Canadian has a new idea of marriage
As musician-composer Michael Franti sings, "It is not who you love, but do you love?"
I am here serving as a ministerial intern at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu. My internship lasts only six months, and I have already been here for two. I am a Canadian, and plan to return next March.
One of my jobs while I am here is to marry people. But the laws of this country make it quite clear I am only to marry certain types of people: one man and one woman.
In Canada, I have been serving as a chaplain at the local Unitarian Church for the last two years. And there I have been legally performing gay and lesbian marriages. Not civil unions, but marriages. And in doing so, my relationship to the idea of marriage has been changing.
At first, I found it hard to get excited about a couple getting married. The day seemed full of idealized dreams and unrealistic promises. With divorce rates so high, what is to keep this couple together when things get rough?
Last summer I married a lesbian couple who had traveled thousands of miles to Canada to get married. They were Taiwanese and very excited to get legally married. To them the day was so meaningful, even though no family or friends had made the long flight with them, and in Taiwan their marriage will not be recognized.
Another chaplain married a lesbian couple in our church. They too had come from afar, from the southern United States. One of the women had always wanted a church wedding, so the ceremony took place in the sanctuary. The couple had come alone, with no friends or family, and each bride walked down the aisle in the big empty space. It was a visible and tangible reminder that all their loved ones were not present on their special day. This scene was far from the dreamy idealism I distrusted. Sadness tinged their day of celebration.
Somehow these ceremonies to me seem more real. As I perform more marriages, lesbian, gay and straight, I see moments of the real. I still see the dreaminess of it all, but I respect the love that makes it all possible.
It is the miracle of love that I believe draws us into becoming our best selves? Love draws us more deeply into relationship with each other and with all that is divine. And for this reason it is an honor for me to bless a ceremony of love. In Hawaii, I am saddened that so great a thing as the love between two people is not fully accepted.
Laura Friedman of Vancouver, Canada, is intern minister at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu. She is a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry.