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.