Well, we did it. We fired a priest.
After making the careful decision to have a local priest marry us, we felt good. Our marriage is a sacred covenant, so it felt right to have a religious official leading the way. But from the beginning, it was oddly difficult to get our emails and phone calls returned. A month out, correspondence from the priest and the priest’s assistant was not only nail-bitingly sparse, the messages we did get had basic errors in details like the time and date of our wedding.
Then, the priest sent an urgent message that while we had an in-person appointment set for Friday, she needed us to call her sooner. We scrambled to find a date and time, and of course the only day that worked for all of us happened to be my girlfriend’s birthday. She was going to treat herself to a half-day off work and planned to catch a movie and just do fun stuff. But since we now had this call, her “fun stuff” turned into walking across Downtown LA to come to my office and kill time until it was time to call. We dialed the number… no answer. We waited 5 minutes and called again. We waited 10 minutes and called again. I left a message with our call back number and we decided to start our commute.
While I drove, we talked. I was feeling panicky. I was feeling angry. I was feeling like this shouldn’t be so difficult. That counseling appointment we had on Friday, we’d both re-arranged our work schedules for it, but what if it was a bust too? What if the priest didn’t show for the rehearsal? Or for our wedding?! We decided if things went south on Friday, we’d call it quits and go with our back-up plan. Except… what was our back-up plan? Who knows and loves us? Who doesn’t mind being at the center of attention? Who’s comfortable speaking to crowds?
The answers were clear and they pointed straight to my college bestie. She’s known me for almost half my life, and 15 minutes after meeting my girlfriend, she grabbed my arm and whispered “I really like her!” She’s a 6ft tall redhead, so she’s used to attention. And she’s a college professor so she’s used to speaking to crowds. I did a reading at her wedding and she’d agreed to do one at ours, so she was already coming not only to the wedding, but to the rehearsal as well.
I started to text her, but my girlfriend grabbed the phone from me, because I was driving on an LA freeway during rush hour. Probably a good call. I dictated a text: here’s a crazy question – would you marry us? College Bestie responded right away. Yes! She’d be thrilled to. She used the word “priestess” and an Easter Island statue emoji, so we knew she was for real.
This new scenario started to feel right. It started to feel less like a back-up plan and more like The Plan. So when I got home, I emailed the priest thanking her for her time and telling her we were going another direction.
That night over expensive birthday steaks, I was awash with relief and more tension than I realized I was holding loosened its grip.
We’d taken the next day off work to pick up our marriage license–a surprisingly emotional experience for a task involving a dated government building and harried public servants. There was another couple ahead of us in the license line. We’re both starting a new life together. I felt instantly bonded with them, even though we didn’t talk. Ten minutes later, we were raising our right hands and promising a woman on the other side of the glass that we’d spelled our names correctly.
As we walked out of the East LA Registrar’s Office, down Cesar Chavez to where we parked, I started to cry. I made us stop and take a selfie with the words “marriage license” from our stack of forms just peeking into the photo.
When we met, this wasn’t legal. I kept thinking that, in a loop. We’ve been together almost 10 years. The Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal in every state happened less than a year ago. We are in the first wave of nationally recognized same-sex marriages. In less than two weeks, we’ll be as wed in Kentucky as we are in California. How many generations of queers who came before would have wanted that to be true for them and their partner? We felt their hands on our shoulders.
We felt lucky.
And we felt hungry, so we went for brunch. Fueled with coffee and the high octane diesel of history correcting itself, we sketched out an outline for our ceremony on a piece of scrap paper. We started with the most memorable passage from that Supreme Court decision. I can’t wait to hear Officiant Bestie read it aloud on our wedding day.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
Justice Anthony Kennedy