Post by Krissa Palmer
What do you get when you have three clergywomen: a Reform Jewish Rabbi, a United Church of Christ Pastor, a Unitarian Universalist Minister and seven same-sex couples? It sounds like the beginning of some sort of joke, but it was no joke.
What began as a dream of Rabbi Judy Schindler, of Temple Beth-El in Charlotte, North Carolina turned into reality on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at the swanky Washington Club in Washington, DC. She has performed many commitment ceremonies, but her desire for social justice led her to take a group to a place where same sex marriage is now legal.
Rabbi Judy invited Rev. Robin Tanner, a newly ordained minister from the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church to join her. Rev. Tanner invited the Rev. Dr. Nancy Allison from the United Church of Christ. Three women ministers from three different generations forged a multi-faith trip to our nation’s capital to Stand on the Side of Love.
Seven couples in relationships ranging from 9 to 31 years answered the call to hop on the bus and head to our nation’s capital. They went to be married, to make a statement, to call attention to the inequalities of marriage and the rights only granted to heterosexual couples.
The bus rumbled up to Temple Beth-El in the very early morning hours with its brakes squealing and those funny rumbling sounds and belches only a bus can make. We all climbed aboard and were off. Albert, our bus driver, said to let him know if we wanted him to stop, that he’d been driving for over 30 years, so sit back and enjoy the ride. Later on in the trip, he confided to the whole group that his son is gay; everyone on the bus spontaneously started to applaud.
Traveling miles on the highway gave us a chance to get to know each other. I met Glenn and his partner, Nick; they’d had a commitment ceremony officiated by Rabbi Judy years ago. When Rabbi Judy came up with the idea for a bus trip to take a group to a place, unlike North Carolina, where marriage between same- sex couples was legal, she asked Glenn and Nick if they would go. They jumped at the chance. Glenn spoke about bringing attention to the inequality that exists for same-sex couples about the issue of marriage to the general public by saying, “Awareness is always the very beginning-moving into understanding, appreciation and finally inclusion.”
Lisa and Becky told me the story of meeting each other on a white water rafting trip. Lisa told me she wants the same legal and visitation rights as heterosexual couples have who are married. She also said what’s really important to her is to be married by her spiritual leader, their Rabbi in their religious faith.
Becky said, “I would really like to have the same rights as anybody else. This is the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with and, in doing so, I want to, as we do daily, ask God to be a part of our relationship and to help us express ourselves as the women we are and who we can be.”
Lisa said, “I look forward to the day when gays and lesbians can get married across the country and am excited that we are taking public record of our wedding in Washington, in Charlotte and in North Carolina so people will at least start talking about it so that as our legislature thinks about what they want to do with Senate bill 106, our voices will be heard.”
I was a witness and supporter of these courageous seven couples who stood with their families, children and friends at their wedding. Some couples were under the Jewish wedding canopy, a Chuppah, while others stood in front of two tables with symbols of their religious faiths. The three clergywomen included parts of their individual faith traditions as part of the service.
When their vows were spoken, the love exemplified by the words each wrote and spoke to their partner had the congregation in tears. At the end of the ceremony when the glass was broken in the Jewish tradition, everyone was cheering, applauding, crying; we were quite simply all Standing on the Side of Love.