This post, written by Rachael Berman, originally appeared on TheHumanist.com on July 9, 2015.
On June 26, the US Supreme Court ruled that the US Constitution guarantees the right for same-sex couples to marry in all fifty states. Some same-sex couples rushed to their local courthouse to become some of the first “legal” married same-sex couples in their states. However, even now, several judges and county clerks from the thirteen states with same-sex marriage bans prior to the June 26 ruling are still refusing to perform officiant duties that would honor same-sex couples’ federal right to marry. Luckily, humanist celebrants continue to be an importance resource for individuals who want a personalized, nonreligious ceremony. I reached out to several humanist celebrants asking them to share stories of same-sex marriage ceremonies they’ve officiated and the obstacles they’ve faced—their accounts are below.
California first began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in June 2008. However, four months later the passage of Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment eliminating the right of same-sex couples to marry, gay marriage licenses were no longer being issued. Humanist celebrant Jason Frye of San Diego managed to sneak one in anyway:
In July of 2008, Californians celebrating LGBT-pride had reason to add wedding cake to the usual American summer diet of cold beer and anything grilled outdoors. A month prior, our state Supreme Court ruled that our constitutional ban on marriage eligibility for same-sex couples was constitutionally verboten. The following month was our city’s annual Pride Parade. There was the usual assortment of gay bars, bankers, and incumbents seeking reelection. There was also a humanist celebrant on the back of a flatbed truck marrying people at five miles an hour; I was that celebrant. One month prior, two women who had fallen on the hardest of times asked if I could perform their ceremony. The Humanist Association of San Diego paid for their license, the parade entry, and gave this homeless lesbian couple a fairytale wedding with 150,000 cheering wedding guests. To accommodate the three-mile parade route, I performed their ceremony four times, choreographing the first set of “I do’s” to take place in front of the perennial Christian protesters. In a sense of poetic justice, the equestrian branch of the San Diego Police Department—the horses facing the parade— separated the Evangelicals from the gays. A determined southerly breeze gave the protesters an aromatic whiff that embodied their diatribe.
Unfortunately, we lost marriage equality for the next five years. Last year we gained it again, and last month, so did the remainder of the United States. On July 4th I performed another wedding for a same-sex couple.
After Proposition 8 was overturned in California in 2013, couples who didn’t get a chance to get married in the short window of time in 2008 enthusiastically leaped on their chance to do so, as experienced by Phil LaZier, a humanist celebrant from Sacramento:
Gay marriages were legalized in California in the summer of 2013. A gay couple engaged for years were “spring-loaded” for the law to change. So when it did, they used the humanist online listing to find me, and a few weeks later I married them. One man was local and the other from England. They had been hopping back and forth across the Atlantic for years to stay close. Now married, I assume the Brit has moved in with his husband. I was proud to have performed one of the first gay marriages in California!
D G Van Curen, of Idaho, recalls his way of celebrating legalized gay marriage in Idaho in 2014:
While the Supreme Court decision gave us cause for celebration in Idaho, it did little to change the landscape of marriage equality in 2015. Idaho joined the ranks of legal gay marriage in October 2014, and the community response was overwhelmingly positive. Our governor did try to stall the implementation of the court order, but his efforts only bought the state a few days of additional discrimination. Following the court ruling that legalized marriage equality, I offered free ceremonies to gay couples through the end of December 2014. The most notable event for me during this period was a formal triple wedding, in which the three couples involved had already been in committed relationships, two for nineteen years and the third for twenty years. Idaho passed a gay marriage ban in 2006, but a recent poll showed that 63 percent of Idahoans now favor marriage equality. The tide of public opinion is changing rapidly.
Since gay marriage became legal in all fifty states, overjoyed humanist celebrants are offering free ceremonies and officiant services in celebration of this victory. Here are just a few.
The Most Joyous Wedding – Georgia
I was out of the state at a gathering of thousands of marriage equality supporters when the decision came down from SCOTUS that these unions will now be recognized as legal in all fifty states, including Georgia, which had passed a constitutional amendment a few years back banning same-sex unions, If I had been home, I would have stood in front of my county courthouse with a hand-lettered sign advertising my availability—for free—to couples who have been waiting months or years for this day. However, it was only a week later when I got an email referral from a colleague who is on sabbatical that a lesbian couple had contacted him wondering if he was available July 6 for a simple ceremony. They did not want to do it before a probate court judge, and they did not want a traditional church wedding. I spoke with them over the phone and found a Unitarian Universalist congregation willing to open their doors and waive the rental fee.
We stood in the empty sanctuary with one witness.
I don’t know who had more tears, the two women who exchanged solemn vows and rings or me. I have done hundreds of weddings over more than twenty years. This was the most joyous.
— Marti Keller, humanist celebrant from Atlanta, GA
Many Gay Marriages in Redneck Riviera, Florida – Who Knew?
Over the years, I’ve performed quite a number of commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples as a humanist officiant serving Southern California, the Central Gulf Coast region of Florida, South Coastal Alabama, and Mississippi. Ironically, the overwhelming majority of these took place in the so-called Redneck Riviera where I was very active and outspoken in Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) local networking groups. As a result, area wedding coordinators and vendors regarded me as their go-to guy for LGBT ceremonies, as hardly any other ministers or officiants there were as experienced or open to performing them.
I’ve always told my same-sex couples that at whatever future time the states were to legalize gay marriage, they could bring their license to me and I would solemnize and file their legal marriage at no additional charge.
— E. J. Campfield, humanist celebrant from Southern California
Texan Justices Encouraged to Rebel—Celebrant Available to Save the Day
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has encouraged judges to refuse to honor same-sex couples’ new federal right to marry by refusing to perform officiant duties.
I am a Certified Humanist Celebrant with the Humanist Society under the American Humanist Association. My credentials award me the same authorities granted to ordained clergy in all fifty states.
If you are able to obtain your marriage license and are looking for someone to quickly officiate your wedding, I am volunteering my services to perform a secular wedding and sign your marriage license at no charge.
Today, I contacted the Dallas County Clerk’s office to see if this was happening and how I could help. The woman who answered the phone said “we’re giving out licenses like we’re supposed to.” I again inquired if people were being turned away by Justices of Peace after receiving their licenses, to which she replied “we’re issuing licenses because it’s the law.” And with that, she hung up on me.
I then called the Rockwall County Clerk, and after talking with the receptionist, I was transferred directly to the county clerk herself. She thanked me for calling and said that while they are issuing licenses without incident, all four justices who work for the county have openly refused to perform same-sex marriages.
I am now on file with Rockwall County as the only private individual to receive referrals from the county, since they have no one else to perform these services.
I’m looking forward to helping as many of you as possible. Just comment below or message me directly on Facebook to set something up.
— David Smalley, humanist celebrant from Garland, Texas
Have you officiated a humanist wedding for a same-sex? How are you celebrating the SCOTUS decision? Leave a comment below! Are you interested in becoming a humanist celebrant? If so, go to the Humanist Society’s website.