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Repent in Leisure

Complications from Massachusetts same-sex marriage will surely bubble up very soon. So far, local judges have managed to avoid the thorniest issue.

In today's Boston Globe, columnist Brian McGrory cites the first few divorce cases after the legalization. There aren't many, but the potential problem is there. Courts in other states should turn down divorce requests from same-sex couples. Otherwise, they are recognizing same-sex marriage in their states.

The possible example he includes was of two men who married in Gloucester in the first week same-sex marriages were allowed. One lives in the Boston area and one in D.C. A Massachusetts judge took jurisdiction of their divorce filing, avoiding the problem.

However, Richard Iannella, the Suffolk county register of probate, predicts that will not always be the case, particularly if the couple both live out of state. As McGrory writes:

Under his reading of the law, any couple living out-of-state at the time of their divorce is required by Massachusetts statute to seek the divorce in the closest jurisdiction. But other states will refuse to recognize gay marriage, meaning they won't grant a divorce.

Because one party lived in Washington, Iannella sought a judge's guidance before pushing ahead with the filing. The judge accepted jurisdiction, but in other cases it may not be so clear.

So there aren't many. As predicted, the initial same-sex marriages were mostly long-term couples who have a high chance of staying married. It only takes one exception per state to kick resulting divorce proceedings into court, as it only takes a single married couple moving to another state and suing for recognition of their marriage there.

Certainly to be continued...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Tabla Rasa

Slate has a nice piece on the denial of the Largess petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in its jurisprudence section. The No Big Whoop article by Lyle Denniston has links to other analysis and points out the lameness of the arguments. The conclusion is that this is to be continued in Massachusetts and maybe in lower federal courts.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Massachusetts' light bite is the list of the 11 state legislators who joined in the Liberty Counsel petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the same-sex marriage decision. According to the Boston Herald (it listed a Connily instead of a Connolly), they are:

Reps. Elizabeth A. Poirier, R-North Attleboro; John A. Lepper, R-Attleboro; Edward G. Cannolly, D-Everett; Christopher P. Asselin, D-Springfield; Philip Travis, D-Rehoboth; James R. Miceli, D-Wilmington; Peter J. Larkin, D-Pittsfield; Robert S. Hargraves, R-Groton; Emile J. Goguen, D-Fitchburg; and Mark J. Carron, D-Southbridge; and Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos, D-Lowell.

There are 200 legislators -- 160 in the House and 40 in the Senate.

Changing the Rules

In today's follow-up on the Supreme Court's declination to hear Massachusetts' same-sex marriage case, Liberty Counsel's Matthew Staver is still spinning:

The republican form of government is a fragile thing, and it depends on each branch of government respecting its limitations. When one branch of government does not respect its limitations, when it usurps power it has not been given, there is no recourse for the people.

His group is certainly invested in this, claiming to have a couple of dozen anti-same-sex-marriage actions pending. Yet other lawyers say the tack they took here was doomed. We do have federalism with states rights, so that this type of issue is almost always left to the states. In addition and more to this point, the Massachusetts legislature has the process of amendments and laws, so that what's at work on both sides is the checks and balances system.

I think Liberty Counsel may have to look at civics books and legal texts before trying again. Staver's argument about the fragility of our form of government is rhetoric and not supported by history. It is about as believable as his argument in the original effort to prevent Massachusetts marriages last spring when his petition claimed that "marriage as universally understood for millennia of human history will be forever changed; chaos will ensue."

Monday, November 29, 2004

Passivist Judges

Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear 04-420, Largess v. Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Massachusetts. That petition sought to overturn the Massachusetts decision permitting same-sex marriages.

One cannot help but wonder whether the stance of the plaintiffs' attorney was ill advised. The filing asked that Court "protect the citizens of Massachusetts from their own state supreme court's usurpation of power." In wonderfully dramatic -- perhaps overly dramatic language -- it wanted to ensure that we Bay Staters could "live in a republican form of government free from tyranny, whether that comes at the barrel of a gun or by the decree of a court."

Among the counterarguments filed was that the plaintiffs have not shown any injury.

The Longwood, Florida-based Liberty Counsel filed the petition for 11 Massachusetts legislators and lead plaintiff Robert Largess, vice president of the Catholic Action League. This is the same firm that filed the pro-Ten Commandments suit, which the Supreme Court will hear.

Plaintiff attorney Matthew Staver offers quite a few comments on same-sex marriage on his site, including:

Will same-sex marriage hurt my marriage? No, but it will hurt people, and it will destroy the culture. That's what I care about...

...We understand this is a spiritual battle. At the same time, we're mindful of the fact that God placed us here at this time in human history. My ancestors did not foresee this day, but I do. Our Mighty General has called you and me to the front lines. He is leading us into battle and we must follow. I do so with joy.

I don't believe that's an allusion to Ren & Stimpy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Bless Them. Pardon Me.

The anti-same-sex-marriage/pro-amendment folk must not be happy with Massachusetts Senate President Bobby Travaglini this week. He starred in a gay wedding over the weekend. He is supposed to lead the effort to put a vote on the proposed amendment on the ballot in 2005 and shepherd the Constitutional Convention in 2006.

Over the weekend, he delivered a very sincere, moving and well-received toast to bless the marriage of another state senator and a political consultant. The men are long-term friends of his.

As today's Boston Globe reports, "His heartfelt toast has advocates on both sides wondering whether the Senate president has changed his mind on the issue of same-sex marriage." In another time and other circumstances, no one would criticize him for blessing the legal wedding of friends. However, here, now and in this political climate...

In 2003 and early this year, Travaglini tried to dodge the whole issue, hoping the courts would deal with it first. Of course, the joke ended up being on him, when the Supreme Judicial Court did that, but not in the way he envisioned. See an earlier post on his non-efforts.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Adultery on Paper

Massachusetts is one of five states that -- at least on paper -- consider adultery a felony. The others are Idaho, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. It is a misdemeanor in about half the country.

Here, the law is Chapter 272: Section 14, and reads:

A married person who has sexual intercourse with a person not his spouse or an unmarried person who has sexual intercourse with a married person shall be guilty of adultery and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years or in jail for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.

In practice though, it is hard to find any enforcement. Adultery as with marriage is a civil matter. However, in 1980, police discovered a couple obviously enjoying each others' company in public in a van. They admitted that they were married to other people. He paid a $50 fine, but she fought the charge. She claimed she had a right to privacy, citing abortion and contraception case law. The Supreme Judicial Court figuratively snorted and said those had nothing to do with each other. She lost and 272:14 remains the law of the commonwealth.
Commonwealth v. Stowell, 389 Mass. 171, 449 NE2d 357 (1983).

Too Much Time

Bay State colonists seemed to have had an overly detailed prurient interest in marriage laws. The polygamy and adultry section follows after the single-sentence law on today's books. (The exceptions cited in 207:4 are if you married in good faith when your divorce was not really final or your "dead" spouse alive, you could clean up your mess and stay married.)

Chapter 207: Section 4 Polygamy
Section 4. A marriage contracted while either party thereto has a former wife or husband living, except as provided in section six and in chapter two hundred and eight, shall be void.

The Charters and General Laws of The Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay.

1694 AN ACT AGAINST ADULTERY AND POLYGAMY.WHEREAS the violation of the marriage covenant is highly provoking to God, and destructive to families, Sect. 1. Be it therefore enacted by the governor, council and representatives, in general court assembled, and by authority of the same, that if any man be found in bed with another man's wife, the man and woman so offending, being thereof convicted, shall be severely whipt, not exceeding thirty stripes, unless it appear upon trial, that one party was surprised and did not consent, which shall abate the punishment as to such party. And if any man shall commit adultery, the man and the women shall be convicted of such crime before their majesties' justice of assize and general goal delivery shall be set upon the gallows by the space of an hour, with a rope about their neck, and the other end cast over the gallows, and in the way from thence to the common goal shall be severely whipt, not exceeding forty stripes each, also every person or persons so offending shall for ever after wear a capital A of two inches long, and proportionable bigness, cut out in cloth of a contrary colour to their cloaths, and sewed upon their upper garments, on the outside of their arms, or on their back, in open view; and if any persons or persons, having been convicted and sentence for such offence, shall at any time be found without their letter so worn, during their abode in this province, they shall by warrant from a justice of the peace be forthwith apprehended and ordered to be publickly whipt, not exceeding fifteen stripes, and so from time to time, toties quoties.

Sect. 2. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that if any person or persons within this their majesties' province, being married, or which hereafter shall marry, do at any time after the first of July in the present year, one thousand six hundred ninety-four, presume to marry any person or persons, the former husband or wife being alive, or shall continue to live so married, that then every such offence shall be felony, and the person and persons so offending shall suffer death, as in cases of felony; and the party and parties so offending shall receive such and the like proceeding, trial and execution, in such county where such person or persons shall be apprehended, as if the offence had been committed in such county where such person or persons shall be taken or apprehended. Provided always, that this act, or any thing therein contained, shall not extend to any persons or persons, whose husband or wife shall be continually remaining beyond the seas, by the space of seven years together, or whose husband or wife shall absent him or herself, the one from the other, by the space of seven years together in any part within their majesties' dominions, or elsewhere, the one of them not knowing the other to be living within that time. Provided also, that this act, or any thing therein contained, shall not extend to any person or persons, that are or shall be at the time of such marriage divorced by any sentence had, of hereafter to be had, as the law of the province in that case has provided, or to any person or persons where the former marriage has been, or hereafter shall be, by such sentence had, declared to be void and of no effect, nor to any person or persons, for or by any reason of any former marriage had or made, or hereafter to be had or made within the age of consent, that is to say, the man fourteen years of age, the woman twelve.

Deluge to Trickle

For either anti- or pro-gay marriage advocates, the initial counts of Massachusetts weddings offer plus and minus. The state has recorded nearly 3,000 same-sex marriage certificates, but the rate seems to have dwindled to next to nothing after the initial rush.

The state gives town clerks two months and ten days to file the post-wedding papers. The initial tabulation since May 17th is 2,980 same-sex marriages out of 12,600 total -- 36.5%. The state estimates that the total of same-sex certificates to date will end up being 4,266 at about that same ratio.

Suburban and rural areas have very small percentages of their totals. Boston has had about 21%. A very few traditionally gay-oriented areas, such as Northampton (66%) and Provincetown (97%), have high percentages.

So there may be that many legally married homosexuals this year. Some of them will move to other states. A few of those will seek recognition of their marriages from government agencies, insurance companies, the courts and legislatures.

Meanwhile, new same-sex wedding licenses and certificates have slowed considerably. They may well fall back to levels representing the percentages of homosexuals. There doesn't seem to be any steady flow of couples from other regions trying to get married here. That could change if the state begins to welcome such unions.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Death by Attrition?

Massachusetts is still almost two years away from any chance at amending its constitution to forbid same-sex marriages. They would have to have a constitutional convention next year to consider the issue, and if it approved that, could present it to voters in November 2006.

Meanwhile, some of the 11 states that rushed out same-sex restrictions for this year's voting could find those overturned by courts. If that happens and those states recognize Massachusetts gay/lesbian marriages, it could further reduce the drive for an amendment here.

There was a wisp-thin margin of legislators who would put the question on the ballot. They seem to have lost their critical mass in the recent election. Unfortunately for them, the sky didn't fall. There was no chaos following same-sex marriages, no disruption of any type. The pent desire for legal protections and public commitment has slightly increased the number of married couples here. Ho hum.

Very locally, my state senator, Marian Walsh was typical of those whose same-sex-marriage votes helped, even in her very socially conservative district. My Boston neighborhood is pretty left-wing, but it falls into her senate district, which heavily Roman Catholic.

She is from the West Roxbury part of Boston. A few centuries ago, Roxbury was its own city and much larger geographically than Boston. After annexation, Roxbury has been divided into parts of the South End, as well as Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and West Roxbury. Roxbury is largely African American, Jamaica Plain is mixed Yuppie, Latino, artist, gay, and pinko. West Roxbury is also known as White Roxbury because it is largely Irish-American and Roman Catholic.

While she is a six-term senator who has done quite a bit, Walsh was up against a one-trick pony this time. In reaction to the same-sex court decision and Walsh's vote against an amendment, attorney Bob Joyce ran against her. His only discernible issue was same-sex marriage, which he framed in moral terms. Walsh deserved to lose because she was out of touch on this issue, he said a few thousand times.

She may be on the wrong side for her typical constituent, on this one issue. However, they returned her to the senate with 64% of the vote.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Okie Amendment

The Oklahoma amendment to its constitution that passed on November 2nd reads:

A. Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union
of one man and one woman. Neither this Constitution nor
any other provision of law shall be construed to require
that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be
conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

B. A marriage between persons of the same gender performed
in another state shall not be recognized as valid and
binding in this state as of the date of the marriage.

C. Any person knowingly issuing a marriage license
in violation of this section shall be guilty of
a misdemeanor.

As well as letting public and private employers deny benefit to unmarried hetero- or homosexual couples, it looks like the legislators were going for the greatest specificity possible. They must have wanted to head off the type of lawsuit that Bridger-Riley filed, or at least have a good shot in court. Now we'll see whether that backfired.

We may be back to the type of state/nation arguments the original Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention had. Our federated nation put states' rights in its constitution. On the other hand, that works in no small part because in general one state recognizes the acts of another when it crosses borders -- driving licenses and marriages, for example.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Larry, Darryl and Darryl

It's not really anything-for-a-buck reasoning, but Rev. Carter Heyward, an Episopal priest in Cambridge, Massachusetts, published an apology (in the classic sense) of why she performs same-sex marriages.

The short version is that people asked her, she's a lesbian, and she figured it was her duty. With her thinking cap on, she divides up her reasons into:
  • Pastoral responsiblity as a priest
  • Strategy for social change
  • Canons and prayer book do not forbid marriage between persons of same sex
  • Political situation in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Unity with the church
  • Different roles to play in the church at this time

Each item has a paragraph with the theology and politics behind it.

She writes:

In this context, I find myself “marrying folks” because, against the tradition of Christian marriage which is patriarchal to its core, marriage between persons of the same sex has become a momentous justice issue in relation to which Christian churches that profess a love for Jesus as Liberator, Healer, and Reconciler should be leading the way.

That shows how shallow I am. Some straight friends, then some gay friends, asked me to solemnize their marriages. I could. I did.

Friday, November 05, 2004

OK 2

I still can't find the whole suit, but I did get some details, including:
  • The attorney filing the suit for the two couples is civil-rights and employment litigation specialist Kay Bridger-Riley.
  • Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, who had the civil union, are editors for the daily newspaper, the Tulsa World.
  • The action seeks to overturn the state constitutional amendment that passed in this week's election.
  • It also challenges the U.S. constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, particularly the provision that allows individual states to deny reciprocity by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
  • The civil suit claims that the four women are denied rights and privileges granted other Oklahoma residents and U.S. citizens, specifically that one couple cannot enter into a marriage and the other does not have recognition of their civil union.
  • Bridger-Riley said, "There are over 1,000 different rights and privileges and immunities that are denied to same-gender couples that are in the same situation as heterosexual couples."
  • The suit's defendants are Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Governor Brad Henry, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and President George W. Bush.

Tulsa Tussle

Against the spirit of the moment, two lesbian couples filed a federal lawsuit in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They want a Massachusetts-style court decision granting one of them (Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin) the right to marry and the other (Susan Barton and Gay Phillips) recognition of their civil union that they legally had in Vermont three years ago.

I haven't been able to read the suit yet. However, they have a much harder argument to make there than the parties did in Boston.

The Oklahoma law has been gender-specific since 1925. In addition, it is not nearly as strong in describing marriage as a civil contract as Massachusetts is. While I am a native of Oklahoma, I would not have picked that state for a court battle.

You can browse the Sooner statutes.

Even before the recent constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man/one woman, the statutes included a 1996 restriction of:
  • A marriage between persons of the same gender performed in another state shall not be recognized as valid and binding in this state as of the date of the marriage. (43 O.S. 2001, § 3.1)

The 1903 statute was spongier and probably easier to challenge. Its definition read:
  • Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract to which the consent of parties legally competent of contracting and of entering into it is necessary, and the marriage relation shall only be entered into, maintained or abrogated as provided by law. (43 O.S. 2001, § 1)

By 1925, the Oklahoma Supreme Court had interpreted who is qualified narrowly, as:
  • "Marriage" as at common law creates the status of husband and wife under the law of this state. Whenever the minds of the parties meet in a common consent thereto, the marriage immediately arises. It is a contract between the man and woman, each accepting the other into the ties of that relation, neither remiss to its possible sorrows, nor the enjoyment of its incidental pleasures. Mudd v. Perry , 235 P. 479

This specificity makes this lawsuit a lot tougher than the state suit of the much vaguer Massachusetts statutes. Absent federal guidelines, this is a hard sell.

As the Oklahoma suit becomes available, I'll see what their arguments are.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

11 Steps Back

As everyone seemed to predict, the 11 states that had ballot proposals defining marriage as between one man and one woman passed them yesterday. In the mid-term, this likely means that same-sex couples who legally marry in Massachusetts will begin court action when their marriages are not recognized in new residence states. Certainly to be continued...

Amusingly enough, the highest percentages were in the poorest and the most traditionally politically reactionary states, and proud of it, by gum. Those states with higher percentages of college-educated citizens still passed the proposals by smaller margins.

The approval percentages ran:
  • 86% -- Mississippi
  • 77% -- Georgia
  • 76% -- Oklahoma
  • 75% -- Arkansas
  • 75% -- Kentucky
  • 73% -- North Dakota
  • 66% -- Montana
  • 66% -- Utah
  • 62% -- Ohio
  • 59% -- Michigan
  • 57% -- Oregon

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Bay Colony Posturing

Despite the arm's length attitude of colonial Massachusetts government to clergy, the morality of the state that brought you the Blue Law could be harsh. Yet, apparently much of the law was bluster.

For example, in law, you could be put to death for blasphemy or idolatry in Connecticut, Massachusetts or and New Hampshire. Likewise, there was a death penalty on the books for adultery in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. "In practice, however, these statutes were rarely enforced," according to The Death Penalty: An American History, Stuart Banner, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 2002, p. 5.

The Bay Colony Puritans did whip and publicly humiliate adulterers -- male and female equally. For all of that, only a single couple paid the full price for pleasure. "James Britton and Mary Latham, hanged in Massachusetts in 1643 for adultery, are the only two known to have been executed for the offense in any of the colonies," according to Banner.

For more on the colonial Massachusetts position on clergy and marriage, see the earlier post
Why There?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Exit Polling

Two days ago was the Suffolk County election. Leaving the old-folks home where we vote, I found my way blocked by a pleasant cliché. The young woman with the clipboard had a pale, round face like a sugar cookie with raisins for eyes. She looked for all the world like the stereotypical cropped haired, stocky, man-dressed lesbian, as I looked surely as the stereotypical middle-aged straight, ex-jock WASP.

She was polling on a single concern -- how did I feel about the proposed November ballot question to start a state constitutional process to limit marriage to heterosexual couples? And was I ever ready for that one.

The eyes widened when I told her I had just solemnized a same-sex marriage, that I belonged to the Arlington Street Church, and that I could only see the institution of marriage expanded and strengthened by bringing same-sex couples into the process.

She felt good. I felt good. It is a nice way to leave a voting site.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Vows

I used very similar vows for both the heterosexual and same-sex couples. I based them on the 1928 Episcopal Book of Commom Prayer. It is pretty much the wedding they use in churches and movies.

Interestingly enough, the base version was the revised one, in which the Episcopals had already removed the bridge's pledge to obey her husband. I also negotiated with the first couple whose wedding I solemnized, removing the Christ stuff. However, neither couple objected to the Lord's Prayer or the standard one following it.

For both ceremonies, I formatted it in FrameMaker to fit in a leather binder. That package also incuded a scanned copy of the solemnization certificate and the marriage license. Both of those have to go to the county records office for permanent storage. You can do similar formatting in Word so that you can print it on heavy stock and cut it to your book.

Note: In Massachusetts, if you want a copy of these, you should make them before turning them in. The county or state can provide certification of the marriage, but holds the originals.

The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony

At the day and time appointed for Solemnization of Matrimony, the Persons to be married shall come into the body of the Church, or shall be ready in some proper house, with their friends and neighbours; and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Solemnizer shall say,

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this company, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God, and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, speak now, or else hereafter for ever hold your peace.

And also speaking unto the Persons who are to be married, he shall say,

I REQUIRE and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that if any persons are joined together otherwise than as God's Word doth allow, their marriage is not lawful.

The Solemnizer, if he shall have reason to doubt of the lawfulness of the proposed Marriage, may demand sufficient surety for his indemnification: but if no impediment shall be alleged, or suspected, the Solemnizer shall say to the Man,
P WILT thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?

The Man shall answer, I will.

Then shall the Solemnizer say unto the Woman,
K WILT thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love him, comfort him, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?

The Woman shall answer, I will.

Then shall they give their troth to each other in this manner. The Solemnizer shall cause the Man with his right hand to take the Woman by her right hand, and to say after him as followeth.
I P take thee K to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

Then shall they loose their hands; and the Woman with her right hand taking the Man by his right hand, shall likewise say after the Solemnizer,
I K take thee P to my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

Before delivering the Ring to the Man, the Solemnizer may say as followeth.
BLESS, O Lord, these Rings, that they who give them and wear them may abide in thy peace, and continue in thy favour, unto their life's end. Amen.

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Man shall give unto the Woman a Ring on this wise: the Solemnizer taking the Ring shall deliver it unto the Man, to put it upon the fourth finger of the Woman's left hand. And the Man holding the Ring there, and taught by the Solemnizer, shall say, K, with this Ring I thee wed.

Then shall they again loose their hands; and the Woman shall give unto the Man a Ring on this wise: the Solemnizer taking the Ring shall deliver it unto the Woman, to put it upon the fourth finger of the Man's left hand. And the Woman holding the Ring there, and taught by the Solemnizer, shall say, P, with this Ring I thee wed.

Then, the Woman leaving the Ring upon the fourth finger of the Man's left hand, the Solemnizer shall say, Let us pray.

Then shall the Solemnizer and the People, still standing, say the Lord's Prayer.
OUR Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive, those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Then shall the Solemnizer add,
O ETERNAL God, Creator and Preserver of all mankind, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life; Send thy blessing upon these thy servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy Name; that they, living faithfully together, may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them made, (whereof these Rings given and received are token and pledge,) and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to thy laws. Amen.

Then shall the Solemnizer join their right hands together, and say,
Those whom God hath joined together let no one put asunder.

Then shall the Solemnizer speak unto the company.
FORASMUCH as P and K have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving their Rings, and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are Husband and Wife. Amen.

The Solemnizer shall add this Blessing.
GOD bless, preserve, and keep you, mercifully with favour look upon you, and fill you with all spiritual benediction and grace; that ye may so live together in this life, that in the world to come ye may have life everlasting. Amen.

The Guys: Intro

Let's call the couple J1 and J2. They could share towel monograms down to the Jr. I haven't asked whether they want their marriage broadcast. So we can do the Ann Landers thing.

After the introductions on the lawn, I started the ceremony with the following remarks:

Aren’t (they) married already?

To us and many others they certainly are. Figuratively that has long been the obvious case. Since the elegant, elaborate and romantic civil union last year, to us they are certainly united formally — and sweetly.

However, it is an oddment of our place and time that they are among the first gay couple in America to wed legally today. Neither (J1) nor (J2 )is overtly political or confrontational. Yet today, they do what is right for them, what is now newly blessed by law, and what may inspire others.

(J1) and I have know each other nearly 40 years. His personality is certainly best characterized by his constant amazement and amusement at life, his own as well as others’.That brings with it an intensity and compassion that magnifies his existence. He lives for more than one and experiences more in a day than others do. He really lives more life than most.

(J2) has the persistence and naturalness of running water. He thrived in the potentially awkward situation of second spouse. As surely as cycling long, climbing Alaskan roads, he won us over as well as (J1). And now my long-term friend seems to be the wild, volatile one. It is a delightful transformation.

Because their relationship began in their maturity, they know who they are and what pleases them. They differ enough to grow and are alike enough to share pleasures and pains. They not only accommodate each other, but they learn from and incorporaqte portions of each other.

They are not the image of a melting pot, losing their characters into some indefinite medley. Insead they are an alloy,with the self of each evident. This material has a greater strength and beauty as a result.

This event too may be another alignment of the heavens. Their civil union was lit, unlit and relit by a lunar eclipse. This marriage occurs on a full moon. Tradition ascribes good fortune to such events. We have seen in dark skies and storms, these two make their good fortune together. A little superstitious blessing cannot hurt though.

Let us bless this new beginning, one more renewal for (J1) and (J2), and let us wish them continual happiness.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Damp Twice

Yesterday on the shore of Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, J1 and J2 (they are so compatible that they even have the same three-letter monogram) married. Perhaps 30 of us sweltered in 90-degrees/90-percent weather in a 300-year-old house.

J1 is a Southerner, as are my wife and I. The oppressive air was very familiar and not unpleasant. We have all had pleasant and memorial experiences and events in such conditions. In addition, no one had any awkward conversation gaps. We could all remark on the heat and sweat and occasional breeze.

The wedding cake was white inside and out. On the counterposed cool surface were two plastic men in white dinner jackets, one brown and one white. The real things were down to shirt sleeves.

J1, my friend of 38-years, was nervous, pacing, fretting, despite their civil union in Vermont last year. J2 was is ever-calm self.

A brief rain didn't cool the air but nor did it delay the ceremony. We all went to the lawn, introduced ourselves, and turned to the matter at hand.

I'll add my introductory remarks and the solemnization ceremony shortly. The gist of it was that from the introductions before, the ceremony itself, and the remarks to them and me afterwards, and particularly the toast of J2's brother, it was much like any other informal wedding.

Friday, August 06, 2004

New Vows, Whose Vows

There won't be tussle over the vows for this month's solemnization. The gay couple had their civil union in Vermont last year. It was very much a Boomer wedding, replete with readings from those attending, poetry, and the justice's direction of their self-written vows.

That out of the way, this one will involve me speaking about the men, their exchange of pledges to each other, and my pronouncing them married. No Episcopals are involved, even by proxy of prayer book.

The whole topic arose last night in a different context though. The missing companion cropped from my profile's tricycle picture was in town. She and her husband and my family had dinner. It was the first time we had seen each other since childhood. The link to this blog is that she is here to attend a daughter's wedding in a suburb. A friend of the couple will solemnize it under Massachusetts' wonderful and quirky one-day designation law.

Her role as mom is to read from Milne's Now We Are Six. She promises a report on the event.

For me, I have scanned my new certificate of solemnization and shall pick up a leather binder this weekend for that, a copy of my comments, and places for their vows and any written wishes from those attending. This is fun stuff.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Right Ahead or Left Out?

To most of the United States, the Massachusetts decision to allow same-sex marriages is out of synch, at best. Missouri may be at one extreme as of August 3, 2004. It was already one of 40 states with laws specifically forbidding same-sex marriages. As part of a special election for governor, it also amended its constitution by a vote of over two to one to ban define marriage as between one man and one woman. Its constitution now includes " be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman."

One can certainly understand why the conservative church definition of marriage crept into marriage laws. It is what the vast majority of legislators grow up hearing and believing. Particularly in states without that strong desire to separate religion and legislation, that could be a real voter pleaser.

So now the question seems to be whether Massachusetts is leading the way or way out in left field. Worldwide, the slow trend looks to favor wider rights for more people — a big tent, rather than a retreat to the comfortable. A future post will touch on the places in South America, Europe, Africa, and of course, Canada that already permit same-sex marriage or provide similar privileges and responsibilities to homosexual couples.

Meanwhile, I have a light summer dinner jacket and a wool winter one. In all likelihood at the end of this month, I shall solemnize a gay wedding in the lightweight one.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Getting to the Words

He wants to say. She wants to say. She doesn't want them to say.

Start with the 1928 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. You’ll find the wedding vows from the movies and our memories. That’s what P wanted for his. K, on the other hand, found the Jesus stuff a big stifling.

By that version, the avant garde Episcopals had already dropped the woman pledging to obey hubby. Yet that didn’t quite cut it.

We negotiated. I grabbed the old version and modified it a bit for K’s intent. Then we went through three iterations of editing and fine-tuning. It was close to the oldie, but modernized and secularized.

I can mail a copy with the names blank for those who want to use it as a starting point. Contact me at

Because the designation of solemnization certification must go with the marriage license to the county for its records, I scanned it. The couple ended up with a leather binder containing the vows, the scanned certificate, and blank pages for wishes and comments of those attending.

Our only regret was the recalcitrance of K's now P&K's pubescent daughter. She was actively involved in every phase of planning, down to creating the individual floral pieces at each place. She made all the adults mist and her mother cry with her speech as we took turns. She spoke of thinking of a big heart when she thought of mom and dad. K was openly crying. However, afterwards, her daughter could not or would not recall the unwritten words for the book. Pity.

Last Year #1

My maternal grandfather relaxed by adding careers on top of existing ones. One of the things he did on the side was having a tailor shop and dry cleaners. To us, that meant that our clothes always fit because it made it so. It also meant that he carried that you were properly provisioned. So when I was graduating from high school, he insisted that I acquire a black dinner jacket — a tuxedo to most folk.

A man should own at least a dark dinner jacket with the trousers, shoes, shirt, studs, bow tie and cummerbund. Showing up at functions in the modern era dressed like the late 19th Century is always a positive for one reason or another. It also comes in handy for male Massachusetts solemnizers.

Showing up for church in your blue jeans speaks poorly of your upbringing. We should all dress for the weddings as well. At the risk of looking, as the British would say, as one in service, I dressed for my first solemnization.

P&K, whose marriage I solemnized last year, did it with fine style. They hired one of the Bay Tower Room function areas, in Boston’s financial district. It is on the 33rd floor at the top of 60 State Street. This room overlooks the harbor, Old North Church and the rest of the North End, and at the time, the elevated Interstate 93 through town. The view gives new meaning to Lord (and Lady) of the Rings.

They did not want a church wedding and chose a far grander setting for a dozen and a half of us. It was a sit-down dinner preceded by the wine, hors d-oeuvres, and a pianist alternating between Baby Boomer oldies, jazz and show tunes. What she didn’t know, she’d extract from her gigantic cheat book.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Nation Comes Close

The July 5th issue of The Nation is same-sex marriage themed. There is a lot of good material there, some of which you can read online even if you are not a subscriber. Check out excerpts from the marriage issue.

[By the bye, The Nation is a fabulous publication that carries material you won't find elsewhere. You should subscribe.]

Unfortunately, the coverage in that issue still confuses church and civil authority on marriages. There are even well-intended comments from their authors about how whatever the churches decide makes a marriage should decide the matter.

How very wrong-headed that is. We have a long history of not letting churches control our government or make our laws, for very good reasons.

Marriage is a civil contract. The states can determine the requirements for who gets a marriage license and who can perform the ceremony. That was the key to the Massachusetts decision on Goodridge.

So, bless The Nation in general. Here specifically they need to think a bit harder rather than just running their list of the usual suspects' comments.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Bay State Baiting

It was the classic monkey's paw in Massachusetts. The legislature should have been careful about what it wished for. It got it and didn't care for the results.

The cowardly lawmakers knew that the commonwealth highest court was considering the Goodridge case, for the better part of two years, plenty of time to put limiting laws in place. They didn't want to stick their collective neck out and waited for the Supreme Judicial court. When the three-to-two decision came down, the result was very bold, very logical, very unsettling, and very American. The women and men on the Boston bench said that what wasn't forbidden was permitted.

In contrast to the old Soviet Union, where only what was specifically permitted was legal, in this country and state, it is the reverse. Nothing in the Massachusetts constitution or body of laws forbids same-sex marriage.

That distinction seems lost on most media so far. However, it is the key reason why the commonwealth was the right place to bring the action. There was no confusion about what the church might want or what the legislature or some amendment decades ago pronounced. The issue is simply who has the right to a marriage license. Once that is in hand, the law says they can wed.

Even here, there are restrictions on the license. To wit:
  • Both parties need a picture ID, preferably a driver's license.
  • Both parties need to be at least 18 years old.
  • They each need a blood test to be sure they are not carrying venereal diseases.
  • They need to wait three days
  • They have 60 days from getting the license to marry or repeat the process
  • Together, they must pay $4 plus the county-court fee (usually a total of $25).
  • They must appear for the license together.
  • Any divorced party must bring a final divorce decree.

That is less restrictive than some states. They do not need to be residents of the commonwealth. They can marry cousins. And now they can marry someone of the same gender.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Waltzing with the Pig

Far from now and here, my soon-to-be-wife and I walked across the Piggly-Wiggly parking lot to the Citizen's Loan Company in Beaufort, South Carolina, to get married. To the locals, this was the Black Pig, even in 1976, because although anyone could shop anywhere and light and dark folk there buy pretty much the same groceries, the tradition of whose store was whose remained.
We had stayed at the motel at the other end of the lot. We headed to where a friend, Arthur Horne, chairman of the Beaufort County Council would perform the ceremony under his authority — as notary public. That may seem like having the clerk behind the counter at the post office conduct the marriage, but South Carolina is not the only state where the thinnest veneer of governmental authority legitimizes a civil contract meant to last a lifetime. Arthur was craggy, an ex-Marine with the deep wrinkles of age, beating cancer, and too much Southern sun. Yet, he was deeply touched by being asked and cried as he did the deed. The authority invested in him as a notary public has lasted 28 years. The Massachusetts version of authority is a bit more demanding. Recognized clergy can solemnize a marriage here, as can a justice of the peace. Otherwise, whether you are a Supreme Judicial Court Justice or a plain guy, you petition the governor for a one-day designation to wed a couple.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Clergical Folklore

As a non-Roman Catholic, I was stunned by the annulment petition a friend had his diocese send me as a witness. Later when I met with a priest, I was a bit amused by his take on Massachusetts marriage history.

The couple had been married for 30 years and had four kids. I was supposed to be a witness because I knew them when they were dating and could say they didn't know what they were doing when the married. To get to that required 72 essay questions, including what I knew of their sex lives.

When I filled in what I could, I was supposed to have a priest witness my witnessing. It's not that the investigator in Savannah didn't trust guys in trousers, but a priest would be better. Well, it's no problem finding a priest in Boston and I made an appointment with the (honest to God) Father Francis Kelley, the pastor.

He pored over the questions and answers with what seemed more than professional interest. When he found that I was not RC, he happily interpreted the process, and explained that different bishoprics used their own, generally shorter, forms. He is an investigator for Boston for annulments.

Then he held forth on the history of marriages in Massachusetts, claiming that the priests kept the records for a long time before the government took over. He wasn't aware that clerics were forbidden to marry couples here in colonial times. Of course, there weren't many Catholics in the area to pass along the oral history either. (The first New England Catholic church started in Boston in 1788, a century and one-half after the Puritans got there, though priests had visited before.)

While parishes did keep their records, before there were parishes, towns with formal governments kept their own. Of course, farming families maintained their own records in Bibles. I do like Father Kelley's image of the priests keeping ancestral continuity through records. It's not accurate in the main, but it is comforting.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Wonderful Seal

Picture if you will a tall, iron, screw-mounted press, larger than the duck presses in three-star French restaurants. This is black with gold handles on top and gold trim. It is over three feet tall.

There is one of those in the McCormack office building at One Ashburton Place on Beacon Hill in Boston. Its purpose is to emboss the state seal, to take a piece of gilded paper and turn it into a symbol of authority or in the case of a certification of solemnization, an official designation.

The seal when embossed thus appears as in my profile:

The certificate I got last year has this one it. When I paid my $25, and presented my picture ID and the letter from the governor granting my one-day designation, I got to wait in line while a thin, late middle-aged woman prepared the actual certificate. Her thinness, white skin and grey hair were significant because she was in pale contrast to the dark press, whose members where thicker than her arms. She seemed to wrestle with it and slowly win. She approached the press, placed the paper and gold sheet in it, and began screwing it down with one hand on each knob, contorting her mouth under the effort. It was an delightfully 18th Century image. The result was slightly irregular, higher on one side. The document was important enough to process by hand.

Lackaday, the new system seems to use pre-embossed seals stuck on the paper like so many gold stars for the good readers in the class.

The couple whose marriage I solemnize in August will be no less married because their version of the seal is mass produced. Yet...

Monday, July 26, 2004

Solemnize This!

I was not aware that plain folk could perform a wedding ceremony in Massachusetts until last year. Long-term friends who a delightfully checkered past with each other said that after several years of living together that they would marry. I was pleased, then more so when she said that any adult in the commonwealth could do the deed, so long as the governor approved.

Mirabile dictu!, as we used to say 1500 years ago in Rome.

Sure enough, you can see the details at the secretary of state's pages. You can also download the application as a PDF file.

The rules have change a little since I did that wedding last year. Now:
  • You can only do one a year.
  • You can get the form online instead of mailing a request to the governor
  • You have to pay your $25 up front.
  • You don't have to trot down to a state office to get the certificate embossed with the seal by hand.
  • They mail the certificate.

The basics remain the same, to wit:
  • You ask the governor for the right to marry one couple on one day in one town.
  • You fill in a form with the names, addresses and birth dates of the couple and yourself.
  • You cite the date and town of the marriage.
  • You write your check for $25.
  • You include a character reference letter from someone other than the couple.
  • You mail the package to the secretary of the commonwealth.
  • You wait up to six weeks.

Some kind of magic happens. Allegedly they check your criminal record and eyeball the reference. They may also check the couple to see whether either is already married in Massachusetts.

It's fairly painless for the annual thrill of being a minister without the heavy praying, sermon writing or counseling.

Mail-Order Ministers

A childhood chum with two daughters noted that her first married in Santa Fe. The officiator got ordained over the Internet. That's fine almost everywhere in the country. The mere cloak of clergy can legalize a marriage.

It's in Massachusetts where the roots of the civil contract still hold forth in the solemnizer. That even sounds lewd though.

In the commonwealth, the questions remain, who has the right to get a marriage license and who has the authority to perform the ceremony. Only here is the answer to the second one whomever the governor says can. So there.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Bestilling Doubts

At a Boston wedding in 1647, Governor John Winthrop spoke on the government's stance in the Bay Colony. "We were not willing to bring in the English custom of ministers performing the solemnity of marriage, which sermons at such times might induce, but if any ministers were present and would bestow a word of exhortation, etc., it was permitted."

Friday, July 23, 2004

Laughable Activism

When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled for the same-sex couples that sued, it wasn't a judges' coup d'etat, regardless of what some radio screamers say.

The question was pretty simple -- who has the right to apply for and receive a marriage license? The answer is simple too -- the requirements do not limit gender, present, former or future. That's all folks.

In most states, religious values appear in laws like so many chipmunks in the forest. They just keep popping up wherever you turn.

In contrast, almost certainly because of its colonial culture of civil contracts, the traditional religious opinions of marriage never crept into law.

Amusingly enough, while the court was trying to make the legislature act in the past two years, the legislature and particularly Senate President Bobby Travaglini was doing the same. He wanted the court to stick its collective neck out. Well he won and that means he lost. The long-open window of opportunity for the legislators to limit marriage to a man/woman couple slammed. Once the court said it was a constitutional issue, the legislature had to accept it or start a lengthy amendment procedure.

Virgil wrote that fortune favors the bold. In this case, the court wasn't even bold, just playing by the rules. It was that fortune disdained the cowards.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Why There?

The littlest commonwealth snuck up on the nation with its same-sex marriage thingummy. It's reasonable to ask, why the devil is this going on in Massachusetts and not a cosmopolitan state, say New York or California, or maybe in a fringe one, like Vermont, that already has gay civil unions?

That's fair enough, but the answer is not that it is all that liberal or a leader in legislation. In fact, Massachusetts has a long history of regressive laws and culture. This is the place that bought you those irrational blue laws, censorship of books, movies and strip-tease (Banned in Boston), and seems absurdly forgiving of Kennedys, Curleys, and other smiling law breakers and rule benders. ("But he's so good to his mother...")

Boston a bit and the suburbs and exurbs a lot are populated with reactionaries. Many of them hate the idea of man/man or woman/woman marriages. Too bad. The laws say otherwise.

Let's return to those chilling days of yesterday in the Massachusetts and Plymouth Bay Colonies. The governors and other political leaders didn't trust ministers and with good reason. They left England to get away from clergy helping royalty oppress them, tell them what to think, and ordering them around seven days a week.

On their own turf, the colonists let ministers preach and earn a living, but not much else. Some academic citations will follow in other posts. Meanwhile, the major points are:

  1. Colonial governors originally only let civil officials, like judges, perform marriages. Ministers could say a few words at a wedding but their words or presence didn't make it a marriage.
  2. While ministers eventually got the right to marry couples in Massachusetts, the commonwealth constitution sees marriage as a civil contract and keeps a clean separation from the church.

The relevant part of the constitution is Chapter III, Article V.:

All causes of marriage, divorce, and alimony, and all appeals from the judges of probate shall be heard and determined by the governor and council, until the legislature shall, by law, make other provision.

Ticket Arrives


Sometimes when you look for trouble, you don't get it. I was thinking that the anti-gay-marriage governor, Mitt Romney, would try to delay issuing certificates of solemnization that came to his office for approval. He apparently did not. I received mine yesterday.

Actually, it was a bit easier than the one I got last year for a straight marriage. They have changed the process so that you don't have to trot down to a state office to show ID, pay, and get the big state seal embossed on the certificate.

It's a pity you don't get to keep the framable certificate. It goes in with the marriage license to the town office to authenticate the wedding. I scanned a copy though.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Something Odd

New Englanders like to say they are cautious or reasonable. A lot of other people would call it paranoid or untrusting.

That goes way back to colonial Massachusetts. The early British-appointed governors were gun-shy about church and state issues, having just come from a country where the priests and royalty were too chummy.  On one hand, the locals around Boston said they were very pious. On the other, they forbade ministers from performing marriages.  It was okay for a minister to say a few words at a wedding, but he shouldn't worry his pretty head about the legal issues. The commonwealth was making it marriage; God wasn't.

The commonwealth constitution defines marriage as a civil contract, not a sacrament. Hmmm. That, if you pardon the expression, laid the ground for the recent decision saying that homosexual couples could marry.

Massachusetts also has an apparently unique process that lets any adult petition the governor the right to perform one marriage for one couple on one day. I've done that once for a straight couple and shall do it next month for a gay one.

Let's talk and think about why the laws and customs here are so queer.