SAN FRANCISCO - February 17 -"My Daddy and Papa are getting married," said D.J., who is just five years old, when the Pastor asked her if she understood what was happening on Thursday afternoon last week in the Sanctuary at MCC San Francisco (MCCSF).
While hundreds of same-sex couples took their vows at City Hall, Rusty Davis and Mark Clem felt compelled to take their license, and their daughter D.J. to their church and have their union blessed. Theirs is the first same-sex wedding license to be solemnized in a California church.
"MCCSF has been doing same-sex weddings for over 30 years, but never with a civil marriage license to sign," said Rev. Dr. G. Penny Nixon, MCCSF's Senior Pastor.
"We have finally tasted the equality and felt the recognition that somany other citizens can take for granted."
Rusty Davis rushed to City Hall on Thursday from the church, where he serves meals to the homeless and hungry. He joined his partner, Mark Clem, and their daughter D.J. and had the license back to MCC by five o'clock for a ceremony conducted by the Rev. Terri Echelbarger. The ceremony was witnessed by a heterosexual couple, and about 25 guests and volunteers of the meal program.
The newlyweds, and D.J., are honeymooning in Maui this week.
MCC San Francisco is a beloved community joining together from diverse spiritual backgrounds and ministering primarily within the lesbian/ gay/ bisexual/ transgendered communities as a house of prayer for all people and a home for queer spirituality. Our vision is a transformed world, where all life matters and every person belongs.
Further Reflections on the first legal same-sex marriage in a California church by Rev. Terri Echelbarger
Normally, Rusty helps serve meals to the homeless and hungry on Thursdays, but this Thursday he left the church in a rush, right after shopping for the meal. The news had come that the city was issuing marriage licenses and he wanted his family to be a part of this opportunity. He and Mark had talked about it the day before, when Mayor Newsom had announced his intent, and they in turn had talked to their 5 year old daughter D.J. about it. She wanted to be the flower girl when the time came.
I told him that they could stop issuing them anytime - that he should have his license 'solemnized' at city hall by officials there . otherwise, his family might miss the window to file the certificate. He didn't care, he wanted to get married in the Church - and he wanted me to do it. He wanted the guests and volunteers who serve meals to be invited. He wanted to do it that very night. the call came from city hall to say "we'll meet you there are 5 pm". We told the volunteers and guests when Rusty would return, and many intended to stay.
By 5 pm a group of about 25 had gathered, volunteers, homeless, housed and not, church folks, friends, all waiting for the family to arrive and by Thursday afternoon I had performed what is very likely the first legal same sex civil and religious marriage in the California at the Church (5:20 pm). I asked the daughter during the ceremony if she understood what was happening, and she said, 'my daddy and papa are getting married' - clutching flowers tightly in her hand, and 'someday I get a wedding dress!' A wedding dress is not every little girl's dream, but it is not an uncommon one. The official witnesses were a straight couple, happy to be a part of it all.
We used the same scripture used in so many weddings from the book of Ruth, but seldom with credit to the speakers. It was Ruth who said to Naomi, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will by my people and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried."
Rusty, Mark, and D.J. too were making this commitment to each other.
On Friday I rushed to city hall with the certificate in hand for the wedding on Thursday night - trying to have it certified and filed before the court could halt the proceedings, and indeed the court session did come to order early in the day. I found out that the city had shortened the 6-week time period between filing your license and getting a copy to about 5 minutes. I dropped of the license, they said 'how many copies' and I bought two. One for the couple, and one for my scrapbook.
Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon was reflecting this past Sunday that she never sees those certificates framed in straight households - supposing some take the right and recognition for granted in so many ways. Regardless of the outcome of the fight to come I suspect many certificates will be framed and hung on walls as evidence of this weekend of truth telling.