Last week, news came, along with an adorable picture, that former President George H.W. Bush had served as an official witness for the wedding of close friends, who happen to be lesbians. Predictably, anti-gay wingnuts are not happy about this, as Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, demonstrates:
As it turns out, President Bush did not merely attend the wedding. He also served as an official witness, signing the legal documents for the ceremony and the Maine wedding license. Under a photograph with the former president the couple added the words, “Getting our marriage license witnessed!”
No one should be surprised by the opening line of the report in The Washington Post: “Another prominent Republican has come out in support of same-sex marriage—or, at least, in support of one particular same-sex marriage.” Similarly, the “Daily Intelligencer” column at New York Magazine declared that George and Barbara Bush are apparently in favor of same-sex marriage “since they not only attended a lesbian couple’s wedding on Saturday, but served as witnesses as well.”
The news coverage of the Bushes’ attendance at the same-sex wedding points to a reality that must be understood—and fast. Attendance at a wedding is not a neutral act. The history and context of the wedding ceremony identify all those present as agreeing to the rightness of the marriage and acting as witnesses to the exchange of vows. This is why the venerable language of The Book of Common Prayer, used in the overwhelming majority of Christian weddings, calls upon anyone with knowledge that the proposed union is invalid to speak, “or forever hold his peace.” Anyone remaining silent at that point is affirming the rightness and validity of the marriage, and all who are present are counted as both witnesses and those who celebrate the union.
Therefore, by failing to quote a few of the “clobber texts” during the service, the Bushes were showing their full support. (Exactly.)
A spokesman for President and Mrs. Bush said that the former first couple attended the wedding as “private citizens attending a private ceremony for two friends.” There are two problems with this account. First, if the Bushes were simply private citizens, there would have been no news story. After all, Bonnie Clement told the newspaper that President Bush had been invited as a friend “and as the former leader of the free world.” Needless to say, being identified as “former leader of the free world” is not a private matter. Second, a wedding is not actually a private affair. That marriage license was not filed with friends, but with a legal authority. And that legal document, available for public view as a public record, lists George H. W. Bush as an official witness to the union. The Washington Post had every good reason to declare that the former president had “come out in support of same-sex marriage.”
Exactly. In the year 2013, supporting marriage equality is the norm. The former President didn’t need to hold a press conference to declare his support. He simply was a part of the wedding of his close friends. Yes, because he’s George H.W. Bush, it became a news story, but it feels like Albert Mohler is trying to explain something that everyone already understands. If you go to a wedding, you support that couple’s marriage.
It’s very simple.