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.