The Vows Are the Same
Originally posted elsewhere, December 18, 2014.
Yesterday I took a road trip to Marietta, Oklahoma, the seat of Love County, home of the courthouse nearest to Texas that is honoring the marriage equality ruling for that state. I rode in the back seat with another friend who just loves road trips; the two brides occupied the front.
Our plan was this: for me to get registered as a legitimate pastor in the courthouse records; for the brides to procure a license; for us to find a suitable outdoor spot for an efficient but meaningful ceremony; to file the license in the courthouse and get a certified copy so one spouse could be added to the other’s health insurance at work. Simple enough.
When we found the court clerk’s office, it was a little crowded. Another wedding party was ahead of us: two brides, also from D/FW, with assorted relatives. Some of them spoke only Spanish. It was noisy and confusing, so we backed off to wait our turn.
We couldn’t help but overhear, though. One of the brides had forgotten her driver’s license early that morning; they had to return to Dallas to get it; now they were much too late for their appointment with an accommodating pastor the next town over. They could get a license, but they couldn’t get married.
It took only a minute for them to turn to me. “Could you do it, Pastor?” one of the relatives asked. My first response was not my best: “Uhh…” But the Holy Spirit kicks in pretty fast. “Yes, of course,” I said. My friends were nodding enthusiastically. “Of course.”
In five minutes’ time I had enough basic information to see that it could work. We would need the combined efforts of the cousin and one of my friends to translate the formal English of wedding ceremony into Español. The bride who chose to wear a traditional white dress with no sleeves and a plunging neckline would need to borrow my coat. I would need to think about how to solemnize the occasion without cannibalizing the ceremony I had written for our friends.
In the end, through chattering teeth and joyful tears, Dayanara and Mildre pledged their love and fidelity and mercy to each other in the sight of God and an assortment of witnesses. Josie and Caroline found Spanish equivalents for “cherish” and “honor” and “faithfulness” and “covenant.” It was lovely, and not all that difficult, actually.
Because it turns out the vows are pretty much the same in English and Spanish. And they’re pretty much the same for same-sex couples as they are for any two people who are empowered to pledge their lives to each other, with the help of God and their community, “till death do us part.”
As I said to Caroline and Michala during their ceremony a few minutes later, our fingers and toes freezing but our hearts cozy with romance, “Your marriage is good for us. Your marriage is good for the world.” I’d’ve said the same to Dayanara and Mildre, if I’d thought of it. Because marriage is brave, especially when you have struggled and waited and yearned for it. A double dose of that good stuff is just what the world needed yesterday. Thanks be to God.