by Jerry Buie
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to perform a wedding ceremony for two young men in their young 30s who decided to formally commit to each other in a wedding ceremony. They held their “wedding ceremony” in Utah for family, friends, co-workers and community, including their LDS ward members; and then they traveled to New York to legally seal their commitment. Today the IRS says they will enjoy the same tax privileges as other legally married people regardless of where they live. I was humbled by this change that is becoming more and more common.
Prior to the ceremony I was meditating and preparing myself to officiate their ceremony. Eighteen years ago, when we were at this same age, my partner and I decided to formalize our relationship and moved in with each other. This was the symbol available to us at the time. If you recall, wedding announcements of same-sex couples were a national controversy.
Much has changed in our political and moral climates since that time. When we got together and decided to create our family, my partner decided to formally come out to his family by inviting me to Christmas festivities after discussing with his family he was gay. We wondered if our co-workers and employers would judge us differently knowing we were gay? How would we protect our shared assets? How do wills and trusts work? My partner and I are pretty strong personalities and not easily intimidated by judgments of others, but at some level we needed to consider some of these questions. As a therapist I watched relationships crumble under the stress of societal judgments and limitations, as there was considerable misunderstanding and homophobia.
As I was meditating on this upcoming ceremony, it had occurred to me that these were questions that my newlyweds had much broader answers to than many of us had 20 years ago. They invited their family, their friends and co-workers. I was surprised when many people from their home LDS ward showed up — even a bishop. What a reflection of the times, the audience at this ceremony was incredibly diverse, and in showing up anointed their relationship with a blessing of support. Perhaps struggling to understand, but putting the differences aside, they showed up. Yes, some people in the audience were uncomfortable, and unsure, but they showed up to support these two in their vows and commitments. Would this have happened 20 years ago? 10 years ago?
It occurred to me, as I approach 50 years old, that these two young men were riding on the wings of those of us who participated in our younger years in speaking out, marching, boycotting and insisting on being counted. Each of us who came out of the closet in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, and in the new millennium, made a political statement, even if that was not our intention. Those legally marrying today are doing so because we dared to be!
As I counseled these “marriage pioneers,” I shared with them my personal walk as a queer man through the 80s to today. I shared what I could about how they fit into the continuum and history of their own civil rights history. Their eyes opened wide with disbelief as we talked about the HIV/AIDS epidemic wiping out a generation of our elders. I shared how deafening the closet was to many of us. As I was speaking to them I realized how the closet in many young lives are becoming relics (thanks to those who dared to be). Kids are coming out at 12 and 13 years old, unheard of in my formative years.
What I recognized in preparing for this wedding is these young men are looking to our generation and seeking to understand their history. My partner and I are their “Elders,” whether we want that title or not, we are the only ones qualified, as we lived this history firsthand.
So, there I was, standing before the congregation, joining these two men together as husbands, asking the Creator’s blessings to walk with them, guide them and keep them on a good life course. How ironic that I was joining them together at the same age in my life when I thought this day would never happen.
Twenty years ago we wondered if a day like this would come. Thanks to the efforts of our ancestry, for the pioneers/history makers who are with us today, we are in fact arriving. Yes, there is much to be done, the journey will continue without us, but will we leave it in good hands? The younger people of our culture must understand our history, must understand where we came from so they may be able to set the projection forward in a positive affirmative manner for their protégés. I encourage you to reach out to those who are not of your generation, be their friends, mentors, their elders and companions in the journey forward.