Being an Inclusive Officiant // The Joy of Saying "Yes!"

Photo by  Rachel Joy Barehl  from the Out of the Box Challenge

Photo by Rachel Joy Barehl from the Out of the Box Challenge

I performed my first wedding as an act of civil disobedience.

A couple of weeks after September 11, 2001, I got on a plane, flew to D.C., and joined two women in holy and completely illegal matrimony. Same-sex weddings were a crime in the state of Virginia, carrying a two-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. I was not concerned about going to prison. I was a tad concerned about terrorism and the war that was breaking out, and a bit worried about my own safety. One of the brides was a Marine, and her father, also a Marine, had threatened to come shoot both brides if he could find them. I did not wish to be shot. I am an avoider of arguments, embarrassing social situations, and conflict of all kinds. I did not wish to be shot or shouted at or even to receive snarky, sarcastic comments. But I also could not stand by, and say no, and refuse to marry this couple of women who loved each other and wanted God’s blessing on their union. So I said yes.

That was the first wedding: an emergency, an extraordinary circumstance, and it led to a practice of officiating weddings for friends, family, and then strangers. Usually there’s something special about the couples who call me: they’re LGBTQ, they’re from different religions, they’re looking for something out-of-the-ordinary. A nonbinary man who really, really did not want to be called Heather at his wedding asked: could I come? I said yes. Two young lesbians in West Virginia needed to be married right away before one bride’s beloved grandmother died of leukemia. I said yes. A woman whose fiance was in prison, who couldn’t wait three years for him to be released, asked if I could please send the warden my credentials. Please? I said yes: "No problem. Let me just get to a fax machine."

I cannot imagine saying no. Marriage is a sacrament, and it has been since about 1184. I do not understand how a religious professional can stand in their office, wearing a robe and stole, and actively deny two people a sacrament. I know some people take great pleasure in excommunicating evildoers, but that’s not why I got into this business. I don’t check ID before Communion, and I don’t check your voting record or your tithe statement or your anatomy before a wedding. Want to get married? Are you an adult? Are you single? Are you sober? Yes? Then by all means, let’s do this.

My heart breaks a little when my phone rings and the caller is hesitating. “I saw your ad online, and I wonder if you would be okay with us, even though we’re...different.” They’re so frightened. They’re imperfect, they’re human, they’re divorced or atheists or feminists or already parenting. Yes, it’s okay. Yes. Completely. Since I am a Christian, I believe the altar is God’s table, not mine. No one but God has a right to deny you the sacraments. If She wants to smite you, She can harness the lightning on Her own time. For my part, I will be standing at the altar, smiling, asking you if you love each other, and trust each other, and want to be married 'till death do you part. Yes? Then yes. Yes. Yes.


L.S. Quinn is a wedding officiant in Cleveland, Ohio. She specializes in nontraditional ceremonies that honor the couple's values and invite their community to support their marriage.