“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”
— Justice Anthony Kennedy
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court gave everyone in every state in this country the right to marry the person they love. This has been a decades-long struggle for gay and lesbian individuals and couples who simply wanted to be treated the same and afforded the same rights as their straight siblings, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Nothing more, nothing less.
As Justice Kennedy so eloquently stated in his closing opinion, “equal dignity” is all they asked for, and they will now receive that in the eyes of the law. And while I rejoiced with my gay friends for this victory over the weekend, a couple of days later I was reminded just how much further we have to go.
As I scrolled through my Facebook feed Tuesday morning to see cute pics of people’s kids, recipes for shrimp and avocado salad, various views on the Confederate flag and news of Roger Federer’s scorching first-round win over someone I have never heard of at Wimbledon, I noticed a video of a sermon from a pastor at one of the largest and most respected churches in Mobile, in response to the court ruling. I was curious to see what his message would be, so I clicked on it, even though I had a pretty good idea what I was going to get.
Though I will say I think the pastor was actually trying to be moderate in his message (moderate, at least, for his particular denomination) to his congregation — saying the “church would stand with conviction, but with kindness,” and that gays and lesbians are not “super villains” — he did also manage to make references to them being “animal like” and this being a “backward movement” and their love for each other was somehow equated to straight people who cheat on each other.
Their hearts are just “desperately sick,” he said, and they are “ignorant” to God’s word. And when they see the light, these “sexual-revolution refugees” will be welcomed at this church and they will be able to help them, unlike the churches who have been spewing hate and also like the churches who have “abandoned the Scripture” and welcomed them already. (I’m pretty sure he’s talking to us, fellow Presbyterians, on that last one.)
Look, I am not about to launch into my own hateful tirade against this minister and his congregation. We have different beliefs and I imagine there is no way we would ever find common ground on this particular issue, as we each just fundamentally disagree on this to the very fiber of our beings. As another item in my Facebook feed has been reminding me over the last few weeks, “Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world but it’s never solved one.” You were and still are so right, Maya Angelou.
But when I was first listening to this sermon, tears literally welled up in my eyes as I envisioned how hurtful this would be to my gay friends if they heard this — that their love for a partner they had been with for more than 20 years and raised children with was described as “animal like.”
It’s just so over-the-top ridiculous.
But in reality, I know they have heard this before — in fact, they have heard this their entire lives, as they grew up gay in the Bible Belt. Many of them were taken to church every Wednesday night and Sunday morning as we all were — probably some to this very church — and told the heart they were born with loved in the wrong way and they needed to change it. To many, the equivalent of being told the lungs you were born with didn’t breathe air in the right way.
Can you imagine what that must have been like? I sure can’t.
Polls show Americans’ attitudes toward this matter have changed very swiftly and significantly in the last decade. A record 6 in 10 Americans believe same-sex marriage should be allowed, with nearly 80 percent of Americans under age 30 in favor of it. And in another decade it will probably almost be a non-issue.
And it’s because the very people who were told they weren’t livin’ right had the tremendous courage to say, “NO! Enough is enough! I am proud of who I am and I am going to live my life as such, freely and openly.” And then a funny thing happened. The world kept spinning and their fellow human beings realized, “Hey, well what do you know, these people are just like me. And so why would I want them to be treated any differently? Oh wait, I guess I don’t.”
I am so happy for my friends and I am so proud of them.
They have been granted “equal dignity” in the eyes of the law and I know eventually they will be granted such in the eyes and hearts of all.