The writer peeks through the heart hole created by the newly married couple on Sept. 5, 2015, in Occoquan, Va. Photo courtesy of USA Today

On rites and rights: I performed my first gay wedding (COMMENTARY)

The writer peeks through the heart hole created by the newly married couple on Sept. 5, 2015, in Occoquan, Va. Photo courtesy of USA Today

The writer peeks through the heart hole created by the newly married couple on Sept. 5, 2015, in Occoquan, Va. Photo courtesy of USA Today


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I’m not one to preach.

But last weekend I was called upon to perform a marriage out of love for two young men, deeply in love.

Over that same long, holiday weekend, Kim Davis, the once-meek Kentucky county clerk now hoisted to celebrity status by anti-gay-marriage crusaders and a couple of 2016 presidential wannabes, spent five nights in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses – which is her job.

She sheathed her pen, pitting the supreme being vs. the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling on June 26, which legalized gay marriage nationwide.

If the irony of a marriage-license-wielding clerk in her fourth marriage isn’t enough, or a court denizen breaking the law or even a citizen standing up for religious liberty while denying others due process, then maybe it's time to throw the good book at the good clerk.

I’m not a Christian. But one of the grooms I married was raised Catholic, so I spent weeks thinking about how to weave God’s word into the ceremony. Mostly, I focused on the love passages.

And here’s what I learned the Bible also has to say about:

  • Judgment. From Matthew 7:1-3: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. ... And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
  • Equality. From Numbers 15:15: "For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord."

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As humans, it’s hard to avoid interpreting what we read through the filter of our own beliefs. It’s easy to misinterpret.

Amid such excitement lately over Pope Francis’ seemingly progressive pronouncements, an August survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service found that nearly half of Americans who are in favor of gay marriage mistakenly believe that the pope is, too.

They recall his “Who am I to judge …?” remarks as a breakthrough, especially in contrast to the words of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who wrote a decade ago that homosexuality was “a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” a “disorder.” Francis even used the less-clinical and English word “gay” speaking in Italian, which made him seem more compassionate, while still adhering to the church’s anti-gay doctrine.

The mother of one of the grooms I married Saturday elected not to witness the blessed event because of her devout Catholic convictions.

I am not one to judge. She is a lovely woman who loves her son dearly. I only pray she can live with no regrets.


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Because if there’s one lesson my first gay wedding framed well, it's this: Live and let love and eschew regret. Indeed, the ceremony went off with a hitch — many hitches. The cake fell over. The sound system failed. The entire schedule went kablooey as last-minute details were nailed into place.

Yet the joie de vivre expressed by the grooms and 60-plus merrymakers was transcendent. A few relatives may not have been in attendance, but God was surely there, in the light on everyone’s faces.

I can only pray that Davis and her supporters will be thus illuminated. As I said in my sermon: "I hope that someday all men who love men and women who love women — and everyone in between — will no longer feel scorn and hostility from certain corners of society."

For marriage, contrary to what some might think, is not about losing your freedom. For some, it’s about exercising it.

(Terry Byrne is a multiplatform editor at USA TODAY. Follow her @terryism.)