This month, my four siblings and I celebrated our parents’ 60th wedding anniversary with an Alaskan cruise. Sixty years—that’s quite an accomplishment.
In my family, we can boast long marriages. Both sets of grandparents stayed married until their deaths. I still look at photos of my maternal grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. (That one sticks in my mind because I had a college assignment to get an article published somewhere, anywhere, for an automatic “A” and my letter to my grandparents on their 50th wedding anniversary was published in a denominational magazine.)
My oldest brother and sister have marriages that have lasted more than 30 years (closer to 40 I think; I should ask) and another older brother has been married more than 20 years, though he did go through a divorce. (He likes to say he’s been married 32 years; 22 to his current wife, and 13 to his first wife.) That just proves marriage is not easy, as anyone who has gone through it or is now married can attest.
I got married late in life and now have been married 13 years.
I have another sister, a younger sister, who has been with her partner longer than I’ve been married. They are in a “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship” as the ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality calls it. They love each other. They share a home they built together. They share three dogs, but no children. Honestly, they are perfect for each other because, like in most marriages, the strengths of one partner make up for the weaknesses in the other.
My sister and her partner are stalwarts in their accepting, deep South Episcopal church; one serves on the vestry, and the other, a true extrovert, visits the sick and makes dinners for the homebound. They love their church.
And I have a lot of friends who are in “ life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” Some have children, some do not; some are devoted to a church, some are not. But none are officially married. They can’t count their years together and celebrate big anniversaries except in spirit.
It breaks my heart every time we get the updated list here in the office of churches that have chosen to leave the ELCA because of the adoption of the social statement–which acknowledges that we don’t all agree on whether my sister and her partner are breaking biblical laws.
We already don’t offer them the right to marry. Let’s at least not begrudge them a place in the church they love so.
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Lutheran Woman Today magazine.