Words from an unlicensed weddingby Richard J. Rosendall
June 20, 2003
Walt Whitman wrote: "Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoe'er I go,
Others will punctually come for ever and ever."
Welcome, and thank you for being here. Alan and Mark have asked me as their friend to officiate today as we celebrate the most important day in their lives, when they join to create a new family.
Today we celebrate a union not recognized by the state. Alan and Mark assert by their actions here that their love is its own authority. We know that we take a certain risk by creating ceremonies for ourselves; for while men have been loving each other since Gilgamesh mourned Enkidu, that is not what our society expects.
So in addition to the normal stress of this day, in sealing our unions we face not only popular scorn, but legal discrimination. But life is short, and we must live it. If we avoided the challenge of building appropriate traditions by using the excuse that our path is unpopular, we would be like a bird that drowns itself in an effort to be more like a fish. Our only sane and honorable course is to be true to ourselves.
Like the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we believe that "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy." By our example here today we work to make our dream a reality. As Dr. King said, "It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal.' "
The revolutionary act that we perform here today is smaller and quieter than the one Thomas Jefferson contemplated; yet the simple assertion of equality still has the power to provoke political passions. Mark and Alan pursue their happiness without waiting for approval, though they are moved by the support of their family and friends; and they do not wait for legal recognition, though they claim it as their birthright.
Being faithful to our love is hard work, and the wider culture is not quite prepared to deal with us. But we proceed with it, and ever so slowly we begin to make a difference simply by unashamedly being who we are and going about our lives. As Prior Walter says at the end of Tony Kushner's play, Angels In America: "The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."
[Friends read David's lament for Jonathan from the book of Samuel, St. Paul's description of love from First Corinthians, Walt Whitman's "When I Heard at the Close of the Day." A song is played from the late Michael Callen's Purple Heart album.]
Alan, will you love Mark when you are together and when you are apart; when life is peaceful and when it is disordered; when you are proud of him and when you are disappointed in him; in times of work and in times of rest; to be his friend and helpmate all the days of your life?
Alan, repeat after me: "I, Alan, take you, Mark, to be my partner, to love and to cherish you, to honor and to comfort you, to stand by you in success and in challenge, in heartache and in joy, in anger and in laughter, in sickness and in health. I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I will honor you as long as we both shall live."
Mark, will you love Alan...?
Mark, repeat after me....
"I, Mark, take you, Alan...."
Alan and Mark, on behalf of all who are gathered here, by the authority of our shared sense of justice, and by the power of your love for each other, I now pronounce you Partners In Life.
Richard J. Rosendall is a past president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.