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Marriage – History or Mystery? by Sally M. Masters

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Northampton Pride and the 2nd anniversary of the legal recognition of same sex marriage in Massachusetts this year, history has been at the forefront of my mind. Several thousand same sex couples have married in Massachusetts over the past two years, and life is only better for the people of the Commonwealth as a result - better for ALL people!  Yet, a new fight began this past year to place the issue of same sex marriage on the ballot. 

The primary arguments supporting opposition to same sex marriage have not changed - "Marriage should only be between one man and one woman - that's the way it has always been" or "I only believe in traditional marriage - same sex marriage damages traditional family values".  Many people who are adamantly opposed to same sex marriage base their beliefs on this issue from what appear to be historical tenants of their faith.  It is no secret that the Catholic Church in particular has used the pulpit for political purposes as many bishops and priests have strongly encouraged their parishioners to take a stand against same sex marriage.  How sad is it that some communities of faith, institutions founded on the precepts of love, choose to promote disenfranchisement, judgment, segregation, and hate?  I have many friends and acquaintances in the GLBT community who have walked away from the faiths of their childhoods, not because they no longer "believe", but because they refuse to be affiliated with a church that, in their experience, promotes hate. 

As a Justice of the Peace who has performed more than 225 weddings for same sex couples, hate is the furthest emotion that comes to mind as I preside over these beautiful ceremonies.  As the grandmother of a woman in a same sex couple said to me recently, "Love really is just love, isn't it?"  How insightful!  And, as an officiant for so many same sex weddings, I can confirm that she is so right.  As hard as I have tried, I truly cannot understand what the opponents of same sex marriage are so afraid of - except change and fear of the unknown.  In Massachusetts, the unknown is now known - no one has been hurt by same sex marriage.  In fact, when the institution of marriage is strengthened for same sex couples, it is strengthened for all. 

Let's look at some of the history of marriage - Did you know that....

Most marriages referred to in the Old Testament of the Bible were polygamous in nature (there goes the "marriage has always been between one man and one woman" argument)? In fact, King Solomon had 200 wives and over 600 concubines. 

Nowhere in the Bible is same sex marriage mentioned, much less prohibited? 

Many marriages reported in the Old Testament were between close relatives? 

During periods of the Old Testament, if a man raped a woman, he was required by law to marry the woman he raped? 

And, if a man died, his brother was required by law to marry his brother's widow? 

It wasn't until the 12th century that the church declared marriage to be a sacrament? 

Jesus had almost nothing to say about marriage (and by the way, he said absolutely nothing about homosexuality)? 

The Apostle Paul referred to marriage as a distraction to ministry, merely a compromise to lust? 

As recently as 1930, girls could marry at the age of 12 (with permission from a parent)? 

African American slaves were not permitted to marry? The wedding ritual of "jumping over the broom" began as a way for slaves to validate their marriages since they could not legally marry. 

Interracial marriage was still illegal in many states as recently as 1967? 

Even in 2006, more marriages throughout the world result from an "arrangement" rather than a choice? 

Marriage has changed throughout history and is still changing. It has not always been between one man and one woman. Same sex couples deserve the same rights and privileges of marriage as heterosexual couples.  The Bible says that ALL people are created in God's image, not just heterosexual people, not just white people, not just men - ALL people.  Relationships, whether opposite sex or same sex, should be deemed sacred and sanctified based on the relationship itself, not on the sexual orientation of the couple. 

What can you do in support of same sex marriage? 

1. If you are a same sex couple who is getting married, think about making your marriage public knowledge.  If you feel safe doing so, tell friends and relatives and consider placing an announcement in your local newspaper.  The more often people see same sex marriage as a regular occurrence, the better. 

2. If you are an opposite sex couple or individual, speak out in support of same sex marriage.  Talk to the people in your life.  Write letters to the editor.  If you have an upcoming wedding, think about making some sort of a statement of support in your ceremony.  One of my favorite moments as a Justice of the Peace came last summer when I answered a phone call from Monique and Ian, a couple whose wedding was just a week or so away.  They were calling to ask if it was too late for me to insert a statement of support for same sex marriage in their wedding ceremony.  It's never too late for that!  I was moved by their request. 

3. If you are heterosexual and don't know any same sex couples, make a point to get to know some so you can speak about same sex relationships from a personal vantage point. 

4. Stand up for inclusion, inclusion for the rights of marriage for same sex couples. 

5. Volunteer for and donate money to organizations that are fighting the good fight in support of same sex marriage such as Marriage Equality For Same Sex Couples or Mass Equality

A Justice of the Peace, Sally Masters is also the resident wedding officiant for Rosie O'Donnell's Family Vacation Cruises.  She is Director of Guidance at a local high school, a consultant in diversity education involving GLBT issues, and a consultant in the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator.  Sally is the volunteer coordinator for Northampton Pride and makes her home in Easthampton.