Church is tough. We are like a big dysfunctional family regularly squabbling and bickering about bizarre things. Sometimes we try to divorce each other or run away from home. But, we can’t, really. The Christian church family is the only family that. . . (continued at Messy Jesus Business)
I’m preparing to get married later this month, and admittedly, there is not as much time as I would like to reflect on the whole process. There’s basically just too many details to think about with all the guests coming into town. Luckily, we’ve been planning it for 10 months so there have been gaps where I have been able to put some thought into the process, which I would love to share here.
One good part about this process is that we’ve had a lot of gay and lesbian friends remind us that no matter how tedious things seem, as a heterosexual couple, we have it easy. And they’re right. The amount of love and support we received from our family members and friends during this process is simply incredible. I can’t help but think that if I had found myself with another man, the amount of emotional and monetary support would be miniscule. It’s a reflection on our culture and what even the most well-intentioned family members and friends value.
We came from a state (California) where same-sex unions are being valued as a possibility (we’ll see whether Governor Schwarzenegger terminates the legislation later this year). In my opinion, it’s all well and good that states like California, Vermont, and Massachusetts are opening up opportunities for gay and lesbian couples to have significant rights as a couple, whether it’s tax breaks or just the ability to visit a partner in the hospital. These are things that are taken for granted by so many heterosexual couples in our society, including myself and my fiancee.
During my Canon Law course this past semester, the professor (who also serves as a tribunal judge in a diocese in California) was explaining to us that a Church marriage is supposed to be much more of a covenant than a contract when compared to a civil marriage. The amount of paperwork required for the two processes does not back that up.
Yesterday, we went to the Dane County Clerk’s office in downtown Madison, Wisconsin to apply for our civil marriage license. It cost $115, but other than that it was fairly painless. There was metered parking for 25 minutes right outside City Hall, but I parked in a garage, figuring we needed more time. We were in and out in 20 minutes. It basically required knowing our social security numbers and parents’ names, and signing a couple forms. We are now licensed to wed.
The amount of paperwork required by the Diocese of Madison is about as much as a first-time home loan. We had to get forms signed to do the ceremony in my fiancee’s home faith tradition, other forms for our witnesses to sign in front of a priest (it should be noted that the priests they signed these forms in front of did not know us as a couple nor the witnesses at all – they were just close in proximity to where the witnesses live). We basically had to sign off and acknowledge that we had never been married before (same with civil), and that we were capable of performing the ‘marriage act’ (who came up with that phrase?).
Now we’re set to wed but I can’t help and reflect on what the Roman Catholic Church has set out for its two primary goals of marriage between a man and a woman. The two purposes are reportedly equal in value since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s: to promote the love and unity of the couple, and to bear and raise children in the Catholic faith.
Of course, we love each other or we wouldn’t be going through something as silly as vowing to spend the rest of our lives together. You have to be somewhat crazy to think that you can do that. It makes sense for us, but I feel bad for all those who feel suckered into it because of it being the norm in our society. Obviously, it only works half the time (and even for those who are still together, it’s hard to say how well it’s working). We’ve been engaged for a little over a year and together for maybe three (the start time is hazy). It’s humbling to think of the same-sex couples who have been together for two or three decades (or even longer), and yet still don’t have their love for each other and unity with each other recognized by the Church nor state.
It’s been a long road and a lot of discussions, but it is highly probable that we will have at least one child. It’s unclear whether we will have the kid on our own or if we will adopt. My fiancee started to cry the other night during the NBA Finals when they did a story on Boston Celtics forward Leon Powe, who lived in foster care in Oakland for a few years when his mom either went to prison or relapsed with drugs (sorry, it was hard to hear at the bar). Now he’s on track to be the NBA Finals MVP after scoring 21 points in 15 minutes against the favored Lakers. Being able to provide a home like that for someone in need is appealing. Providing foster care as a first step is appealing to be able to have a child in our home, and then take a break to reflect on how we can do it better (obviously that’s hard to do when you become committed for life to a kid).
The irony is that while I think we’d be pretty good at providing a home for a child, there are plenty of same-sex couples that could provide just as good a home or even better. It’s sick when people put the argument out there that children need both a mom and a dad in the home in order to have a good life. There’s too many kids who don’t have a good life with a mom and dad in the home, and too many kids that have a fine life while being raised by a same-sex couple. It’s fodder and not fact.
The undeniable fact is that there are many examples of people who need love, whether it is in a loving relationship with a partner or as a child. Hopefully, as a church and a society, we can get better at recognizing that we have to shift the way we do things in order to create more possibilities for this love to be expressed. The Church’s goals for marriage have a lot of possibility to them for promoting love for spouse and love for children.