On April 25th, 1981, I solemnly promised: “Before God and these witnesses, I take you for my husband, with all my care and respect, seeking to grow with you in love. I pledge to you, now, my faithfulness as your wife, before eternity.”
On that day, Alvise took me for his wife and made the same commitment before God and community.
This spoken vow – of love and commitment – is my fondest memory of our wedding. What we aspired to has come to pass during our marriage.
My dear friends, Vikki and Deb, made the same promises of love and fidelity one year later on Good Friday, April 23, 1982. But their commitment was not recognized by any state until that same day in 2010, 28 years later, when they were legally married in Stowe, Vermont, before a small group of friends, including us.
As the Supreme Court takes up the question of whether same-sex couples can marry legally, I have been giving considerable thought to how many hearts and minds have changed since Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to marry in 2004. Many states have followed suit, including three states that did so last year by a majority vote of the people.
Those Christians whose hearts have been opened have come to recognize that a marriage between two people of the same gender can embody the covenant of marriage as described in Scripture:
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion” (Hosea 2:19).
I also recognize that many Americans remain opposed. This sentiment is particularly strong among conservative Christians, who often cite the Bible as their grounds for opposition. Having had many conversations with opponents—in person, on my blog or through letters to the editor exchanged in conservative Christian publications—I’ve also come to sense that many find it hard to imagine same-gender couples making a life-long commitment of love and faithfulness.
The love and commitment that Deb and Vikki show toward each other mirrors Alvise’s and my covenant of marriage.
I understand how false assumptions make it difficult for some to affirm and embrace lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our relationships. I have experienced those false assumptions myself.
When I came out as bisexual 15 years ago, it was a simple declaration of who I am.
Unfortunately, some confused my capacity to love both genders—which is who I am and how God made me—with the assumption that I could not possibly be a faithful spouse to my husband, Alvise.
For those who have been confused, I have regularly shared the story of discovering who I am and sharing that news with my husband in 1998 – after 17 years of marriage. Alvise knew how important our wedding vows were to me. He articulated better than I could what my being bisexual meant to him (and also to me). He put it this way:
“What you are saying is you love me out of all possible people on the face of this earth, not just half. Actually, that makes me feel very special.”
Exactly! And I feel especially known by him in that he never doubted my loving commitment to him, forsaking all others, before eternity.
Alvise and I have certainly grown together in love—just as Vikki and Deb have—through the years.
Vikki’s and Deb’s marriage is especially inspiring to me because they built it without any of the privileges bestowed upon a man and a woman by governments at all levels.
Their legal marriage in Vermont is still not recognized at the federal level, nor by their home state. I certainly know how much easier my marriage has been because of those legal supports. Their marriage taught me one more thing:
Marriage is a commitment not just before family and friends – but the entire community.
In Stowe, where Deb and Vikki were legally wed, the whole wedding party stayed at an inn on Main Street. The Town Hall Marriage License Bureau was to the left and the restaurant for the wedding dinner across the way. In a vital way, the entire community was a witness to their love.
Vikki and Deb were touched by the welcome they received from the town clerks, so everywhere I went, I thanked the local Vermonters for embracing my friends and supporting their loving commitment to marry.
My deepest prayers are that this support for all loving couples will become the law of our land very soon and that everyone, including my conservative Christian brothers and sisters, will joyfully embrace married love and commitment where it is there for all to see.
Photo courtesy of Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards