Tag Archive | Marriage Equality

A love letter

Image courtesy of jillstein.org

I had something else in mind to write for today, but, as sometimes happens, things changed.  Today, I’m writing a love letter to my friends and family.

Dear Ones,

I was just about to write my blog post when I happened to get distracted by Facebook (I know you’re all shocked by this).  It took me a minute, and then I saw that my timeline was exploding with the news that DOMA is dead.  I can’t tell you how happy this makes me and how proud I am of all the people who have put time and effort into making this happen.

I know, I know.  There are some really sad things happening too, and we shouldn’t forget that there are still forms of bigotry in this country.  We also need to acknowledge that, on some level, even this victory has a tinge of bittersweetness–it didn’t guarantee rights for everyone, just those in the 12 states where marriage is already legal.  Even so, I’m rejoicing with those who rejoice today.

Some of the people reading about the Supreme Court’s decision are going to say hateful, nasty things today.  They might spill some of their own anxieties and their own prejudice onto you.  They might talk about fighting to have the decision overturned someday.  They might talk about how this country has stepped all over the “sanctity” of marriage, as though Marriage has been some unchanging, sacred entity for all of human history.  I’m sorry; it’s not right for people to behave like playground bullies when they don’t get their way.

The thing I think people fail to realize is that marriage isn’t a zero-sum game.  Your victory doesn’t take anything from anyone else.  In fact, I would argue that it makes it stronger. It doesn’t make anyone’s religion or religious ceremony invalid, either.  I always find it sort of funny when people talk about things cheapening or demeaning marriage because it’s a holy institution created by God.  Sounds like a denial that non-Christians get married all the time and that many same-sex couples are Christians who value the religious sacrament of marriage.

You should also know (and you probably already do) that if you choose not to get married, your relationship is not less-than.  It’s not a piece of paper or a government seal or an officiant’s signature or a federal benefit that indicates a commitment.  People get married or don’t get married for all sorts of reasons.  This just means that if you live in one of the states that recognizes marriage equality, you have some new options available to you.  It means that in the future, people in other states will have those choices too.

Today, I will celebrate with you whom I love.  I will offer virtual hugs to my loved ones too far away for an actual embrace, and I will continue to hold you in my heart.  I will drink to your health and I will “like” your Facebook statuses and read your blog posts.  I will honor those who have worked tirelessly for this victory.

Tomorrow, I will get back to work fighting all the other injustice that still surrounds us.

Much love,


I support marriage equality


Just in case the title of this post wasn’t clear, or you haven’t ever read my blog before, I support marriage equality.  There.  I’ve said it twice now.

Yesterday, I had the unfortunate lack of sense to use Human Rights Campaign’s flashy red logo with the equals sign as my profile picture in several places.  Yeah, my apologies to anyone I offended.  I’m normally a person who does enough research to know whether something is a good idea.  I had a pretty spectacular fail there, and I’m sorry.  I have since changed it, of course, out of respect for others.  Yes, it was hurtful to some people I care about, but I also care about not harming people who randomly follow me on the Internet.  Kindness shouldn’t require personal connection.

Anyway, because I kept seeing people tweeting about the HRC logo, I did do some digging.  Naturally, I came across some good information that explained the problem.  Unfortunately, I also discovered several disappointing rants about marriage equality, and not from conservative religious people.

The main point of the anti-marriage rants wasn’t necessarily specific to same-sex couples marrying.  It was more about marriage in general, and specifically marriage as it relates to family structure.  The argument was that legal marriage perpetuates a certain type of family structure and is therefore discriminatory.

I don’t entirely disagree.  I have long said that I think the government should just butt the hell out of marriage in general.  Religious institutions can keep it as a sacrament if they want, but removing the legal stamp of approval would make it much easier on everyone.  However, that has nothing to do with whether or not I think a certain type of family is “better” than another.

There are a few reasons why I still support marriage equality, despite the fact that I don’t think a legal document should be necessary.  First, the way the law is written, there are literally dozens of legal benefits to marriage.  It’s a worthy goal to strip those away and make sure everyone has those rights regardless of a piece of paper, but that isn’t going to happen overnight.  I think the place to start is by giving everyone the right to marry if they so desire.  (And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t include children, pets, and immediate family members in that, but I do include multiple spouses; that’s a post for another day.)  I think marriage equality is a temporary patch, but a necessary one.

Second, I think arguing against marriage from a family structure point of view is on shaky ground.  Even though the argument is intended to sound like it isn’t heteronormative and biased toward procreation, it actually is.  It should not be surprising that of the three anti-marriage arguments I read, two were written by white cisgender heterosexual parents with long-term partners–in other words, people who have the freedom to marry but have chosen not to.  I concede that “marriage,” with all its varying definitions over the course of human history, has indeed been at least partly driven by procreation.  However, that is not what marriage is; it’s only one of the things marriage can do.  Claiming that marriage only legitimizes a two-parent family structure assumes that every married couple wants to parent, or that the potential for parenthood was their only reason for getting married.  Should they not have bought into the system?  Should they have remained unmarried because there were no children to be “harmed” by their lack of legal contract?  It also assumes that there are absolutely no other family-related benefits to legal marriage other than making sure kids have two adults in the home.

Third, no one said that marriage equality is the last battle–or even the first one–toward an inclusive society.  I have never heard that as an argument in favor of marriage equality.  Maybe I need to read more, but I’ve never read anything in which someone tried to claim that if same-sex couples can marry, it will end all discrimination.  But even if someone did say that, so what?  Saying something doesn’t make it true, nor does it take anything away from protecting other rights.  If one person wants to spend his or her time and money on marriage equality, why would that prevent someone else from making a different choice?  As long as a person is not actively supporting discriminatory legislation, I don’t see the problem here.  (I feel differently about whole organizations, though, especially when they claim to speak for a community.  I certainly don’t want, say, Concerned Women for America suddenly claiming to support “women’s rights.”)

Finally, people want to get married.  Couples everywhere want to get married, and not all of them do it because they know the secrets of the tax code.  Not all couples need religion as their reason either.  Since there are many, many people who want to be married, I support that.  I support their right to have a legal document stating that they are married.  I don’t really care what their reasons are for doing it; I just want the law to reflect their right.

I do understand why some people feel differently, but I still stand behind marriage equality.  Not everyone will choose to marry, but everyone should legitimately have the right to make that choice.


The election ate my soul

I had another post planned for today.  It was written and scheduled.  I have moved it because I feel that I need to address some things that were said to me this week.

I can take a lot.  I spent many years in school being victimized by my peers; that doesn’t happen without leaving a person either heavily scarred or pretty tough or both.  Don’t think I’m being thin-skinned here.  I’m not against push-back on what I write, either, and I generally leave comments on my posts intact even if they’re not very nice.  (I recently deleted a few for being racist, but that’s about it.)  Still, every now and again, someone says something (or writes it, in this case) that hits a nerve.

Yesterday, I posted to my Facebook page several things that I was glad had happened during the election.  Among them were the addition of 3 more States with marriage equality (and a fourth that prohibited a ban being added to the State Constitution); many women being elected into office, including various minorities; and the ousting of the politicians who made disturbing comments about rape.

In response, several things happened.  First, I had lots of people commenting positively, both on Facebook and via private message.  Second, I had a few people become curious about my views, since many Christians disagree with me.  Third, I had some extremely judgmental comments left on my page.  It was the last that grabbed my attention, because the negative was far more over-the-top than the positive.

My immediate reaction was to find it funny.  I honestly thought it was a joke when one person suggested I must not be a Christian and offered to pray for me.  I mean, who even says that?  There had been enough sarcasm going around all day that I wouldn’t have been surprised.  Sadly, it turned out to be genuine. I re-read the thread and decided that maybe when I responded to another person (who had thrown baby killing in there, even though I hadn’t said even one word about abortion) it had been confusing.  I replied only about marriage equality, choosing to ignore the baby-killing remark; perhaps I had been misunderstood.  That proved not to be the case either.

Still, I was trying to see the humor in the situation.  My husband and I generated a list of the top 10 reasons why I’m probably going to burn eternally, and I suggested creating an online sign-up sheet so people could choose a time to pray for my soul.  I even tweeted about it, joking about eating devil’s food cake and reading Harry Potter.

After some thought, though, I realized that calling me a non-Christian for my support of marriage equality is unwarranted.  It’s not any other person’s job to determine whether I’m Christian enough.  Not only that, I’m hardly alone in my beliefs.  I didn’t develop my views in a vacuum.

I decided to sleep on it rather than responding with inappropriate actions or angry words.  Morning brought a new perspective that I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t been considering.  A little voice whispered to me, You’re not the one being hurt.

It’s true; I’m not.  When it comes down to it, I can ignore the hurtful things and the judgment because in the end, I sit here in my place of privilege.  It doesn’t bother me so much that one person said a hateful thing to me, because ten other people said loving things.  It doesn’t bother me that one person made an accusation, because another friend send me a beautiful, gentle, and loving message (even though we don’t agree on the issue).

The people being hurt are my LGBT brothers and sisters.  If I am accused of not “knowing the Lord” just for supporting marriage equality, how much more judgment does that person have on people in same-sex relationships?  If I have Scripture thrown at me to show my error, how much more are my LGBT friends and family being beaten with the Bible?  Someone like that is simply not a safe person.

I understand that many of my friends won’t be convinced to share my perspective on this; I will never again share theirs, either.  But the unloving words don’t do anything to further relationships.  It becomes all about speaking of people’s lives in the abstract and passing judgment on one another’s faith.

To my dear friends and family who replied to me via text or private message: I love and appreciate you.  Your kind words meant a lot to me yesterday.  I am glad that even though some of us don’t agree, we can still share together and learn from each other.  For those who pray, let’s pray for each other that our friendship grows and that love grows.  I think that’s something we can all agree on.

To those who called me a baby killer, made racist remarks, and suggested I’m not a Christian: I honestly don’t need you to pray for my eternal soul, thanks.  I have a feeling your thoughtless and unkind words yesterday were fueled not by anything I did but by your bitterness over the election.  I hope that your anger diminishes, but don’t count on having much of a relationship with me.

To my LGBT friends and family: Much love to you.  You know where I stand, and that’s all that matters to me.  I’m not going to back down—I will continue to stand with you.  If it’s okay, I will pray for you to be surrounded by kind, generous people and to have loads more love in your lives.  I’m blessed to know you.

May the coming weeks bring perspective for all of us that we might once again come to the table together, leaving all bitterness aside.  Peace be with you all today.

The married elite

I found out recently, the way one sometimes does, that a casual acquaintance had gotten married.  She didn’t mention it the last time I ran into her over the summer.  That’s perfectly fine, of course.  No one is under any obligation to divulge any information to others if they choose not to do so.  I have no idea why she didn’t tell me.  Perhaps she’s an intensely private sort for whom those matters are personal.  Maybe her mind was on other things and she was distracted.  Possibly she thought I already knew.  Whatever her reasons, she wasn’t going out of her way to fill me in on the details of her life.

When I found out, I briefly wondered if she didn’t say anything because she had married another woman.  I felt bad that she might have thought I would react negatively.  It’s also possible that she was tired of having people impose heteronormative ideas on her about the person she’d married (as in, “Oh, who’s the lucky guy?”).  As I said, I really don’t know her reasons (we only know each other through mutual friends, and she isn’t required to tell me anything).  It reminded me how much privilege I have.

In most situations, when one ties the knot, it’s a pretty big deal.  Even the people I know who had lived together for years before their wedding were thrilled to announce that they’d obtained a state-sanctioned contract.  When I got hitched, I didn’t have to gauge anyone’s reaction.  I was free to show off my ring and tell anyone who would listen.

I also didn’t have to worry that my job working with children was in jeopardy because of my sexuality (yes, this has really happened).  I could show up to my reunion at my (conservative) Christian college with my family, introduce them around, and not fear negative reactions.  Heck, I could even have skipped the reunion without wondering if my classmates were going to gossip about my “lifestyle” (yep, that’s happened too).  My marriage is not only legally recognized in my state, but if I move anywhere else, it’s recognized there, too.

That, my friends, is what privilege is.

And that is why I fight so hard for equality.  I fight with my words and my votes and my actions.  What I have shouldn’t be limited to me and people just like me.  I want to live in a place where even a casual acquaintance is able to share her exciting news because she knows that the love she’s found is every bit as worthy of celebration as anyone else’s.  I want to go to reunions and spend time with all the people I remember fondly, not just the ones who fit the expectations imposed on us.

As for the casual acquaintance that I mentioned above, I hope I run into her again.  I hope I have the chance to tell her that our mutual friend shared her good news and that I am thrilled for her.  I hope that, in some small way, I can be part of breaking down the wall of privilege that stands between us.

Notable News: Week of May 5-11, 2012

In this edition, I’m highlighting news related to Amendment 1 in North Carolina and the aftermath.  Lots of great blog responses to the situation.  And in other news: President Obama openly supports marriage equality!

1. Amendment 1 passes in North Carolina

The amendment, which defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman, passed on Tuesday.  Because it also removed legal protection for other types of domestic unions, this could spell trouble for other relationships.  Time will tell.

2. President Obama interviewed by Robin Roberts

In which the President confirms his support of marriage equality.

3. Awesome bloggers respond to the North Carolina vote and the President

Justin Lee of GCN gives this absolutely wonderful, grace-filled response, encouraging us to move beyond NC as a state full of hateful bigots.

Another inspired piece by Alise Wright, The Princess’s Dilemma, is a beautiful expression of why this hurts.  My favorite line:

Attribution to my husband, who I got to fall in love with and marry without someone else voting on whether that was okay. [emphasis mine]

Nadia Bolz-Weber makes it personal in a post about a coffee house, a friend, and what it means that some people are told their love isn’t real.

Kathy Baldock expresses her outrage at the North Carolina vote and her support of President Obama’s statement.

Cheryl Contee gives some good advice in How to Talk to Your Christian Black Relatives About Obama & Same-Sex Marriage.

Rachel Held Evans is tired of the Culture War and tells us why.

Marriage equality: a game of apples and oranges

After Tuesday’s vote in North Carolina, there’s been a lot of tension.  I’ve seen it among my friends and on social media.  It’s on blogs and in the news.  It’s understandable, it feels like a huge blow and a step backwards.  My prayers are with the people of NC that this won’t be the end of the conversation.

One thing I’ve seen, though, that troubles me is the comparisons being made.  The fight for marriage equality has been likened to the fight for the rights of African Americans.  It bothers me for several reasons.  These two issues are apples and oranges.  Certainly, the fact that both involve human rights puts them, in some sense, in the same very broad category.  But otherwise, this is not the same thing at all.

To compare these issues does a disservice to everyone involved.  First, it makes it sound as though we have somehow arrived, that racism is a thing of the past.  Even though we’ve come a long way, there is still more work to be done.  Second, it makes it sound as though African Americans have no stake in marriage equality, as though there isn’t anyone who is both black and gay.  Third, it blatantly ignores some very real distinctions. The ways in which people have been dehumanized based on race are not the same as the ways people have been dehumanized based on sexual orientation.  Playing the comparison game is dangerous here, because it’s divisive rather than uniting.  That doesn’t help anyone.  Finally, it makes it seems as though the only reason gay people deserve rights is because black people have them, rather than because they deserve them on their own.

It’s that last one I want to address here.  When we speak about marriage equality, gay rights, and the moral implications of homosexuality, our arguments must stand on their own merit.  They cannot be based on what someone else has been given.  Our arguments from the Bible cannot be based on what other laws we do or do not obey.  We must examine Scripture, understand context, and reach a conclusion based on that, not on a convoluted set of rules about which things it’s okay to ignore.  Otherwise, all we do is go all Dan Savage on the Bible and attempt in our human frailty to simply take out everything we want to label “bullshit.”

There are people a lot smarter than I am who have studied this stuff.  They’ve come to conclusions about what they believe the Bible does and does not say about homosexual orientation and homosexual relationships.  I urge you to look it up for yourself.  And no, I’m not going to do the work for you.  There’s plenty out there, start with a simple web search and a search of the books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, then go from there.  I spent literally years reading up on this stuff, talking with people, asking questions.  I didn’t just suddenly wake up one day and think, Wow, gay people seem really unhappy that we Christians think they’re sinning.  I guess the answer is to stop thinking they’re sinning.  I had to do much more research than that, because it’s not an experience I’ve lived.  If I do the work for you, you have an excuse to ignore me.  If you do it yourself—and don’t stop the minute you disagree with what you’ve read—you’ll be more likely to make an informed decision of your own.  Even if you continue to disagree, you’ll be doing it because you’ve examined things thoroughly from all sides.

For those of you who are already LGBT allies and have done this work, do me a favor: stop comparing.  Let your arguments stand on their own.  Don’t drag into it all the other things in the Bible that we ignore, or the ways you think this is similar to other human rights issues.  Just like we don’t want the “slippery slope” to be the main argument against marriage equality, we don’t want it to be the main reason for it, either.  Let it be its own issue.  Each ism and phobia deserves its own consideration, independent of resolving the others.

Let’s keep this door open and continue to talk about these things.

Gay people getting married is a threat to my marriage!

Some of you may know, tomorrow is a Big Voting Day in North Carolina as people prepare to weigh in on Amendment 1.

I’ve had this conversation [yes, really].  I’ll bet some of you have, too.

Other Person: Gay people getting married is a threat to my marriage.

Me: Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize you were getting a divorce.

OP: Wait . . . what? No! I’m not getting a divorce!

Me: Sorry, I thought you meant that literally.  That your marriage was threatened.

OP: No, I just meant that regular marriage is threatened.

Me: What do you mean, “regular marriage”?

OP: You know, traditional marriage.

Me: Traditional?  Like, old-fashioned?

OP: Like in the Bible.  Man, woman. They fall in love, they get married.

Me: That doesn’t sound very traditional or Biblical. I was thinking you meant, like, arranged marriages. Or maybe concubines.

OP: Concu…what? Never mind.  No, like the way God designed it in the beginning.  Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve and all that jazz.

Me: You know, that sounds a lot like arranged marriage, actually.  Adam and Eve didn’t have much choice, did they?  I mean, being the first two people and all.

OP: Whatever.  See, it’s those gay people and their agenda. They want to force churches to marry them.

Me: Wow, did something like that happen at your church?

OP: No.

Me: Your friend’s church?

OP: Uh, no.

Me: A church you read about in the paper?

OP: Not exactly.

Me: I’m confused. I thought you said churches were being forced to marry people.

OP: Well, it could happen. You watch, that’s next. First they ruin marriage, then they take away our religious freedom.

Me: I’m still not aware of this happening anywhere.  Can you provide an example?

OP: . . .

See, here’s the thing.  “Traditional” American marriage is, at least in a certain sense, “threatened.”  But what’s being threatened is not your right to marry or stay married.  It’s your exclusive version of marriage, where you get your rights and someone else doesn’t because you’ve voted to keep it that way.

Will allowing two men or two women to marry each other lead to having multiple spouses or being able to wed a biological relative?  Who knows?  I don’t have a crystal ball, and neither does anyone else.  The slippery slope is not a reason to deny people their rights.  It’s entirely possible that all sorts of things we don’t like might be allowed into the definition of marriage.  But this is only in the legal sense.  How you, or I, or anyone else wants to define it in the religious or spiritual sense isn’t going anywhere.

I urge those of you who have a vote tomorrow not to use it out of fear.  Don’t cast your vote because you’re worried that your rights might be in danger or because you think something else might come up in the future.  I understand voting with your conscience and your moral values.  However, be sure that it’s those values and not the fear of the future that drives you.

And even if you believe that two men or two women getting married is immoral, try to understand that not everyone shares this opinion.  Not even all Christians agree.  Agreeing to “live and let live” is not an endorsement of something you find sinful.  That’s part of finding the balance between living your convictions and letting others do the same.

As I’ve said before, learn what it’s like in someone else’s life.  Find out what it means to people you know personally.  Even if you don’t come away agreeing with the other person, you will still have learned something important.  I can sit here and type out words and urge you to see things my way, but my rights are not at stake.  You need to hear it from someone who can tell you what it’s like for him or her personally.

Don’t let the conversation end here.

Your Rights: Disappointingly Not in Danger

I would have liked to believe that the idea that our rights are diminished when the rights of others are increase was a thing of the past.  Sadly, that is not the case.  It doesn’t make any sense to me.  I mean, when women won the right to vote, it’s not like anyone stopped men from continuing to do so:

[Mr. Jones enters the polling place.]

Ms. Smith: Hold on there, mister.

Mr. Jones: Huh?

Ms. Smith: Is it true that you are, in fact, a man?

Mr. Jones: Uh…wha?

Ms. Smith: That is to say, you’re of the male gender?

Mr. Jones: Well, uh, yeah, last time I checked.

Ms. Smith: You might want to check again, just to be sure.

[Mr. Jones steps away to check.]

Mr. Jones: Yup, still a man.

Ms. Smith: And is it also true that your wife, Mrs. Jones, is a woman?

Mr. Jones: Last I che…uh, I mean, yes.

Ms. Smith: Well, according to this paper here, now that she has the right to vote, you are no longer allowed to do so.

Mr. Jones: Why?

Ms. Smith: Well, you see, when one person gets the right to vote, it means we have to take it away from someone else.  You have now given your vote to your wife.

Mr. Jones: . . .

Ms. Smith: I just need you to sign right here that you understand your new lack of rights. [holds out a paper and pen]

[Mr. Jones signs the paper.]

Right.  Last election, both my husband and I were allowed to vote.  Funny how that works, you know, that whole “women’s suffrage” thing.

Same thing with marriage equality.  The fact that the two men the next street over can now legally marry each other didn’t somehow negate my marriage.  I believe the certificate is still filed away in our attic, and so far, no one has come knocking on our door to reclaim it.

And before anyone gets his or her undies in a bunch, here are a couple of things to consider:

  1.  Yes, your church will be able to say “no” to a same-sex couple.  Churches deny people marriage ceremonies all the time.  Divorced people, people living together, partners of different religions, non-members.  Chances are, if a same-sex couple isn’t already attending your church, they’re probably not going to go there just to get married.
  2. No, this isn’t ruining “traditional” marriage.  There are a lot of other things that have already taken their toll.  Stop grousing about this one.  Don’t like same-sex marriage?  Fine, don’t marry someone of the same sex.  Don’t like divorce or adultery?  Don’t do those either.
  3. No, this isn’t going to lead to people being able to marry their dogs or small children.  I’m pretty sure a good case can be made that the dog and the child can’t consent.
  4. Yes, there’s a chance that some things may change in public school curricula so that all types of families (including ones with two moms or two dads) are represented.  But guess what?  Your kid, whether you know it or not, is already exposed to these things.  Don’t like it?  Homeschool, send your kid to private school, or tell your kid you don’t agree.  It’s not all that different from having evolution taught in high schools.  Not to mention the fact that no one is telling your kid to be gay, merely pointing out the existence of gay people.

I’m not telling you that you have to support marriage equality.  But I am asking you not to prevent it, particularly not on the grounds that you are somehow losing your own rights.  You’re not.  You still have every right to get married.  You still have the right to all the privileges and benefits of marriage.  Giving someone else the same thing does not in any way change that.  Stop using that as your argument.

“We heard about your church and decided to check it out…”

The other day, I played a game with myself called “what if.”

What if a married couple came to your church because they’d heard about it via postcard in the mail or through a web search? Imagine they come in, two small children in tow. They worship among the other people in attendance. They bring their kids to the children’s ministry or Sunday school or junior church. Suppose they like what they hear: the Sunday sermon is meaningful, the praise music is uplifting, and the people seem genuinely friendly. Their kids love their class and begin to make new friends. This family decides to settle in, remaining in attendance for six months. They decide the time has come to join as members.

Pretty common experience in many churches, especially those on a steady trend of growth. I know that at most churches, people would be thrilled with a new family becoming a permanent part of the congregation. It would mean more people attending, the possibility that this family might reach out to their friends, family, and neighbors. It would mean the chance to see their kids grow up and hopefully integrate into the life of the church. It would mean more people to pitch in and help out in the ministries of the church. It would mean a chance to make new friends. Everyone wins, right?

Just not if the couple happens to be two women or two men.

I live in a place where marriage equality is the law. So a married same-sex couple might actually be legally joined. For that reason, we need to start asking ourselves what we might do as a church in a situation like the one I described above. It’s possible that a couple might attend a church unaware of that church’s position on homosexuality, even if the church appears conservative in other ways. I attended a church for ten years, and never once heard the pastor give a sermon on the subject.

In a church that holds to a certain reading of Scripture, there are usually prohibitions (written or not) against membership when a person is actively engaged in something the church specifically teaches as sin. That means that an unpartnered gay person would likely be allowed membership, provided he or she remained celibate. A gay couple would probably be allowed to continue to attend church, but would not be offered membership. In some churches, membership might be extended to one or both if they were to end their relationship and commit to celibacy. So that brings up the question of what to do if the couple I described seeks membership.

There are a number of possibilities, all of them fairly grim and not particularly loving:

  • Refuse to allow the couple membership, but let them know they are welcome to continue attending. That might be an option, but it would severely restrict the ways in which that family could serve in the church. Many churches have policies prohibiting people from participating in certain ministries unless they are members. Besides, would you want to keep going to a church that wouldn’t let you join officially? You might as well just…
  • Ask them to leave. Pretty rude, considering they’ve been with you several months. Still, at least it’s honest. But unless you are giving them the name and address of a local affirming community, you have no assurance that these people will ever set foot in a church again. And if you choose not to do so (because you’re kind of self-righteous?), are you saying God has given up on them? If you’re in the business of helping people find Jesus, that misses the mark. Besides, we’re talking about people who have a six-month history at the church. Kicking them out would really hurt. So maybe you…
  • Tell them they can be members if they break up. I suppose there are people who might have considered that to be some bizarre sort of solution before same-sex couples could legally marry. Nowadays, that couple can’t just split up. They would literally have to divorce, which introduces issues such as alimony, child support, and custody. And seriously, what kind of heartless jerk does that to a family with children anyway? Plus there’s the problem that we don’t do that with other couples who are not married under “Biblical” circumstances. I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to divorce a spouse because they had had an affair and then married each other. Well, as a last resort I suppose you could…
  • Shun the family or refuse to serve them in any way unless they “renounce” their sin. What part of “love” wasn’t clear? I’ve never seen ignoring anyone work as a means to salvation. This ends up in the same place as bullet point number two.

So what are we going to do in that situation?

See, the problem here is that whole “live the sinner, hate the sin” thing. It allows us to separate people from their behavior, but it denies the fact that there is more to people than their behavior. It allows us to imagine being gay as something people do as opposed to someone they are. It lets us think “those gay people” are doing yucky things with each other that we don’t like, and keeps us from seeing two people who have built a relationship, a marriage, a family, and a life together. It prevents us from understanding that there are children who could be hurt, not by their parents’ “sinful lifestyle” but by our condemnation.

It could happen. A church web site proclaiming the congregation to be “Bible-believing” or “conservative” or “traditional” might say something about whether or not a married same-sex couple would be welcome (probably not). On the other hand, many mainline churches could be described with those words, yet are in fact affirming. A warm welcome on their first visit might indicate the future of the relationship with that church. But a lot of people would be reluctant to openly reject anyone right away, even if they felt uncomfortable. Would it work if someone were to simply pull the family aside, explain things to them, and turn them loose? I don’t know. I suppose it might ease the conscience of the people at that church, knowing they were honest right away.

Real life, real people, are complicated. We can’t just wait for a situation to occur before we know what we’re going to do about it. That leads to panic and ends up with too many people being hurt. I think it’s time to face the facts that even though an awful lot of churches might like it to, marriage equality is not going away. Any church that isn’t affirming needs to decide what will happen when the inevitable occurs and a family walks through the doors looking for a church to call home.

Fear-Based Education

Although this isn’t making news beyond the evangelical sphere, I thought I’d share.  Please take a moment to read the article I’ve linked before you read the rest of this post.

First, in case you’ve never heard of the book in question (I had, but in a different context), you should know that this book is a) not the first of its kind; and b) not as scary as Baptist Press makes it sound.  It’s actually a pretty cute story, and it has a sequel in which the two kings add to their family.  However, all that is beside the point.

I happen to live in New York, where same-sex marriage is now legal.  It has been legal in Massachusetts for some time now.  (It’s also legal in Canada, the land where people seem to freak out a lot less about this stuff.)  The growing fear among conservative evangelicals is that our children will be “indoctrinated” to believe that same-sex unions are “normal.”

I have news for you: In New York, it now is normal, being legal and all.  I have more news: Right now, your children are in class with kids who have two mommies or two daddies.  I happen to personally know three such families, all of whom have children in the public school system.  It’s not going to happen, it already is.

For other kids, same-sex unions among family and friends are part of their reality.  My children have two aunts who love them very much, and a host of other GLBT folks in their lives.  For them, this is not strange.  Knowing real, flesh-and-blood humans creates an opportunity to talk with our kids (yes, even at ages 6 and 8 ) about these things.  And it has come up, not in class, but because they can read for themselves.  They read signs, see newspaper headlines in the store, and come across bumper stickers.  We have had to explain all sorts of things to our kids, and we always try to take a loving approach to the subject.

This whole thing is parallel to the brouhaha in California over the “gayification” of public education.  There is this fear that somehow, all the history books are suddenly going to turn everyone gay.  I’m not aware of campaigns to list the Founding Fathers as having had a wild orgy on the night they signed the Declaration of Independence.  All that is happening is that the contributions of gay Americans will have a place in the books (for example, Harvey Milk) and that important events in the history of the Gay Rights Movement will be included (such as the Stonewall riots).  Historical facts, people, not a lengthy course on Every Gay Person Who Ever Lived and How They Are More Awesome than You.

Public education is not conservative Christian education.  Nor should it be.  If you would like to teach your child those values, please feel free to do so—in your own home.  If your child’s teacher reads a book to which you object, please talk with your child about your family’s beliefs.  Or, better yet, send your child to private school or homeschool.  If those are not options, then revisit option 1.  But don’t expect the everyone to cater to your specific reading of the Bible in a public classroom.