Three years ago, I stopped signing marriage licenses on behalf of the state of Idaho. As long as I was unable to officiate at ALL weddings, I wasn’t going to sign my name on any licenses. I still presided at services of Christian marriage and blessings, but the papers were signed by someone other than me.
It was a pastoral response at the time. A young couple, who were baptized in our church and nurtured in faith in our congregation, wanted to be married in our church, before their church family.
They had to go to New York to get married legally. (You can read about the blessing we did at church here.)
I liked not being an agent of the State of Idaho, actually. I appreciated the separation between what happens in Christian marriage and what the state chooses to do in marriage. I know many people don’t see them as different acts, but I do. Someone can get ordained online for $20 and marry a couple on a beach, which is fine, but it is different than Christian marriage.
Anyway, this week the Supreme Court decided this week not to hear same gender marriage cases, effectively paving the way for equality in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. The next day, the 9th circuit struck down marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho.
And all of a sudden, I knew where I wanted to be. I wanted to be at the courthouse with my friends, helping to sign their marriage licenses and officiate weddings for couples who have so long been denied the privilege Justin and I have had to be married.
Does it make sense for clergy to be agents of the state? No, not really. But now that equality is coming to Idaho, I fully intend to take advantage of it. I told one of the couples today who needed an officiant that I was happy to do it for them now, but that it came with support for the long run too.
I will still give the couples I marry at church the option to combine the action of the state with the action of the church. I will sign licenses if they want me to. Or they can handle that part separately. I do think it would be helpful for all of us, as we watch marriage equality spread across the land, to think about what marriage means to us.
As I watched people standing in line this afternoon, cautiously hopeful that today would be the day, I remembered getting my marriage license. I remembered my own wedding. We were young and probably didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.
But we knew it was important to enter into it before God, in the presence of our family and friends. I’m excited for the people in Idaho who will now be able to do that too, especially for the ones who have been waiting for years for this opportunity.
And I’ll be there to sign my name, representing a state that is finally on the side of justice.
Equality may be moving quickly through the nation, but not quickly enough. 29 states and the District of Columbia have marriage equality now, leaving 21 states where people are still seeking justice. We’ve got work to do. Let’s get busy.