Marriage should be based on equality

I’d like to talk about two things that are related in an unusual way: equality in marriage and marriage equality. This week PA took a big step forward when a Federal Judge struck down the ban on same-sex marriage. So marriage equality has arrived in our fine state. I also want to talk about equality in marriage.

And because language really matters and words have meaning, they can carry baggage, I am very specific in the language I use with couples in their ceremonies. For example, almost no one wants to hear ‘love, honor and obey’ in a modern wedding ceremony, and most officiants do not use those words any longer. This is because most people believe that marriage is a partnership based on equality. It doesn’t mean that there are no differences between people. It doesn’t mean that we can’t divide our responsibilities, even along more traditional gender lines, if we so choose. But it does mean that two people joining together for a life-long relationship expect each to put their best and fair share into the relationship.

With that in mind, I like to be sure that the words I use also reflect that idea equality, and couples I work with welcome that. When we get married we are joining in a partnership, one that I hope is truly based on mutual respect, trust and caring. There are many ways to be sure your wedding reflects this sense of equality.

Marriage should be based on equality, in whatever way that means for you.

Instead of having a father ‘give away’ his daughter, have him ‘present’ and/or ‘support’ her, and while we’re at it – why not do the same for the groom?

Use the terms husband and wife, not man and wife. The equivalent of man is woman, not wife. For same sex couples I always ask how they want to be pronounced and announced. Usually it’s something like ‘I now pronounce you married!’ But there are many ways one can do this.

Do not be presented as Mr. and Mrs. John Smith – even if a woman is taking the man’s last name, don’t leave out her first name – its almost like she’s disappeared into him.

Don’t shy away from terms like partner, because that’s what you are: partners!

If you are writing your own vows, and keeping them secret, make sure each of you has written something of about the same length, with the same feel and tone. Have someone (hopefully your officiant) check that out for you both!

I know many girls have dreamed of that moment when they hear the words: ‘You may kiss the bride.’ But don’t we really kiss each other? I prefer to say, ‘You may kiss,’ or ‘You may seal your promise with a kiss.’ See the difference?

If you think I’m nit-picking or this doesn’t matter, that’s ok. But for some people these details mean a lot.

And as to marriage equality –  the rights of gay and lesbian couples to be married with all the same advantages and legal rights that straight people have – remember, marriage is a legal government sanctioned status. Marriage isn’t gay or straight – its just marriage.

Love is love.

Faith traditions or all kinds still have the right to marry or not marry couples as they deem fit.  After all, the Roman Catholic Church, for example, will not marry people who are divorced or marry couples if one of them is not Catholic. That is totally their right, and no law permitting gay couples to marry can change that.

But I believe that government should not be in the business of denying rights, but rather expanding rights. It’s the way America as grown and moved forward over the years. And although some people have a hard time with these changes, just as they did with civil rights for African-Americans and other groups, or with inter-racial marriage, and many other changes, this too shall pass. As Dr King said: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’  We’re getting there!

Thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the wonderful photos 

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