Palm Springs seminar presents 'sensible' gay marriage

Palm Springs seminar presents 'sensible' gay marriage

 Will Dean, Desert Outlook9:50 a.m. PDT September 26, 2014

If Coachella Valley same-sex couples have a disadvantage when it comes to getting married — and some might say that's a big if — it's that the cultural and legal arrangement is relatively uncharted territory.

For many LGBT people, there were no examples of the practical aspects of marriage during their formative years, aside from their parents and other heterosexual couples. Because marriage between straight people traditionally has been defined along opposite gender lines, those roles were not ideal for gay men and lesbians to model in their relationships.

However, with California and a growing number of states offering gay marriage, there's now a need for marriage preparation that includes same-sex couples — or so the men behind the Sensible Marriage seminar believe. On Saturday, Sept. 27, they will offer a one-day intensive training for engaged and newly married same-sex couples. It's designed to help partners effectively communicate what marriage means to each of them and to discern how to build a mutually satisfying marriage.

"Couples spend a lot of time communicating with one another, writing it down, reading it, and getting feedback from the partner," says John McAndrew, a principal of Sensible Spirituality Associates. "The issue is discernment for yourself and learning how to do it for each other. The actual preparation is real soul work."

The Sensible Marriage approach is "defining spirituality in a brand new way," says Joseph Palacios, also a principal. "True spirituality grows out of person's real life."

The topics that will be covered include building intimacy, budgeting, cultural and ethnic traditions, children and planning the wedding. What will not be included is any religious belief system. McAndrew says the seminar in theory shatters the assumption that society is homogenous. In fact, only one assumption will be made about the couples who participate.

"We're going to assume they're in love," Palacios says.

Both Palacios and McAndrew bring to the seminar years of experience in marriage preparation and spiritual care counseling, having served as counselors at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage and attended seminary. It was at seminary that Palacios says he's learned from a professor to "never question anyone's love."

The marriage seminar will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The LGBT Community Center of the Desert, 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 201 in Palm Springs. The price is $150 per couple, which covers two workbooks and refreshments. Scholarships are available. To register and learn about future seminars, go to SensibleMarriage.org.