Eleven years ago, I was sitting in my church office in Noe Valley when I received an unbelievable call: San Francisco was issuing marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples?! One quick internet search and confirmed: lesbian icons Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin had been married earlier in the day and now couples from throughout the city as well as the state (and shortly thereafter, from across the country) were streaming into City Hall to be married.
I performed nine weddings during our Winter of Love (and faced the possibility of a church trial for doing them, but that’s another blog). It wasn’t the first time I had performed ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. I had been doing them since 1982. But this was the first time I had performed legal weddings for gay/lesbian couples.
The impact in our City was immediate and profound: it was as if the whole city had become one big wedding reception. Toasts were offered on city streets. Workplaces threw parties of congratulations. Love seemed to multiply joy exponentially, and it was felt in every corner of SF.
The rest of the United States is quickly learning what we discovered eleven years ago: every couple deserves to have their love legally honored and respected. It is good for the couple. It is good for families. It is good for communities.
Granting this legal right/rite to gay/lesbian couples has not—as conservative pundits predicted—destroyed the institution of marriage. In fact, if my work calendar is any indication, it has strengthened it as more and more couples are coming forward to be legally wed. Usually, I perform just a handful of weddings a year. This year, however, my weekends are pretty full officiating at weddings!
I will never understand why any government official, religious leader, or family member would stand in opposition to marriage equality. The ability to give and receive love is an essential part of our humanness. Love doesn’t isolate us but connects us to others in ways that increases our capacities for care and compassion. Love is essential for healthy communities and one look around will confirm that the world is in desperate need of more love.
This Valentine’s Day, I am remembering all the couples I have married (or am about to marry). I pray that they may have discovered within their relationship a love that has not only helped them grow more fully into the persons they have been created to be, but has also enlarged their embrace to include a world that is in need of healing touch, generous givers, and lovers of justice.
Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto is GLIDE's Senior Pastor. Follow Karen @RevKarenOliveto and her blog.