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Thursday, August 19, 2010

This ride called 'Justice'

Well, it's not been boring.

Watching the proceedings on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 on the "Left Coast" from my perch on the "Right Coast" has been a little like being on a roller coaster.

Marriage Equality passes in the State of California (YAY!)

Prop 8 passes. (SHREEK!)

Prop 8 gets challenged. (WHEE!)

Prop 8 is over turned on August 4th by Judge Vaughn Walker. (YAY!)

Two days ago, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals put the whole issue on hold until the week of December 6th, when an a panel of three judges will rule on the appeal. (SHREEK!)

This is seen as a good strategic move, I'm told, since it will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court. While this is not seen as a "slam-dunk" win, it accomplishes, among other things, two very important things:

1. Gives more states the opportunity to approve Marriage Equality.

2. Settles the issue on a federal level as opposed to state-by-state.

I feel as if I'm on that part of the roller coaster ride where you're in your little car, going up the hill or about to make a loop, and you can hear the "tck, tck, tck, tck, tck" of the wheels on the track as your heart pounds in your chest in perfect sync with the rhythm of the ride.

Did I mention that I hate roller coasters?

While others are giggling with anticipation, readying themselves to throw their hands up in the air as their car reaches the peak and they plunge down and around at break-neck speed, I nervously check to make sure the safety bar is locked.

Then, I check it again. And again. My knuckles turn white as I grip that sucker with all my might, shut my eyes, and vow never to get on one of these things Ever Again, no matter how much my children or grandchildren plead with me.

I'm always relieved at the end - mostly that (1) I'm alive and (2) I didn't pee my pants in public.

Well, kiddies, get ready. This roller coaster ride for the justice of marriage equality has not ended just yet. We've got a few more hills to climb, a few more loopy hair-turns to make, a few more lows to dip into before this ride ends.

Here's the thing: I think this ride will end with marriage equality. In fact, I am convinced of it.

At the end of the day, I believe we'll have won not only in California, but in every state in the union.

Of course, "the other side" will believe we have lost "the sanctity of marriage" and that the "world as we now know it" has come to an end.

You know. Like in 1967 when the Supreme Court deemed "anti-miscegenation"  (interracial marriage)laws unconstitutional. While that case was winding its way through the legal system, many states choose to legalize interracial marriage at much earlier dates.

You know. Like in 1976 when The Episcopal Church changed canon law to allow the ordination of women. While that case was winding its way through General Convention, eleven women were ordained in Philadelphia and four more were ordained in Washington, DC.

You know. Like in 2009 when The Episcopal Church said that it would not stand in the way of LGBT elections to the episcopacy. While that case was winding its way through the Anglican Communion, several diocese were already nominating LGBT people - who had already been ordained deacons and priests - as bishops.

Ahem! Are you paying attention? Are you catching my drift here? Get your head wrapped around those three things for a moment before you allow yourself to slip into depression.

While the institution was debating the "issue" of marriage equality or ordination, the "fact" was that interracial couples were already married and women or LGBT people were already ordained or consecrated.

It's easy to argue in the abstract when you don't have to deal with reality.

It's scary to deal with reality when "issues" are being argued in the abstract - and your life, your marriage, is "the issue".

Yes, it's an abomination in the site of a loving God to have prevented interracial couples from marrying. The Good News is that, in the end, justice triumphed. And, and, and. . . . this also means that we have some recent case law upon which to build the case for marriage equality.

None of this will be easy. None of it. It's dangerous and scary and wonderful and awful - all at the same time.

So, stand up nice and tall. Remember: You had to have been "this tall" to get on the ride in the first place.

If you've made a commitment to another person to live in faithful, life-long monogamy, you can also make a commitment to the long, scary roller coaster ride of Marriage Equality.

Oh, and by the way: "This tall" = "The full stature of Christ."

The ride continues in December. Hey, if I can do it, you can do it. I'll be the one with white knuckles, holding onto the "Holy Crap!" safety bar, but we'll end up in the place we always do in this country - that sacred, hallowed ground where the rights enshrined in our constitution are more important than majority opinion or mob rule and justice prevails.

Fasten your seat belts, kids. The roller coaster called 'Justice' is ready to roll. It's gonna be a helluva ride!

I don't know about you, but I'll be drowning out the ominous sound of the "tck, tck, tck, tch" by saying over and over again, at the top of my voice, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.,
"The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice."
I say those words as fact. I say them as belief. I say them as prayer.

I say those words as my daily mantra until we arrive, one wonderful day in the not-too-distant future, at the end of this ride called justice.

As Frederick Douglass once said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

In the Portuguese words which became the mantra to end the oppression in Mozambique A luta continua. (The struggle goes on.)


David@Montreal said...

'It's easier to argue in the abstract when you don't have to deal with reality.

It's scary to deal with reality when "issues" are being argued in the abstract - and your life, your marriage, is "the issue".'

Right on Elizabeth!
Powerful essay!

Bruce Garner said...

Well done my sister/sistah!

I'm almost at the point of telling some folks where they can stick their attitudes and exactly how to get them there. But that wouldn't be very Christ-like of me. So I guess I will find a more Christ-like way to say it, you know like "brood of vipers, hypocrites!"

As long as some folks see an issue but not the face that is always attached to the issue, they can more easily dismiss the issue and do all sorts of nasty things. Putting the face on any issue brings it home, puts it in front of the mirror, makes us stare it in the face....and we often gaze into the face of Christ saddened by how we treat each other.

I have asked the questions and I am still waiting for the answers: Explain to me first of all why the marriage of consenting adults of leagal age is anyone elses business but that couple. Then explain to me how ANY marriage can have a negative impact on any other marriage. I don't expect responses, but I will keep posing the questions.

Bruce Garner (

Brother David said...

We received more good news this week from our Supreme Court. Remember that last week the Court upheld the constitutionality of the Federal District's law allowing same sex marriage by an 8 to 2 decision. (One judge was absent.)

This week they upheld the other part of the law that allows married same sex couples to adopt children. All justices were present and the ruling was 9 to 2.

But what I did not know about last week's ruling that has now been made more well known, is that they also ruled that marriages solemnized in the Federal District were legal and must be respected in all 31 Mexican states. So even though no states allow same sex marriage, Coahuila allows same sex civil unions, all a couple needs to do to be legally married in their home state is honeymoon in Mexico City!

Joie said...

Bruce- I have a "new" response to some folks: "So sorry you have such problems with the Gospel of Jesus Christ." They don't quite know what to say to that and I don't end up actually calling people idiots or vipers (much as I'd like to).

Paul Powers said...

"This is seen as a good strategic move, I'm told, since it will now go to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Not necessarily. The 9th Circuit could very well dismiss the appeal on the basis that since the governor and attorney general of CA have chosen not to challenge Judge Walker's decision, the Prop 8 proponents don't have "standing" to do so, and the Supreme Court could choose not to review that decision. The end result would be that Judge Walker's ruling would remain in effect in California, but would not be binding precedent anywhere else.

Bill said...

A few years back I had the good fortune to hear some words of wisdom from a man I have come to respect. It was Bishop Spong who said, (and I paraphrase) "a cause is already won the minute people start discussing it." I'm sure that I have mangled his words but I think you get the drift. Marriage equality will happen. It started to happen the first time it was discussed or debated.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, happy to oblige in answering your two questions. The first:

"Explain to me first of all why the marriage of consenting adults of legal age is anyone elses business but that couple."

Because marriage is a public legal institution as well as a private relationship. How about this hypothetical that stays away from the same-sex topic:

A divorced wife marries another man. Immediately things such as child support, alimony, and (for seniors) pension may be affected. One can argue that these aspects are positive, negative, or mixed, but it can't be denied that the legal aspects of marriage affect more people than the two who are married.

Here's a real-life case: does a business or church drop marital health benefits to its employees because local law recognizes same sex marriage? This was the conundrum of Catholic Charities in DC and its effects were felt among plenty of employees not married to spouses of the same sex.

One can argue whether the changes were positive, negative, or mixed, but there is no denying that parties outside of the SSM were affected.


Anonymous said...

Bruce, a response to your second question:

"Then explain to me how ANY marriage can have a negative impact on any other marriage."

Most marriages are not simply about the spouses but about the larger nuclear family. Children issuing from the union occupy a central role in most marriages. The parents' role as the primary educators of their children is weakened when society officially endorses or allows conduct antithetical to that taught by the parents.

To give an example avoiding same-sex marriage, are Catholic parents undermined when their children are exposed to the idea in public school that divorce is a legitimate way to end a marriage? Of course it is. Yet how can the school teach otherwise when that is the law of the land and divorce is common among teachers and parents?

One can argue whether it is good or evil for parents to have this primary role in education, but I don't see how it can be argued that this tension between home and government (most notably felt in the public schools) doesn't have a negative impact on the parents' authority.

God bless, FrMichael

Bill said...

I could be glib and say that Bruce is right and FrMichael is wrong but that wouldn’t help. Instead let me talk about what I hear being said. No one argues in a vacuum. Everybody brings social and personal baggage into the debate. That is what gives us our perspectives.
People think of marriage as this wonderful ancient institution whereby two people are united in the site of God or government. It’s an ancient institution but had nothing to do with God. Its origins date back to a formal way to protect property rights for families and heirs. Over the millennia it was shaped and re-shaped into the combination side-show / circus we have today. If well thought out, nobody in their right mind would really want to go through all the gyrations of a modern marriage. So why all the hype about same sex marriage? The answer is one word – equality.
When two groups of people, straight and gay, male and female, black and white, are treated differently under our legal system, it is wrong. It is not only wrong but illegal. The same sex controversy will go to the Supreme Court and that will be that. The only way this will not happen would be if the American people voted for an amendment to the constitution which says that all people are not created equal – fat chance of that ever happening.
Enter the various churches and their baggage. Rome is frothing at the mouth over this one. Rome argues that this will destroy the Christian family. This is the same Rome that for years protected the identities of child molesters. Maybe they didn’t think child abuse was a family problem. I doubt that. What I think we have are churches that are so large and so cumbersome that they can’t get out of their own way when it comes to re-thinking their policies in a modern world. It’s a very sad state of affairs when it is the governments of the world who are taking the lead on these most basic human rights issues and not the churches.
FrMichael writes: “I don't see how it can be argued that this tension between home and government (most notably felt in the public schools) doesn't have a negative impact on the parents' authority.” If he had just said “impact” and not “negative impact” I could have agreed but a word is a word is a word. The implication here is that the parent is right and the government of 200 plus million is wrong. So, if the impact is negative, I ask negative in whose mind and what baggage are you bringing to the debate. If the children of these parents are beating up the “fags” in school yards, where do you think that behavior originates from? Is it the government saying it’s ok to beat on the “fags” or is it behavior learned at home from the loving parents.
Here’s a thought, let’s do away with marriage entirely. No more church weddings, no more city hall weddings, and no more marriage industry. Instead we will just have legal contracts under the law where all people will be equal and have equal rights and benefits under the law. Hasn’t anybody figured it out, that if same sex relationships had FULL equality and FULL protection under the law, along with FULL AND EQUAL insurance benefits, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
So, if we’re still worried about government having a “negative impact” on the authority of parents, and the parents and their churches are still teaching 15th century concepts of morality, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Bill.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank you as well, Bill. Obviously we will have to agree to disagree with respect to the origins of marriage in the human race and the motivations for the Roman Catholic Church's strong opposition to same sex marriage, but I do believe that you understood the gist of my comments.

I would like to add here that this seems to be an issue where there appears to be no win-win solution. However this turns out over the decades ahead, one side is going to be bitter and will never accept it. That is true both in the areas of civil law as well as in theology.