Monday, November 23, 2009

Jumping the broom - an unpublished letter to the editor of the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Recently, I spent a lovely spring Saturday at my little liberal church here in Cobb County celebrating a commitment ceremony of two dear friends. My wife and I proudly served as ushers, which gave us special status as members of the wedding party.

During the day, the festivities included our small but dedicated choir joyously singing a Dvorak madrigal that starts

“This day is made for great rejoicing
This day is truly God’s creation.”

Our community came together as one and when our minister asked us if we were willing to help this couple live their lives together, we all enthusiastically replied “Yes!”

One aspect of the ceremony that I found particularly moving was the “jumping of the broom”. As the space before the couple was being swept with the broom, a friend stood and explained that it was customary in the Old South for slaves to perform this ceremony to pledge their fidelity to one another. Marriage was illegal between slaves in those days. It was also explained that my dear friends, who have been together for over twenty years, had performed this ceremony in the privacy of their kitchen in Smyrna many years ago. At the moment they jumped the broom, our church erupted with riotous applause. It was truly a day for great rejoicing.

So, here in Georgia, it is unconstitutional for two members of the same sex to marry. But Georgia is a remote and artificial construct to me. I, like many of you reading this, consider my church community the center of my circle of friends and the platform from which I deal with the world. It is our poor but sincere attempt at a beloved community. In my world, what happened that sunny Saturday was as true and right as the sun rising in the east. Our friends are married, just like my wife and I are married. I realize that many of the rights and privileges that my wife and I enjoy are closed to our friends. Hospital visitation, social security benefits, insurance coverage and even the privilege of filing a joint tax return are not granted to them because they are of the same sex. But they jumped the broom… in my world, that’s enough.

So I suggest to all those who have dear friends like mine, encourage them to do the same. And if you are in a loving and committed same sex relationship, find a welcoming church and pledge your love publicly. If religion is not your thing, rent a hall and throw a big party. Infuse the ceremony with as much sanctity and devotion as you can. Publicly ask your family and friends to help you live your life together. Jump the broom.

Let’s change the world with a thousand days of great rejoicing. Let’s make the law look small and cruel. Soon, everyone will have been to a commitment celebration at some time. We will all see that the joy of a wedding is just as pure whether the couple is a man and a woman or two men or two women. And the world outside our intentional family will finally come to its’ senses.

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