On the evening of Valentine’s, February 14, 2009, my partner Dean and I were married in Allentown, Pennsylvania. We were married more than five years before the landmark Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges in June, 2015, which, thanks be to God, made marriage equality the law of the land. It has been seven years since we, “took the plunge” and I like being “an old married man”.
Our marriage ceremony in 2009 was not legally recognized.
Yet, on that cold February night, Dean and I gathered with community activists, members of what was then our faith community at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley, Dean’s sister, and our dearest friends, and publicly affirmed our love for each other in a sacramental act of hallowed, covenantal ties.
Prior to The Supreme Court Ruling in 2015, for many years, Valentine’s Day weekend, for many in the LGBTQIA community, was dedicated to civil protest in regard to the unjust discrimination against LGBT persons in regard to civil marriage. “Freedom to Marry” events became a strong centering point in many of our lives. Dean and I were privileged to participate in a good many protest rallies at the local courthouse. In addition, the yearly social capstone to this weekend of hard-fought advocacy was an interfaith service involving a union of same sex couples at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley.
The year that Dean and I were married, our pastor wonderfully understood the centrality of the sacramental act of marriage was for Dean and me. The ceremony reflected this import. Don’t misunderstand me. The legal recognition of our civic right to the benefits and responsibilities, inherent in our relationships, was a struggle of vital importance which cannot be undervalued. The LGBTQIA community fought long and hard for the legal recognition others took for granted. Yet, having access to the sacramental act of Christian Marriage has made all the difference in our relationship.
On the night we were married, a few hundred people packed the church. It was standing room only. Some in attendance were traditionally religious, many were not. A score of various clergy persons assisted in the ceremony with our own pastor officiating. A local rabbi incorporated a traditional Jewish wedding blessing, additional blessings were offered by the various clergy. Our pastor ensured that the personally important emphasis on the meaning of Christian marriage was emphasized for us.
Dean and I rented tuxedos that were somewhat Edwardian in style. Friends from New York and New Jersey came to act as our best men. We were lucky enough to have so many of our church family participate. While no one in my family were in attendance, Dean’s wonderful sister walked us down the aisle. I was so nervous.
There was a great deal of solemnity. There was even more joy, laughter and quite a few tears. Our vows rearticulated the faith and life journeys of Dean and myself, while recapitulating how our individual journeys had now been fused. Something changed on our relationship that night.
Prior to that evening, in addition to the common imposed societal internalization that our relationship was somehow “less than,” “less worthy” of that of a heterosexual couple, Dean and I did not have relationships which were centered in our spiritual core. To be very honest, Dean and I had periods in our lives where terms like commitment, fortitude, or long term care in mutuality had very little meaning. Probably because we were constantly informed that those qualities, those virtues, were commodities not dispensed to –
The “less than”.
God’s graces, the multiplicity of “means of grace,” given to humanity by a good, generous and loving God are not commodities to be bartered in ecclesiastical “culture wars.”
Our marriage, our covenant in Christian community, before God, our sacramental union, changed our lives forever. It changed our spiritual lives for the better.
On the evening I married Dean, I had never felt so whole. As important and necessary as the legal recognition and protection of civil marriage was and is, for us, what really mattered was the sacramental act. Our little church in Allentown acted as a vehicle of God’s grace on that cold evening in 2009. In not blocking our access to a means of Grace, our church walked with me and Dean as we entered more fully into our humanity, in our growth into the image and likeness of a loving God.
My life.. our lives.. have never been the same.
As a young person, Robert held various ministry positions within the Salvation Army, including a managerial position in a large social services complex in Whitechapel, London. Robert left the Salvation Army in 1990 and became affiliated with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1996. Robert has held the position of Ministry Coordinator of Spiritual Formation at Metropolitan Community Church of the Lehigh Valley in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In 2014 Robert left the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. Robert continues to explore the possibility of returning to his Wesleyan roots by becoming affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Unfortunately, such a hope remains challenging; as the 2016 General Conference retained prohibitive and spiritually damaging language relating to LGBT persons in the Book of Discipline. Robert and his partner Dean recently connected with a Reconciling congregation and are choosing a cautious hope.
In addition to this ecclesiastical background, Robert continues to work in the field of social services, providing technical support and oversight in the areas of quality enhancement, abuse prevention and investigation for a non-profit agency providing residential and habilitation services to persons with intellectual disabilities. He also acts as a technical liaison between this private non-profit and New York State’s oversight agencies, including New York State’s abuse investigation and prosecuting agency, the Justice Center.
All views expressed on this blog represent Robert’s personal views and do not, necessarily, reflect the positions of either his ecclesiastical affiliation or his employer.
Robert lives with his partner, Dean, their four dogs: Geezer, Miss Tipsy, Miss Ivy and Miss Nena, and two cats: Flash and Miss Kitty, in their little mountain home in the Poconos.
Latest posts by Robert Schotter (see all)
- Finding A Reconciling Congregation: An Introvert’s Tale - June 4, 2016
- Our sacramental union changed our lives forever - April 29, 2016
- No ecclesiastical decision can separate us from the love of Christ - February 1, 2016