I grew up Catholic, and I'll never forget what happened the first time I went to Mass after I came out. I was home from college for Thanksgiving, and the priest stood at the front of the church and told the parishioners not to let their children attend an upcoming workshop on HIV prevention put on by the high school, because it "condoned homosexuality." I walked out and never went back (except for some weddings and funerals), and it's been nearly 20 years. Unfortunately, little has since changed with the Catholics.
Many people see the Episcopal Church as the closest thing there is to the Catholic Church. Which is why their increasingly progressive stance on same-sex marriage gives me hope. This week the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., announced that same-sex marriage ceremonies could be performed there. The National Cathedral is the second largest cathedral in the country, and it's been dubbed by Congress as the "National House of Prayer." It's a symbol of Christian faith in America. And now it lets the gays marry.
If that's not a step toward equality, I don't know what is. What a year it's been.
In my business as a wedding planner specializing in same-sex weddings, I have worked with hundreds of same-sex couples, many of whom, like me, are "recovering Catholics." We all seem to have some baggage. There's something so powerful about the rituals we grew up with, the Sunday rituals where we know when to sit, when to stand, what to recite, what to sing. And when rejected by that institution, it's a little bit debilitating for many of us. I've planned very very few same-sex weddings in churches, but those are absolutely amongst the most emotional ones for me.
I'm hopeful that this move by the National Cathedral will cause many other dioceses to follow suit. The Episcopal Church has become increasingly progressive in the U.S. and is the largest U.S. denomination to support same-sex marriage. We all know Bishop Robinson was named the first openly gay bishop of an Episcopal diocese in the U.S. when he was named bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. Several other dioceses in New England have permitted same-sex marriage for a few years now. And last year the Episcopal Church itself said that priests could bless same-sex relationships -- not the same as marriage, but we'll take it.
But until this week the National Cathedral remained silent. But when they spoke, they spoke with eloquence and inspiration: "We enthusiastically affirm each person as a beloved child of God -- and doing so means including the full participation of gays and lesbians in the life of this spiritual home for the nation."
Amen to that.