November 26, 2003
Time to let love conquer fear
Commentary / The Rev. Kathy Schmitz
Proud to perform same-sex marriages
The recent ruling in favor of same-sex marriage gives the people of Massachusetts the chance to shine. We have the opportunity to show the rest of the country what true equality looks like. We have the opportunity to take our place in history proudly.
If we look back on the history of our Commonwealth and our nation, we tend to be most proud of those times when freedoms were expanded. Likewise, we tend to be most ashamed of those times when freedom has been restricted or denied. This is a time of which we will be proud.
This is not to say that the road ahead will be easy. There are technicalities to figure out. These include understanding what the implications of this ruling are when a couple enters another state or deals with the federal government. I am confident that these will get worked out over time.
Another challenge is that of helping those for whom this is a new idea to become used to it. For this to happen, we will need to be sure the voices of love and understanding are louder than those of misunderstanding and hate.
As a member of the clergy who already officiates at same sex ceremonies, I am delighted that I will now be able to sign their licenses, too. When a couple stands before me, their family, and their friends, and takes their vows, those present know what they have seen - a marriage.
We can call it other names, but those present will still know what it is. Now that commitment, whatever others call it, will come with the same rights and responsibilities afforded opposite-sex couples.
Of course, there will be no requirement that anyone attend such a ceremony, just as there will be no requirement that any religious institution perform such a ceremony. Both individuals and religious institutions already have the right to make such choices.
You have and will continue to have that choice. When you have that choice, let me tell you what I hope you will choose. I hope you will choose to attend. If someone trusts you enough to invite you to be present as they make their life commitment, I hope you will go. Even if you are not sure at first. Even if you are afraid. I hope you will allow your fear to be conquered by love.
Too many families have been estranged because someone fears that they will not be accepted because of who they love. Sometimes that fear is founded, sometimes not. If someone you care about needs to know that you accept them, now would be an excellent time for you to let them know.
There are critics, of course, and we can only hope that over time they will have a change of heart. Over time, they will see that their fears are unfounded. Fear of the unknown is not uncommon.
While there is some unknown here, we are talking about greater love and greater commitment. I think we can only expect these to have a stabilizing and joyous effect on society.
Some have asked what the founders of the Commonwealth and the nation would think of all of this. I think they would be proud, too. They did not set up a fixed law code. They left us a living and changing process. They trusted that process to create ever greater justice in ways they could not predict. Yes, I think they would be pleased. They would see this as our time to shine.
(The Rev. Kathy Schmitz, minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of Braintree, is a Norwood resident.)