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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Moral Imperative

According to a Yahoo news story, written February 28th, it was the case that changed the Obama administration's position on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).
"Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were together for more than 40 years when Spyer died in 2009. Not longer after her partner's death, Windsor received a $363,053 federal tax bill--a liability that she would not have faced had the federal government recognized their union.

The New York couple married in Canada in 2007 in their 70s, after they found out that Spyer's multiple sclerosis was getting worse. Spyer was a psychologist who had become quadriplegic from the disease before her death, and Windsor worked for IBM. They met in the 1960s at a restaurant in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. "We danced so much and so intensely that she danced a hole through her stockings," Spyer said in the New York Times' write up of their wedding.

Windsor is suing for the tax money back from the federal government, and the Obama administration has effectively decided she's right by dropping its defense. The administration will continue to enforce the law unless it is struck down by the courts or Congress.

The Justice Department will also drop its defense in a similar case in Connecticut federal court with seven plaintiffs. Each plaintiff in the Connecticut case is a surviving same-sex partner who is being denied benefits because the federal government doesn't recognize the marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder has informed House Speaker John Boehner that he or other members of Congress may defend the law if they choose. No one has officially stepped forward yet to take on the defense.

You can watch Windsor talk about her marriage and case in this video shot by the American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawyers are defending her."

Take a moment, please, to watch and listen to this brief video clip.

Make no mistake, please: This is not about money.

It's not about "special rights for special people".

It's not about "lefty, commie politics".

And, it's certainly not about "changing the definition of marriage." We're only asking to expand it to include people who are also protected by the Constitution for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

Or an "attack on family values". Quite the opposite - it is the ultimate valuing of family life.

Or a "sign of the moral decay of this country".

This is about a moral imperative to do what is right.

This is about human decency.

This is about the very fiber of the threads of the fabric of this country where "liberty and justice for all" are woven and tightly bound together.

I also encourage you to read two reflections on the blessing of the marriage of my friends, Lisa and Susan, two wonderful and amazing women who were married in 2008 in California.

That's them - Lisa and Susan - at the top of this post.

No, just guaranteeing the Civil Right of marriage will not guarantee the end of discrimination. We're not naive. Racism still flourishes in this country, even though Brown v. Brown was won years ago and we have the Civil Rights Amendment and Mr. Obama is President of the United States.

Marriage equality will not end heterosexism or homophobia. It won't even change everyone's hearts or minds. But, it will guarantee civil rights to people as they change. And, they will. Eventually.

Because of stories like Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer.

And, Lisa and Susan.

Here's Lisa's story. She writes:
When we married in 2008, it was festive and fun, filled with relatives and friends, at a lovely location on San Diego Bay. It was also during a conflicted time in my spiritual life, as a member of “that other catholic church.” The very morning of our wedding, rejection and invective was hurled at me as proxy for a whole swath of humanity via an angry little priest in Little Italy. The pain and anger of that morning was healed yesterday by an abundant outpouring of love and acceptance and inclusion.
And, here's Susan's. She writes:
And while we were asking our family for their blessing, claiming it, if you will, I realized that our marriage was in turn being claimed, being owned by this community. It wasn't just about the gift they were giving us, but making us and our marriage a gift to them.

When I wrote about our wedding in 2008, I commented that one of the things that struck us was the sense that marriage made us a thread in the tapestry of civil community, and added to its strength. Prop8 tried to cut that thread loose.

But this community, this family, yesterday deliberately took that thread, wove it in tighter, and moreover made it an integral part of the design.

And that's not only amazing, but very humbling.
Indeed it is, Susan. Indeed, it is.

It's the very best of church and state. Two separate entities in this country now woven together in this moment to be the very best for what this country - and our church - stand.

Author Uri Gordon once wrote that "The world is made up of stories, not atoms."

We know from the sacred stories of our Scripture that stories can heal even ancient wounds and right ancient wrongs.

Stories can soften our hardened hearts and inspire us to change our behavior which takes us off the path where we may catch a glimpse of the Realm of God.

The more of us who tell the truth of our stories - the inherent goodness and love which is at the core of our existence - the healthier and more moral a place the world will be.

The time has come and now is for Marriage Equality.

It's simply the right thing to do.

5 comments:

Mark Beach said...

Elizabeth
Once again your post has touched me in a way that I should now expect from you and your gentle wisdom.

You will know that this issue is a hot one over here these days, especially as Cameron has forced the issue of civil partnerships taking place in churches. ++Rowan has commented; and that has got both sides heated - he really can't seem to win.

However, on a broader inclusivity front things are moving here, you may have seen http://www.acceptingevangelicals.org/Index.htm, which took me a little by surprise and those of an inclusive bent (if you will) on the General Synod are mustering themselves to be more strategic in their operation.

The fat lady has certainly not stopped singing on this side of the pond.

With love

Mark

PS we are planing a trip to NJ in October :)

PPS MA sounds fab!

IT said...

Wow. Thank you!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Mark, Well, I don't know how "gentle" my wisdom is or if it's even wisdom. I just calls 'em as I sees 'em.

As MLK says, the arc of history is long but it always bends toward justice.

We live in sure and certain hope.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - You and BP are Rock Stars.

Elaine C. said...

sweet and beautiful -- both the blog and the video --