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Historic Same-Sex Wedding
updated: Aug 05, 2013, 9:17 AM 

By Jonathan Young

The Rev. Thomas Anastasi and his partner of 32 years, Bob Holler, were married on Saturday, August 3 at the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Goleta, California. This is the first same-sex marriage of clergy in South Coast history.

Thomas met Bob 32 years ago when he was working as a professional musician in Pennsylvania. They were both securely "closeted" in those days, and they could not have imagined the possibility of legal marriage which would openly affirm their relationship.

Since then, of course, American society has dramatically evolved, and now that the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled on the invalidity of Proposition 8 prohibiting same sex marriage here in California, and also reversed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the federal level, the door has been opened. Thomas said, "We feel that our very long-time relationship is finally being validated and we are thrilled."

 Some thirty years ago Thomas decided to go to seminary to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. He made a solemn vow that from that time forward, he would always be "out" as a gay man including as a minister. The Unitarian Universalist Association was one of the first mainline denominations in the U. S., to commit enthusiastically to support gay rights, as well as being one of the first to champion gay clergy within its ranks. The denomination's current "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign for marriage equality is another example of an earnest commitment to human rights in America.

Rev. Thomas is at the mid-point of a two-year interim ministry at the Live Oak Congregation. Prior to that he served several congregations, including 20 years as minister of the Shoreline Unitarian Universalist Church in the Seattle area. During that time the struggle for marriage equality continued until finally, a popular vote recently passed to make same sex marriage legal in Washington State. But he and Bob lived here in California, so they waited until now to get married.

During this time Thomas refused to officiate at people's weddings since as a minister, he would necessarily be a representative of the state and therefore collaborating with an unjust system. "Whenever the time comes that Bob and I can get married, I will officiate at other peoples' weddings." Now, that time has come.

In 1978 Thomas wandered into the Unitarian Universalist church in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and for the first time in his life felt a genuine welcome, signaling that he had finally "come home." "I had never felt this unqualified acceptance: "Whoever you are, Wherever you are on your life's journey, You are welcome here!"

Now, at Live Oak UU Congregation, Thomas repeats those spiritually invigorating words every Sunday in the Call to Worship. "This is Universalism in its pure form. With all my heart, this is the message I want most to deliver in my ministry."

And that's the way it is right now, here in Goleta, here in this place.

Rev. Thomas Disrud, associate minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon, presided. Commenting on the couple's first meeting 32 years ago, Rev. Disrud said he was guessing that the couple could not have imagined at that time that all these years that they would be legally getting married.

Rev. Disrud noted the recent ruling by a conservative U.S. Supreme court made it possible for gay couple to get married in California. He added, The ruling is an affirmation that, as Rev. Martin Luther King said, quoting Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, the moral arc of the universe does indeed bend towards justice. We celebrate this amazing time in history and all those who worked to make this day possible. We remember their sacrifice, or, as the scriptures say, we drink from wells we did not dig.

Addressing the gathering, Rev. Disrund commented, This ceremony is about how this congregation lives out its deepest values. This is part of how you testify to the world your belief in human dignity. You can now say that you are the first congregation in Santa Barbara County to host the wedding of a minister and his spouse.


Click on this link to watch the video of their wedding: