Saturday, April 5, 2014

Equality Comes to Michigan -- Part Four: Weddings

It's time to finish up my series about my memories of that day in Ann Arbor.  With the abundance of clergy we had, the blessing was that those who had religious communities were often able to find their own clergy person and have them perform the ceremony, and many others were able to find someone who represented their own faith tradition, whether Christian or Jewish or Pagan.  I did see one African-American couple come down who were specifically looking for an African-American minister.  It sounded like they had seen him earlier and were trying to find him again.  I don't know if they did, or not.  I hadn't seen him, but the room was very crowded for most of the day. 

Those couples without connections to local clergy had their pick of the rest of us who were there available. I officiated at two services.  And just enjoyed the day and celebrated with other couples and witnessed and helped the rest of the time. 
The first wedding I performed that day was for Adam and Michael.  They have been together over a dozen years, and had had a wedding before, although it wasn't a legal ceremony.  They'll now have two spring anniversaries to celebrate.  Adam and Michael were glad to hear I was UU -- they said they were hoping for either a UU or Unity minister.  Here in this picture (by Annette Bowman), I'm blessing the wedding rings that they have been wearing for years.

At the end of the ceremony, I copied what the Rev. Gail Geisenhainer of the First UU Congregation of Ann Arbor had been doing during all the ceremonies she had been performing that day.  I held their hands aloft, and loudly proclaimed them married and introduced them to the room.  As each marriage was thus announced, all other activity in the room would pause and the room would all cheer and celebrate together, and then other ceremonies would resume.  This picture (by Jon or Kathy McLean), is taken just as we're bringing our hands down from that moment.  It captures Adam and Michael mere seconds after their marriage has become legally recognized. 

The second ceremony I officiated at is one I don't have pictures of except from The Detroit News, where they're shown in the slide show here (slides 8 and 9).  Shirley and Shirley were among the last couples to get married that day, and the room was emptying out.  You have to be a resident of the county to get a license there, and one Shirley lives in Detroit, but the other Shirley is an Ypsilanti native.  It was fun introducing Shirley Hayslett-Cunningham and Shirley Cunningham-Hayslett to the room, though I got a bit (understandably, I think) tongue-twisted with that one. The room cheered and laughed in a friendly, loving way.  

Before long, it was after 1pm, and couples were being turned away as the Washtenaw County Clerk's office closed.  Despite the fact that our governor is refusing to recognize these marriages and a stay on performing more is in effect, the law of Michigan right now still stands that our constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is overturned, and same-sex marriage is legal.  Refusing to recognize the marriages while the appeal is pending is to refuse to recognize couples that were, and are, legally married.  Thankfully, the Federal government is recognizing these marriages. 

It puts a damper on that day that these couples are on hold, certainly.  In cases like Michael and Adam and Shirley and Shirley, these couples literally don't even know what their own name is, since hyphenating your name is a perk of legal marriage, without any other steps necessary to have a legal name change.  It's just one of the thousands of legal problems that couples whose marriages aren't legally recognized have arrange separately.  It's the smallest example, and one that heterosexual couples just take for granted and don't even think about.  Some of the same-sex couples were startled to find, that day, that this was something they could easily and legally do in a legally-recognized wedding. 

Name changes are one thing --  although names are fundamental to our identity, and meaningful -- but the inheritance rights and the adoption rights are very significant and have a huge impact.  So many couples in my community live in situations where if one person dies, the other parent will not have any legal claim on the children they have raised and parented together.  The court case in Michigan began as an adoption case for this very reason. 

I find myself unsure about how to end this post.  This was a joyous, celebratory day, full of love and full of the joy of recognizing families in our state.  We knew that a stay would come to the decision, but I had hope that these marriages would be recognized in our state until and unless an appeal was successful.  I think it's a crime that they're not.  And so a day of joy is still a day of joy, but followed by anger and sorrow.  We are still are fighting for equality in Michigan. 

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