I am married! My wife, Meredith Schonfeld Hicks, and I were wed on August 8th at my family’s cabin in Ely, Minnesota. It was the most amazing weekend of my life. We organized an entire weekend of fun complete with a Greek themed rehearsal feast, an afternoon BBQ, nighttime bonfire and karaoke, guided outdoor activities and, of course, our ceremony and a raucous reception.
Over the course of our 19 month engagement, we put countless hours into the planning of this wedding and every second was worth it. It far exceeded our expectations. We treasured every moment of our wedding, knowing that it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Our spirits soared when we saw the face of our friend who had flown in from Pakistan, received a blessing from Meredith’s 91 year old grandfather, heard our processional music being played by my best friends from high school, or danced the night away with so many of the people who have supported us and loved us at every stage of our lives.
But, as we all know, every wedding has its drama and ours was no exception. After a ladies’ afternoon at the spa on Friday went sour because of horrible customer service, Meredith said to me, “People just love wedding drama. I’ve had six people come up and say, ‘what happened at the spa? Are you okay?’ Am I supposed to be falling apart or something?”
Interestingly though, no one asked us about the most dramatic (and traumatic) part of our wedding. Getting legally married was the most shocking and trying part of our journey towards marriage.
We never had a doubt about spending the rest of our lives together. We savored every moment of designing our religious marriage ceremony. But along our journey to get legally married, we both got cold feet.
First of all, we had procrastinated getting a marriage license until several weeks before. With very little time to spare we went to the Ramsey County Department of Public Health to submit our application for a marriage license. On that day we had the most jarring experience along our road to marriage.
When filling out the form we cringed when we had to sign the following oath.
“I, the undersigned, hereby apply for a license to marry and declare upon oath that all the above answers and statements of fact are true and correct; that neither of us has a spouse living; that neither of us is a mentally deficient person committed to the guardianship or conservatorship of the Commissioner of Human Services and that one of the applicants is a man and the other a woman.”
Reading the last line of that oath made our hearts sink. But it wasn’t until we turned it over to the clerk that the language really sunk in. She looked it over and happily asked us to raise our right hands and take an oath. We did not know what this next oath would be. I thought this would be some sort of legal vows or something at least somewhat uplifting. It was an exciting moment and we slid our left hands under the counter and held hands.
Both our hands went completely limp when she began reading the same language we had already signed. It was one thing to scribble my signature below a distasteful oath; it felt entirely different to speak my affirmation. We took the oath and walked out to our car in silence.
Seven days later, Meredith went back and picked up the certificate. We still had to decide how we would incorporate the actual signing of the certificate, by an officiant and two witnesses, into our wedding weekend. We spoke with our friend and ceremony officiant, Rev. Meg Riley, and decided to keep our legal marriage separate from our religious marriage by having a separate officiant for our legal marriage. Thankfully, I have no shortage of ministers in my life, so my Uncle Tim, a Lutheran minister in Minnesota (a wonderful straight-ally) discreetly officiated our legal marriage after our religious ceremony.
On our wedding day, our photographer was hovering nearby as our siblings signed our marriage certificate as witnesses and she asked Meredith and I to hold it up for a photo. We did as directed, but in all the frenzy of staged photographs that day, that picture with our marriage license was the only one I didn’t really want to be in. We had taken pictures with our families who love us unconditionally and with our entire group of guests who had just blessed our union. But that picture with our certificate was like taking a picture with a state that doesn’t love unconditionally nor bless the unions of so many. I posed for the picture, because it was I who invited the state to my wedding, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to smile.
Cold feet or not, Meredith and I are legally wed. We now have access to hundreds of privileges, most of which we aren’t even aware of yet. August 8th will always be a day when we will reflect upon how much we love each other and how lucky we are to have so many wonderfully supportive friends and family in our lives. It will also be a day when we rededicate ourselves to our calling to stand on the side of love.
That reminds me, I think you’d like to know that Standing on the Side of Love was very present at our wedding. I wore my Standing on the Side of Love t-shirt the morning of my wedding, “standing on the side of love” was said in Meredith father’s toast and multiple times during our ceremony – including at the very heart of our ceremony. We wrote our vows together and right there in the middle we vowed to “seek out the holy, walk gently upon the earth, and to stand on the side of love.”
Every time we practiced our vows that line made us smile. I smiled for three reasons. First, it felt a little bit like product placement; second, it made me think of all the fun I had working with all of you to bring the Standing on the Side of Love campaign to life; and third, I felt incredibly blessed to have found a partner who was vowing to stand on the side of love with me, and with all of you, for the rest of our lives.
Adam GerhardsteinMore >
In the past few weeks, anti-Muslim voices have become deafening. In some cases, these same voices are the ones casting aspersions against immigrants, LGBT people, and people of color. Thankfully, several prominent individuals have spoken out in support of religious freedom, including family members of those who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and conservatives like former solicitor general Ted Olson, NJ Governor Chris Christie, and former GOP Rep. Vin Weber.
President Obama has also spoken out. When speaking to a group of Muslims dining at the White House, he said: “This is America. Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and that they will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”
The Standing on the Side of Love campaign is founded on the ideal of a world where no one is denied freedom or equality because of who they are, whether they have been marginalized because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, gender, disability, or any other fundamental aspect of their identity — including their religion.
This past weekend, anti-immigrant activists staged rallies in Texas and Arizona, with some holding up Confederate flags, and Nazi swastikas. A nondenominational church in Gainesville, Fla. is hosting an “International Burn a Quran Day” on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Protests are happening nationwide against the proposed expansion of a Muslim cultural center that has been in downtown Manhattan for 27 years, but has outgrown its present location.
On the heels of increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric, the prevalence of Muslim-bashing is even more alarming. I believe we must take action.
Please let the President know that you support love over fear, and that you agree with him when he says that Muslims “have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in the country.” Email him today expressing your desire for all Americans – including Muslims – to feel welcome in the communities they live in, and free to worship as they choose.
When we stand on the side of love, we agree to not turn a blind eye to bigotry, oppression and discrimination. We share our highest ideals and allow ourselves to be inspired by others in our community. We take action to make life better for those who are marginalized. And we speak as people of faith who value acceptance, equality, and above all else, love.
In partnership and equality,
Recently, I was called to bear witness to my faith’s ideals of compassion and the inherent worth and dignity of all people in Phoenix, AZ.
Wearing a bright yellow Standing on the Side of Love t-shirt, I prayed, walked, marched, and was even arrested with many Unitarian Universalists and other individuals who share our values. They, too, were called and compelled to stand with people of color in Phoenix who are targeted and terrorized by local police everyday.
Upon my release and return to my faith community, I feel more energized than ever about our Standing on the Side of Love work. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of fellowship, compassion, and connectedness with all who share our values. Watch this short video that really captures that feeling of what it truly means to be Standing on the Side of Love:
Our Standing on the Side of Love work has just begun and I call on you now to stand with us for justice, equality, and peace. You can do this by making a generous gift today. Your gift will help us support local congregations that call on us to organize, mobilize, and energize local Unitarian Universalists to raise our moral voices on the most pressing social justice issues of our time including human rights, environmental justice, and full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
We must be tireless practitioners of hope, knowledge, and love. Together, we can help create a new reality where the law of our land reflects the highest moral ideals of our people.
Stand with us. Donate today. Thank you.
Reverend Peter Morales
President of the UUA
With the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT group, headed to our nation’s capitol, the Standing on the Side of Love campaign joined a rally this past Sunday in support of marriage equality in the District of Columbia and across the country. The event was a big success from the point of view of media and organizers alike. Supporters from the Washington Ethical Society and All Souls Unitarian Church held the big yellow “Standing on the Side of Love Banner” at the front of the protest. “We were proud to stand up and speak out for marriage equality and against all forms of discrimination,” said organizer Orelia Busch.
All of the LGBTQ and allied counter-protesters, whether they gathered at the Capitol or Freedom Plaza, showed the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) that its message is wrong and hurtful.
“We sent the strong message that our community, its faith leaders, and our supporters from all over the nation will stand with us on the side of love,” Busch said.
The biggest hit of the day was 10-year-old Will Phillips, whose family attends a Unitarian Universalist church in their hometown in Arkansas. Will spoke to nearly 300 people gathered in Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. and warned the National Organization for Marriage that the change they feared was indeed coming with his generation of young and dedicated equality activists.
To read more about this, visit: http://prop8trialtracker.com/category/nom-tour-tracker/More >
What a tremendous week! On the heels of last week’s groundbreaking federal court ruling overturning Prop. 8, Judge Vaughn Walker has ruled that “defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8″ on 18 August at 1700 local time.”
There is a very real possibility that next Wednesday, same-sex couples will again have the freedom to marry in California!
Whether or not an appeals court intervenes before next Wednesday, a serious blow has been dealt to Prop. 8. But we must maintain this momentum and work towards marriage equality in all 50 states.
Just this week:
- Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that all 31 states must honor Mexico City’s marriages.
- Costa Rica’s top court blocked a public referendum on the issue of same-sex civil unions that was promoted by a Catholic Church-backed organization.
- The American Bar Association, with 400,000+ members, passed a resolution supporting the freedom to marry in all 50 states.
And this is just the beginning. Our rapid trajectory towards a more loving society cannot be stopped. People everywhere are realizing that the freedom to marry is a beautiful thing — a celebration of commitment, family, fairness, and above all, love.
After you send your message to Congress, keep spreading our message of love so that all couples can have the freedom to marry:
Together, we can tear down the walls of misconceptions, intolerance, and exclusion…and spark a love revolution that will reverberate across the land!
In partnership and equality,
Standing on the Side of Love