Making It Official

A historic Boston church is turned into a same-sex marriage mill for one historic day.

Boston, May 20--Most of them had already spent Sunday night into Monday morning waiting to apply for the first marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Today, they're going to the chapel and they're going to get married.

The chapel is Arlington Street Church, the historic Unitarian Universalist bastion facing Boston Public Garden. The church opened it doors at 9 a.m. this morning to marry 50 couples, at a rate of 20-minutes apiece, so they could have their licenses signed in church.

Just don't call the ceremonies "weddings." Oddly, after all of the debate in both the state's political and religious circles about the power of words like "wedding" and "marriage," the ceremonies taking place here today go by the more staid term "license-signing." The reason, says Arlington Street's senior minister, the Rev. Kim K. Crawford Harvie, is that most of those having their licenses signed today have already been married in the Unitarian church or under Vermont's civil unions--or they are planning larger weddings for later this summer or fall.


This doesn't take away from the excitement, the sense of history and of moment that is visible on every face. Though the same words were recited every 20 minutes, the meaning was felt afresh for the couples who stood up and declared their legal and spiritual commitments to each other.

Most of the couples have been together for years, if not decades. They are here not at a beginning point, naïve youngsters who know they love each other but know little else about what life can bring. The couples here are celebrating lives they have already built together, complete with children, homes, jobs and deaths. Now they are crossing the final frontier into legal recognition.

"We wanted to ritualize that last moment" of the journey into civil marriage, said Crawford Harvie, whose wedding to Kem Morehead was on Valentine's Day 1999 and whose license signing was performed today to applause, tears and piano music. So instead of having open office hours for license signings, couples have the chance to stand up and be married in the church sanctuary.

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Holly Lebowitz Rossi
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