I’d said it before, standing in the front of a church sanctuary, wearing a white dress and looking into her beautiful eyes. She wore a white dress, too. We’d both been really nervous, with shaking hands and wavering voices -- surrounded by so many who loved us and whom we loved. My voice had gotten lost somewhere in a joyful choke of tears as I promised what was already true: my heart, my life, my all was intertwined with hers for the rest of this beautiful and messy earthly existence. In good and bad, joy and challenge, we’d promised before God and community to stay by one another’s side and share it all. I’d said “I do,” to all of it, wearing that white dress and standing in the front of a church sanctuary.
And so I didn’t think about what it might be like to say it again, standing in a conference room in the Santa Cruz County building. I had no idea what it would feel like to walk into a County Clerk’s office with my beloved, and actually receive a marriage license. It didn’t occur to me that I would be so happy to write a check to the County for anything. Truth is, though, I’ve never been happier to give money to local government. Truth is, saying “I do” in front of the County Clerk in a conference room meant more than I could have ever imagined.
It is no small thing to stand in an historic moment. It is no small thing to participate in the righting of an injustice you haven’t dared dream would come true for you. Does having a civil marriage license make our Christian marriage any more valid? Absolutely not. The promises we made to God and each other are not subject to any civil authority. We are blessed beyond measure to serve and participate in a Christian community that already believes our growing family is equal to any other, a community that has been working for many years to move the state to practice the equality of citizens stated so clearly in the constitution.
I learned the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag almost 30 years ago, and can recite it all from memory when I simply close my eyes and transport myself back to those elementary school classrooms where I said it each morning, with my hand over my heart. As an adult, I’ve discovered my allegiance is first to God and that primary allegiance sometimes comes into conflict with the laws of the United States. I’ve also learned that these conflicts between my core Christian convictions and certain laws, policies and decisions by the United States government can be held in a creative tension. This tension is possible because of the innate freedom given to me in my creation as a child of God, and because of the freedom of choice and expression promised to the population of the United States. What I also learned as an adult, though, is that there were limits to the freedom under the law for me. My sister and her husband could be married under the law, they had that choice in every state of the union. Because I was oriented differently than my sister, and knew that a woman was the life partner for me, the choice of legal marriage was denied me.
“…with liberty and justice for all,” didn’t mean me, not wholly. But then came an ordinary Tuesday morning in June, in Santa Cruz County California. I said “I do,” again. This time, in a courthouse. This time, surrounded by another community of people we love and who love us. This time, with a simple dress for me and maternity clothes for Shannon. This time, with our unborn child in Shannon’s body growing her way into our family. I said “I do,” Shannon said “I do,” and the room erupted in joy and tears and applause. The state made good on its promises to us, as citizens, for our family to be recognized equally under the law.
We are deeply and profoundly grateful to God for the loving and inclusive Christian community that surrounds us every day. And we are proud to be citizens of the state of California, where “liberty and justice for all” rings ever closer to being true for all of its people.