Before “Rent,” before “Will and Grace,” before “Glee,” before Legalize Gay shirts were sold at American Apparel, before “Same Love” by Macklemore, the very idea of same-sex marriage being recognized and legal was a dream, and for some, it was even laughable. With a few determined, but unsuccessful attempts in the 1970s there was finally some headway in 1993, only to be deterred by the infamous and ultimately unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act. Then federalism struck and one by one like dominoes states started writing same-sex marriage into their laws or banning it outright in some situations. Over the course of a lifetime for some the topic of same-gendered marriage was debated in living rooms and television networks.
Now let us fast forward three decades, a great deal of litigation, and a dozen hold out states, and we’ve finally gotten the news we were waiting for.
“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court declared that marriage equality was the law of the land.
It should be noted that before it was so ordered, same-sex couples have been making their commitments to each other known for decades. Progressive churches have been marrying queer couples since the 1970s. Before this decision in particular, the Presbyterian Church of the United States added same-sex couples to their definitions of marriage.
To celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision as well as the church’s decision, East Liberty Presbyterian Church hosted a celebration of the new law and marriage vows old and new. The ceremony was a mix of tradition and modernism. No one was given away as the couples marched down the aisle with their soon-to-be or already spouses; however, biblical passages were read aloud, and the church’s choir sang hymns.
Eighteen couples that varied in age, gender, and marital duration were married or remarried in some case. Some were dawning classic wedding white gowns. Some wore suits and ties. Others chose a more casual outfit of jeans and leather jackets. A few couples were even accompanied by children acquired over the course of their relationships.
“God is love and marriage is a gift,”the Reverend Dr. Randy Bush said, adding, “For those of you that have had to wait for your relationships to be recognized, on behalf of the church, I’m sorry.”
East Liberty Presbyterian Church prides itself as being a place of acceptance and diversity. It also has a philosophy of allowing individual couples define marriages for themselves. As Dr. Bush said, “Marriage is a covenant between two people of mutual love, fidelity, commitment, and trust. It is the highest ideal to which two people can aspire, whether or not it leads to children, whether or not it lasts for a lifetime and whether or not it involves a man and a woman or two women or two men.”
As the phrase, “You may now kiss your spouses” was said to the sanctuary of supportive witnesses, a sense of new beginnings and all around joy was in the air as the couples departed to the reception. East Liberty Presbyterian Church holds services on Sundays at 8:45 a.m. and 11 a.m.