A moment of sanctity

Up on the second floor of City Hall, not far from the city clerk’s office, is a little white trellis archway on wheels, decorated with flowers and white lace. I’d noticed it a long time ago, and quickly realized that it was designed to provide a little class and formality to a dry civil marriage ceremony. I always thought it was just for photographs, though, not the ceremony itself.

Today, I had to drop off a document to someone in City Hall for comments and corrections. While she annotated the document, I watched as a city clerk pulled out the trellis and guided two young women underneath it. They were both very beautiful and quite young — I can’t imagine that either was that much over twenty — and both were women of color. One wore a tight, short-skirted white dress, and carried a bouquet of brightly dyed silk flowers; the other wore a white tank top and ragged, hole-covered jeans.

The city clerk, a middle-aged woman in plain work clothes, read the vows and guided the young women through the ceremony, as the witnesses — a young woman and man of similar age — looked on. The whole ceremony probably took five minutes. Finally, once the exchange of vows was complete, the clerk offered that they kiss each other; they held each other tight, kissing each other deeply and delightedly while everyone clapped. As they walked away to finalize the paperwork, they couldn’t stop beaming at each other, even when one of them started crying with happiness.

It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in ages. It made me happy to live in this part of the country, in a way that nothing else had before. Because while all the stories in the media, about middle-class white couples who’ve been together for thirty years, are well and good, they’re not the only ones who benefit from same-sex unions. It’s people like those girls, young and hopeful and recklessly in love, already facing enough economic and social discrimination aside from their sexuality, who need and deserve the same legal legitimization as everyone else.