by the Rev. Calvin Sanborn
Rector of St. George’s, York Harbor
Today was a joyfully distracting day for me, I must admit.
By now, of course, you’ve almost certainly heard the news that the Supreme Court has legalized marriage equality across the country. When word began to spread throughout the Salt Palace here in Salt Lake City, the various groups gathered in legislative committee meetings burst into jubilant applause. For many of us, it was a moment of profound joy and deep personal meaning.
One part of my duties here is to follow the work of the special legislative committee on marriage. They are considering all resolutions that have been submitted to General Convention about potential canonical changes, prayer book changes and marriage liturgies, and perfecting them for consideration by both the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies.
The night before last the Very Rev. Ben Shambaugh, Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, and I both testified in support of a resolution that would change the canons of the church to make it possible for same-sex couples throughout the Episcopal Church to receive the sacrament of holy matrimony, and tonight we heard testimony in support of a resolution that would make the marriage liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer (with minor adaptations) and other marriage liturgies that have been developed available to all couples, including same-sex couples.
My testimony last night was deeply rooted in my own personal experience. Ten years ago, my husband Dan and I exchanged vows in a ceremony solemnizing our covenant with each other. We specifically avoided use of the word “marriage,” as we knew that marriage within the church was not available to us. We also knew that our vows to each other, while full of meaning for us, carried no weight with the state in which we lived.
It was seven years later that we watched election returns roll in and saw that Maine had legalized marriage for couples like us. It was a moment, like yesterday, of incredible elation. Our state, along with two others, became the first set to legalize marriage equality by popular vote. Our friends and neighbors had turned out to support families like ours. We decided to get married again, but with rights this time.
To join into a civil status recognized as equal meant the world to us. Dan barely maintained composure from the minute we walked down the aisle with our children, and wept openly when Bishop Stephen pronounced us married. (Admittedly, he is apt to cry at a well-scripted cat food commercial.) Having the same legal status as everyone else means more to us than we could possibly say.
But General Convention is all about recognizing the important, even necessary work that the church does in the world, too. Civil recognition is unmistakably historic, and a deep injustice has been corrected today. But access to the sacramental meaning of marriage is justly ours, as well. I join all couples celebrating this weekend, that their love and commitment are valued by the state just as much as anyone else’s. I work and pray here in Salt Lake City for the church to show these loving couples that it delivers God’s love and blessing equally to them, also.