A reverend from Stockbridge, Massachusetts played a prominent role in Governor Deval Patrick’s final State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday night in Boston.
“And today in Massachusetts, you can marry whomever you love,” said Patrick.
As the governor uttered those words in the statehouse Tuesday night, sitting to his left was Reverend Brent Damrow. Damrow, an openly gay pastor of The First Congregational Church of Stockbridge, delivered the evening’s benediction and closing prayer.
“To invite the sense of prayer that we all could access,” Damrow said. “That God is the God of the rich and the poor, the foolish and the wise, the gay and the straight, the powerful and the powerless.”Also in the chamber was State Representative Smitty Pignatelli of the 4th Berkshire District. The Democrat represents the town of Stockbridge and says he was waiting for the governor to mention the Berkshires when Reverend Damrow’s name was called.
“I look back at it now and I chuckle somewhat that this was such a controversial debate because life has moved on,” Pignatelli said. “Massachusetts was the first in the nation to take a bold step in this regard. So to have a married reverend give the prayer at the governor’s state of the state address, here we are now just almost ten years later, I think speaks volumes.”
Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 when Republican Mitt Romney was governor. Sixteen other states have followed. Damrow played a role in Patrick’s faith-service during his second inauguration and says the governor attended Easter services at his Stockbridge church in 2013. Damrow says he questioned why he was picked out of all the religious leaders in the state when he received the call from the governor’s office while vacationing with his husband and son.
“[His office told me] the governor wanted last night’s speech to be optimistic, to be hope-filled, to be future pointing and to be reflective of the entire commonwealth,” Damrow recalled. “When they asked him who he wanted to deliver that prayer, those were the qualities he thought that I might bring to the prayer.”
Before coming to Stockbridge, Damrow served in churches in Boston and Brookline.
“I do think it’s meaningful for an openly gay pastor to be in a moment like that both for what it says about the commonwealth but for me just as importantly, what is says about the Christian faith,” Damrow said. “The fact that there are progressive values alive and well.”
Massachusetts continues to lead the way on same-sex marriage issues. Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor with Patrick not seeking a third term, had this to say during a campaign stop in Pittsfield.
“I also know that we have to make sure that government is fair,” Coakley said. “It’s why I was the first and only attorney general to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act and make sure that as we know in Massachusetts, marriage equality is what we believe in. And looked what’s happened? Even Utah has come along.”
Joining the federal government, Coakley has also said Massachusetts will recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in Utah before they were put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court. Damrow says he felt the night was a celebration of the commonwealth and the people’s commitment to serve for the common good.
“In my understanding of the world that God has created each and every one of us with inherent beauty and dignity and placed a spark in each of us,” Damrow said. “Really what our job is is to identify that spark in each and every person and to use our gifts and skills to help those sparks grow and shine and become blinding light.”