I am still beaming and kvelling from the last wedding I officiated. This sweet couple (two nice Jewish doctors, no less!) had burrowed themselves deep in my heart, as their community held them with even more love. Located at a winery in Santa Rosa, it was a destination wedding for everyone, because when the two men first started to plan, they could not marry in any of the three states in which they or their families live. Even as that changed in their home state, they wanted to be married in a place where they could be assured all the vendors would be supportive of their marriage.
Early in the ceremony, I asked who had ever been to a Jewish wedding before. Most people had been to at least one. Then I asked who had ever been to a same sex wedding before. Only a third of the community raised their hands. Then I asked who had ever been to a Jewish same sex wedding before, and only a very few hands went up.
So we sang the Shehekeyanu blessing, expressing gratitude for being alive in that very special moment, within days of Ireland’s election to legalize same sex marriage, the first country to do so by popular vote. And we cried.
The crying had started earlier, at the signing of the ketubah, the traditional Jewish marriage contract. A document that used to speak of the groom’s responsibility for the maintenance of the bride, his new acquisition, had transformed into a work of art that expressed their mutual commitments to each other. The two grooms were seated with their parents and their witnesses around them, and one of the grooms grew red in his face, and tears streamed down his face. He was overcome by emotion, and I remembered yet again, how what straight couples take for granted is such a big deal, when it has been denied you and people like you for so long.
The couple had been together for seven years, and one of them had known from the first few days and the other from the first few months, that they had found their soul mates…and at that time, they had no expectation that they would be able to be married legally, Jewishly or spiritually. What straight couples take for granted is a right that same sex couples have been denied for so long, along with all the accompanying rights (hospital visitation, inheritance, family leave, and hundreds of other rights). While the overwhelming feeling at the wedding, as at all weddings that I have been blessed to officiate, was love, their community sparked a joy that comes from gaining something long denied. It’s not unlike the joy I imagine the first women voters in the US experienced back in 1920, but this is about the whole of your life, the person you are supposed to be with, period.
I pray that these two soul mates feel the love they shared at their wedding throughout their lives, and that all same sex couples find places, officiants, and vendors who will be happy to participate in their wedding. As they go through life, experiencing the joys and pains, the losses and successes, the ordinary and the extraordinary, I pray that their love, and the support of their community hold them fast. May it be so.