This time around, I was the lone representative for the Episcopal Church. In years past, I've been accompanied by a priest, or two. We have led those assembled in some kind of call and response prayers. But this year, my usual priestly companion at this service has been through the wringer with a death in the family; hence I was the Episcopalian exercising my "royal priesthood" to lead a section of the service. They also asked my spouse to lead us in a gathering prayer which she concluded with singing the Shehecheyanu blessing to mark the first occasion of this service in a "post-marriage" time.
Since the theme of this year's Pride Week is "I Do" in homage to our newly-won right to marry, and since my partner and I are among the most newly-married in our county, I was assigned to deliver a message about marriage and the long-wait to get there. Knowing that my friend, Petra, would be following me to talk about the horrible "produce your papers to pee" bills that target our transgender brothers and sisters and their ability to use a restroom, I decided to craft my message to hint at the on-going battles but not steal her thunder, which came wrapped in an appropriate moment of silent prayer for the transgender community and those who seek to harm them legislatively. Here's what I said:
We’re here. We’re queer. And we’re getting married!
Nearly 24 years ago, when I first started dating Isabelle Potts, I would never have imagined a day in Florida (or anywhere else for that matter!) that people of my orientation, my queerness, would be given a marriage license. I definitely could not envision entering the county clerk’s office and having local government officials hugging us, congratulating us, cheering us on.
You see, it wasn’t that long ago when the mere attempt to get a proclamation for our city-wide Pride Week event was rejected by the then-mayor of Tallahassee.
Or that there were people who attended a county commission meeting claiming to have a container full of excrement, and warning our government officials that for them to allow a gay film series to be shown at the local public library would be akin to these people dumping the contents of their container in the county commission chambers.
Twenty-four years has seen so much change to get to “I Do.” At times, it was as if we would never see progress here in Florida. The passage of the anti-marriage Amendment Two in 2008 was an enormously painful event for our community. I wondered, “How can people who say they love God then vote to punish the children of God with such an amendment?” More people came out to their friends and families. Celebrities identified as themselves as being part of our tribe. And we began electing people at all levels of government who were not only our allies, they were one of us. And things began to shift.
But not in Florida.
Our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer brothers and sisters and our allies were having jubilant celebrations in every part of the country except here. Some friends, tired of the wait, went to other states where marriage was permissible for us. Sure it wouldn’t be recognized in Florida; but they would still be married. Isabelle and I chose not to do that. If we were going to make that type of legal commitment, we wanted it to happen where we lived.
Yes, it felt at times as if we were like the ancestors who wandered around in a desert, wondering if this miserable existence would ever end. But one of the things I have gleaned from those stories is that no matter how desolate and lonely those desert times may feel…somehow there is always going to be rock that will split open, or a well-spring that will bubble up. Or some ravens will come to feed you. No matter the circumstance, the Spirit is ready to break through to help those who are asking, “How long?”
We have achieved a significant step forward with marriage equality in Florida. And even today, our state Senate has sent a bill to the Governor which will, among other things, officially end the state-sanctioned ban on same-sex couples adopting children. But our struggle for full equality does not end with a marriage license. Even as we rejoice, the ones who seek to do our community harm continue to look for the ways to divide us and attack us. We must remain strong and resolute in our quest for freedom and justice for all people…ALL…every. Single. Person.
In the words of Sweet Honey in the Rock: We who believe in freedom shall not rest. We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.