Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Very Belated Post

I had the honor to speak at the Council Bluffs Marriage Equality Victory Rally on April 3, and yep, I'm just getting around to posting what I said. To be accurate, what I said can best be described as "inspired by" what's below, because at the last minute I decided to go off-script and just speak.

April 3, 2009 ~ At the inauguration of our current president, Barack Obama, Sen. Dianne Feinstein spoke of “the sweet victory of this hour.” Iowans, these are our words today!!! For we who love justice and equality, for we who wish to affirm that all Iowans are equal under the law, for we who believe that all Iowa families deserve to be treated fairly, this is indeed a sweet, sweet hour, a sweet, sweet victory.

God is good – all the time!

Yes, it’s true. I believe that God has brought us to this day. God rejoices with us as we celebrate the triumph of love over fear, justice over oppression, and holiness in the midst of our closest relationships. God is smiling upon Iowa this day! As an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, I affirm that God is still speaking and God says we are all equal in God’s eyes. We are all beloved of God! We are all free! The sweet victory of this hour is in the ways that all blessed and holy relationships may now be honored fairly by the state of Iowa. Thanks be to God!

Even as I invoke the name of God in giving thanks for this sweet victory, I know that there are some here and throughout our great state who feel this decision is a travesty in the eyes of God. I cannot change your mind. I am not here to change your mind, sorry though I am that we disagree.

I am here to ask to you to acknowledge just one thing: that in our society, marriage often has both RELIGIOUS and CIVIL aspects. This union of religion and civics within the word “marriage” makes lots of people uncomfortable. Believe me, I get it. It is a curious conflation. But it is real.

What we celebrate today is not a religious victory. [It’s not, even for those of us who support marriage equality as a religious issue.] This is a civic victory: that insofar as marriage is a civil contract, the state has no business discriminating against consenting adults who wish to enter into it. What has happened today is that the Iowa Supreme Court has affirmed the equal recognition and protection of the privileges and rights of all individuals in civil marriage, no matter the gender of each partner.

As for the religious definition of marriage … well, the courts have no jurisdiction there. Insofar as marriage is a religious compact, even a sacrament, the state has no business telling religion what to do or whom it must join in holy matrimony. And it does not pretend to. If your religious beliefs or that of your church, synagogue, masjid or other place of worship do not recognize marriage between two persons of the same gender, you are free to go on believing and practicing that belief. You do not have to marry same-sex couples. You don’t have to go to their weddings and you do not have to have those weddings in your places of worship. The First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of religion are intact.

What has changed is only the civil definition of marriage. (only!) But for we who love justice, for we who walk in love, for we who seek liberation for the oppressed, it is enough. It is enough.

And see, if you are like me, and worship in a faith community where all people are welcome to participate in the full life, fellowship and leadership of the congregation, no matter their sexual orientation, now, the same-sex holy unions we perform can now have the same weight and authority as the heterosexual unions we perform. Because brothers and sisters, we have been marrying gay and lesbian couples for years! And we will keep on doing it – this time with the knowledge that we celebrate not only a religious uniting of two of God’s children, but also a legal creation of a family. What a joy that the state has finally caught up with what we have known to be true all along – that love makes a family.

Seven months ago, in the state of California, I had the privilege of uniting in holy matrimony and in civil marriage two women who had been a couple for twenty years. These women had raised three children together and seen more trouble than most of us can imagine. They had loved each other in the closet for most of that time, and they resisted most ways of having their relationship recognized formally. But when the time came for marriage equality in their state, they jumped. They opened their lives up to their friends and coworkers. They called their children and invited them to the special day. They got on their nicest clothes and they walked down a dusty path in a beautiful park and they pronounced their vows to each other, and they kissed, and they were legally married. The law recognized what the spirit had always known – that these two people were meant for each other, now and forever. And on that day, possibly the only person happier than they were was their daughter – the minister who presided at their union. Me.

So you see, this is not only a political victory, but it is a personal and family victory for all Iowa’s families. Thank you, God, for the sweet victory of this hour."

I missed a few good points raised by others, such as the fact that I support marriage equality BECAUSE OF my Christian faith, not in spite of it, but I think the message came through anyway. I also added a couple of points, like apologizing on behalf of Christians everywhere for the abuse GLBT persons have suffered at the hands of "the Church." (I know I can't make up for it, I know I'm not personally responsible for it, but it needs to be said nonetheless.)

It was a great rally and to the best of my knowledge, we had no counter-protestors. The thrill of that day was partly eaten up by the annoyance of the next few days when protests became more formal in the Iowa Legislature, and at the local legislative coffee when the people who represent this district were ridiculous in their assessments.

Our state senator even invoked the tired line of "teaching this to our children in schools" and our state representative went on and on about how the court overstepped its bounds. Why don't these people get that they don't have a right to vote on other people's civil liberties? Do they not understand that the function of a state Supreme Court is precisely to rule on the constitutionality of laws enacted by the legislature? Have they never heard of "checks and balances"? Did they ever show up for their civics classes? The mind boggles.

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