Religion and Gay Marriage: What Marriage Means to Me

What can I say about our gay marriage? Quite a lot. Now, decades later, Mark and I "know" one another biblically and existentially. There is utter trust. We don't need to "prove" anything. We share everything.
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I am married to Mark Thompson, another gay man. We have been together 27 years. In order to speak of this with any depth or integrity, however, I find it necessary to look back and relate the past to the present. The past? It must include years of pain and deprivation when we were considered outsiders in the prevalent culture, persons somehow mentally and emotionally defective, enemies of prevailing society, spiritually notorious sinners, and shadowy figures threatening humanity by our very existence.

The idea of "marrying" another person of the same sex lay somewhere between a bad joke and something unheard of. I had fallen in love and had my heart broken several times. What was I looking for? Tenderness? Shared thoughts and feelings? A kind of blessing instead of condemnation?

How Mark and I met is a story by itself. He was an editor of the gay newsmagazine The Advocate. He'd flown to Los Angeles from San Francisco to interview celebrated writer Christopher Isherwood and his partner, artist Don Bachardy. During his visit circumstances brought Mark and me together unexpectedly. A few months later Mark moved to Los Angeles. We had an hilarious first date when we dined in a Pasadena restaurant. Seated at a table, I asked Mark if he'd like to dance. He said sure. A pianist was playing cocktail music "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." But after we started dancing, we realized there was no dancing. Mustering our forces as best we could, we fled the scene.

Of course, now we'd met. Courtship followed. During it usually I spent weekends at Mark's apartment. One Saturday morning he was taking out the garbage while I was reading a morning newspaper. Looking up, I said "Can I help you?" Mark replied quickly, "No, Malcolm. I can handle it." Flash forward six months. It's another Saturday at Mark's. He is taking out the garbage. I'm reading a newspaper. Suddenly Mark asks, "Can't you help me take out the garbage, Malcolm?"

Bingo. A sea change had taken place. We both realized we'd gotten married. Our entire relationship had shifted to hard core reality.

What can I say about our gay marriage? Quite a lot. Now, decades later, Mark and I "know" one another biblically and existentially. There is utter trust. We don't need to "prove" anything. We share everything, including the world. The other day I was casually reading "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage" in the Anglican spiritual classic "The Book of Common Prayer." I came upon a familiar section called "The Prayers." While they were not written for Gay Marriage, they fit it perfectly.

One of the prayers says: "Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy." I feel this is our own prayer at the heart of our marriage.

Another prayer in The Book of Common Prayer goes: "Give us grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other's forgiveness and yours." Wow. This is a central prayer for any committed day-by-day life together.

What about a really central question -- the deep meaning of a shared life in the context of a world with other people? "Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair."

I am deeply grateful for Mark's and my gay marriage and our blessed years together. Our gay marriage binds us to the world around us. Our gay marriage gives us healing and blessing that we can share with others.

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