I speak for this couple before us to say “Welcome” to every one of you here at this important occasion on this special day. We are here to witness these two people who are not only in love but who have chosen to love one another, as they publicly express, confirm, and formalize their loving commitment among and before us, their friends and family.
Make no mistake about it. Their moment of commitment on this day is not only an important event for them, but a special moment in all our lives.
There are long histories, not only in our cultures but around this world, where powerful people and institutions have enforced limits on who can publicly and legally commit to the person they love. That’s why most cultures have their own versions of “Romeo and Juliet,” stories of love challenging those accepted boundaries.
Those limits were rooted in prejudice and fear. But they’ve been justified again and again by the forces of religious and political institutions as if those boundaries dropped down from the heavens or were unchallengeable because of hoary traditions.
Both justifications really consisted of picking and choosing excuses from historical smorgasbords of possibilities that would justify and cover up prejudice and prevent any challenge to the powers that be. Those very finite, often ignorant, and time-bound notions sounded much better when portrayed as if they’d been sanctioned by something bigger that we were not to question.
But here today we say “Yes” not only to this commitment but to the celebration of love wherever and whenever it is. We’re saying that in a world filled with hate, in a society based on fear, we are committed with these two people to the celebration of love even wherever it’s merely attempted.
With them we challenge the idea that those “Romeo and Juliet” stories must end tragically as they did in so much world literature. Why, even the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 decided that many relationships no longer have to.
We witness and celebrate the loving commitment of this couple now because we love them and because we choose to celebrate love no matter how inelegantly it’s practiced or how ineloquently it’s expressed. After all, that shouldn’t be difficult, because we all know that in our own bumbling searches for love and acceptance, our process was often inelegant and often ineloquently expressed.
Now, we’re wishing that you two will always experience “perfect love.” But that doesn’t mean “perfect love” in the fantastical sense of all the songs, poetry, and Hallmark cards.
That picture of “perfect love” is meant to sell us what we think we must have to attain what we don’t or even can’t. The sellers know that, and they’re also afraid that, if we ever could attain that dream, we’d just quit buying their stuff.
I know that both of you are making this commitment to each other while you know what I mean. Love in reality is being there “for better or worse” as wedding vows often say. It’s not only the wedding day, but the day you might spend with your partner in the hospital.
It’s not only the easy things you like to do together, but the misunderstandings that need clearing up. It’s promising to tell your partner what you really want, hear what they really want, and then negotiate together how you as a couple will work differences out.
It’s making mistakes in your relationship and cleaning them up because your relationship is important. In fact, it’s promising right now that if you’ve been the perfect partner you will plan on a mistake every so often to stop that, that you’ll really appreciate each other enough to clean those mistakes up.
Our world doesn’t need perfect people; it needs models of people and couples who know how to clean up messes. And, on a side note, we’ll all be happier because your relationship won’t show ours up.
Yes, today is a formal, legal commitment of how these two people love each other and choose to become life partners. And that never precludes their love for you - friends, family, and others they choose to love in other ways.
Thankfully, love isn’t a limited commodity; when two people love well, their love expands to the world around them. They’re not huddling away from the world but embracing it together.
And, finally, when these two men/women/gender-expansive-people stand here and say to the world that they’re lovingly committed to each other, they touch us even deeper. Whether they want to or not, they’re symbols of something that’s more like a spiritual parable.
If loving commitment really is something worth sacrificing for, then it’s LGBTQ people who live that parable. Throughout history few people have shown us as graphically how important love is. Few have lived what so many of the world’s religions teach that’s better than religious people practice.
Though this couple just wants to live together and probably isn’t interested in symbolizing anything or making a social statement today, they still remind us that throughout history – and even today – LGBTQ people considered love so important that they sought to love even in the face of being demeaned and ridiculed, tortured and killed, losing their jobs and experiencing rejection by their families, or being condemned to eternal punishment and considered less than human, for it. Whether they like it or not, they are a parable of love we hear because we’re with them today.
So here they are, here we are, celebrating love and especially the love of this couple. That love shines through all the negativity that surrounds us. When people find each other, it gives us all hope that so much else in the world can be better than it is on the TV news.
And no matter what they’ve been told, it’s also our hope that these two will always be able to realize what Henry James once wrote: “It has made me better loving you ... it has made me wiser, and easier, and brighter.” (The Portrait of a Lady) l