I am a heterosexual woman married to one man for 21 years. In the past year my spouse was out of circulation for seven months. During that time, I changed our electric and gas billing, our water billing, our phone service package, and our Internet service provider arrangements — all of which are in my spouse’s name.
Each transaction involved my identifying myself as the "wife" of the account holder. Then, with no further mention of my spouse, all went smoothly.
In addition, during those seven months, I worked with my husband’s medical providers to get needed documentation to submit insurance claims. Again, I received complete cooperation — the way paved — because I am the "wife."
This experience over seven months helped me to see the respect and privilege that is accorded married couples in our culture. Had I said, "I am his partner through holy union," or "We are in a covenanted relationship," or "We are life partners," or "We are a domestic partnership," I doubt I would have gotten the receipts I needed from the dentist, or been able to change the phone service. Our society recognizes the marriage relationship.
When the words "marriage," "husband," "wife," and "spouse" are used there is respect and understanding. The two people involved are treated and accepted as a unit.
While same-gender couples may secure legally binding contracts that insure certain legal rights, these arrangements are not honored by society at large.
Though the marriage equality resolution passed by General Synod 25 in Atlanta is controversial in church and society, my seven-month experience convinced me of the need for such action. Anything less would be an exercise in "separate but equal" which we know turns out to be unequal.
I am so thankful to be part of a church seeking to change the culture so that gay and lesbian couples in lifelong committed relationships are afforded the same rights, recognition and respect as heterosexual married couples.
The Rev. Kim Wells is pastor of Lakewood UCC in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is a member of the Florida Conference staff.