I read the following re-posted blog entry, and nodded a lot, and shed a tear. Please keep reading for my own personal notes and reaction, “after the break,” as it were.
This article is re-posted from This Page
Prop 8 in the Courts… yet again
Posted on 2013.03.26 at 12:59
Well, the day has finally arrived. Today, the oral arguments began with Prop 8 and the future of same-gender marriage in California and possibly beyond.
I should be excited about this. I should be anxious about this. I should be watching with bated breath. I should be… I should be…
… but instead I’m just tired. Very, very, very tired.
I’m going to personalize this for a moment and just talk about me and my hubby. When I took the plunge and came to California to be with Paul, we had very few options. Effectively, the most that same-gender couples could do then was to be roommates. Still relatively new was the option of becoming legal Domestic Partners. Done as a placation for those loud and noisy gays (effectively second-class citizens), Domestic Partnership became a legal bond in the State of California that at least granted extremely limited benefits. But when it came to things like inheritance, taxes, joint households, power-of-attorney, etc., it didn’t count for didly squat.
Then along came rebellious then-Mayor Gavin Newsome and his order to change marriage certificates in San Francisco to simply state “spouse one” and “spouse two” instead of Bride and Groom. With that one simple little change to a form, couples could potentially marry. Sure, we knew it probably wouldn’t hold. Sure, we knew it would probably face challenge. But hell – it may very well have been the closest thing we’d ever get! So we made the appointment (a drama-trauma in and of itself), hopped on a plane, and went to San Francisco to get hitched under the golden dome of the Capital building. And with me signing up as Spouse One, we became Messers Cook-Giles. Of course, two days later, the California courts ordered the marriages stopped. And we, like the other 4,000+ couples were put into legal limbo; only to eventually have our marriages invalidated.
Let’s think about that for a moment, shall we? Invalidated. If you, dear reader, are legally married, think back to that happy day when you and your spouse said, “I do”. Now, imagine for a second that some other party – some other entity – some other court came along and tells you very informally, and in a generic form letter, that your “I do” is invalid. You might very well sympathize. You might very well empathize. But there are no words to describe how that felt.
There Is Simply Not A Word In The English Language To Describe How HUMILIATING, DEHUMANIZING, and HORRENDOUS that felt! Did we expect it? Possibly. But there is no way to prepare for the receipt of that letter.
Later in the same year, Paul’s church decided to begin allowing a blessing-of-the-unions for same-gender couples. They would not (at the time) go so far as to call it a “marriage”. That was still a ways away. But again, at the time, that was potentially the best we could hope for. So we tied the knot before the altar to Paul’s faith, and before our friends and family. It was a VERY swanky occasion.
But still… we weren’t legal.
Then came the court decision following the San Francisco marriages. Finally, through the determination of the courts of California, there was no good reason to prevent same-gender marriages from taking place. So on the first day we could, Paul and I headed down to the local historic courthouse to (again!) tie the knot. And thus, on June 17, 2008 we became legally married. Eventually, over 18,000 couples in California did the same – at least until the restrictive and prejudiced Prop 8 passed, largely through the misleading assault techniques of the Mormon Church and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus (I wonder how my father would feel about that?!)
So now, after many a lawsuit and much time, the fate of Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act stands before the U.S. Supreme Court. What might happen? Lots of things – and despite hours and/or pages of analysis, nobody really knows.
As for my husband and I, today we are still legally married… in the State of California. But if for whatever reason we traveled to, say, the state of Arizona and got into a car accident; my husband would have no right or ability to make any decision about me living on life support in a hospital. They’d have to contact my mother in Florida for that. My husband would have no more rights than a roommate. Sound extreme? Sound crazy?! That’s the fact, thanks to the laws of this nation.
Yes, things are changing.
Yes, opinions are changing.
Yes, people are sloooooowly waking up.
Yes, progress is being made.
Yes, very good things might very well change in the near future.
It isn’t that I’m unappreciative. It isn’t that I don’t keep my fingers crossed.
I’m just tired. Very tired. Very, very, very, VERY tired from the whole thing. In years to come, this will simply look like a blip in the history of civil rights.
But for me – for US – it has been a story of our lives.
I remember SO (damned) well getting to that point in an awful “conversation” within our parish that turned really ugly, really fast. We had been on this rollercoaster of Gay Crap and in those years it seemed as if we had become the whipping boy of everything that was wrong with the country, and the rotten core of what was wrong with the Anglican Church:
We had the audacity to ordain women to the priesthood
We had the temerity to ordain “the gays” to the priesthood
We had the nerve to elect a gay man to the episcopate (that’s a Bishop, in regular people speak.)
The Anglican church started having all these meetings about the badness of the American branch, and we (and as it turned out, the Canadians who had been just as bad in their eyes) were not invited.It was the absolute darkest moment of a worldwide religious organization ignoring all of Christ’s teachings about love, acceptance, and involvement.
The man who had been my chaplain and confessor when I was an undergraduate spoke in public of how the Episcopalians were “a broken people,” told the bold-faced lie in public that he didn’t know of any gay people in the church who were not either celibate or “cured.” Remembering the conversations he and I had en fides about discernment and postulancy – well – it pissed me off. We had spent hours and weeks and months together talking about the discernment toward a religious calling and he didn’t know me? He connected me with a sponsoring bishop with a full understanding of my life and yet he didn’t know me?
And then – to add salt to the sauce – the whisperers out in the woods of dissent and gossip – outside of our church home – said “schism” with that same oily sort of slick sub rosa tone that old people down south use when they say “cancer,” or “divorce,” or someone being “that way.” The Episcopalians with their women- and gay-ordaining ways were “schismatic.” The word itself sounds sort of greasy, like you want to go wash your hands after you say it. Use hot water. And Boraxo.
The only saving grace of that was that the ugliness in the room that night was brought in by others who were not of our parish. Mischief makers. But still, I left the room after two hours of pointless yammering and name calling, I sat in the hallway outside the sacristy and just cried. Not for the nasty words slung around in the name of “religion,” and that slippery slope of “theology,” but that I was just SO damned tired of yet one more, dammit, just ONE more coming out to have to go through. I went from tired to ANGRY, left the building and for a moment (almost literally) SHOOK my fist in the sky at God (or wherever God was at that moment, obviously not standing next to ME!) and called god EVERY dirty word in the book.Like the Great Litany of Sailorhood, I hit them all – major, minor, and a few that I made up on the spot.
And I cried some more.
That is all long-passed history and, as history is want to do, the story didn’t stop there. For that situation with the parish, the important news was the second meeting after the mischief makers skeezed away to some other rock to hide under, and the people that mattered – our people of that church – got to work. The sky broke open when, near the end of that first meeting, the microphone was passed to one of those uptight, rock-ribbed Church Lady altar guild types that I sort of tiptoed around in fear. My first thought was
“Ohhh God. This is where the second shoe falls.”
She took the microphone and said something dismissive about all the theological kerfuffle and said, “What I want to know….”
The collective room pulled in a huge breath waiting for what would come next. It nearly sucked all the air out of the room.
“What I want to know is how we’re going to plan gay weddings. How are we going to do it, and what will the wording look like, and how is it going to look in the church (house.) We have to get busy on the real stuff here, folks. Weddings!
I cried some more.
Things broke up into smaller discussion groups in the followup meetings and the gay people in those groups followed a similar pattern of weeping to the brethren and expressing how tired we are. Saying how spiritually exhausted we are of having to spend our entire lives defending our acceptability in our neighborhoods, and in our jobs, and now even at church? How we were embarrassed by becoming so well skilled at mixing up pronouns in mixed groups so that we could say that the weekend trip with “them” was fun, and that “they” and I had gone to the movies. Never a name or a he or a she, always a “they” or “my partner,” as if we spent an inordinate amount of time off the clock with the people with whom we conducted a business.
It is a language of suppression. It’s words of hiding. And it is a forced-upon-us native tongue that becomes so much a part of having “to pass,” that it pops out of my mouth in conversation without even thinking. They are the words of the weary apologizing to everyone else for our desire simply to live.
I was pretty mad at God. The answer back: silence.
In my particular group we had some old people. Now.. I’m pretty old (think of Gay Methuselah) but these were some really old, like my grandma old people. And they were the first ones to reach across that table and in that way that grandma-aged old people can safely do, they said, “we’ve got your back.” Things may look dark all around us, but here, within these walls, we extend to everyone the light that we carry.
That too was history well passed. It seems as if the language of apology and secret lives grows lighter. It looks as if the next generation is coming up without much knowledge of what that is because – guess what! – they don’t care! They see us as functioning human members of society, and as organic parts of the entire Kingdom of God. Storms will always blow things around. Whisperers and gossips will always be around because they seem to have nothing more productive to do but create mischief. The rest of us, meanwhile, grow up and get on with it. We are the living embodiment of the Kingdom of God, and if we want others to see that, they must see it first in us.
And for this particular cause, the mischief lightens with time and we as a church and a community move away from conversations that the next generation will see as stupid and time wasting. Wasting precious time that we could be spending on creating actual change in the world, instead of arguing over whether some action is heretical, and is that even necessary to consider in the modern church.
But what about all that silence when God didn’t answer me back right away?
Here’s the thing that I learned, that God spends a lot of time (more time than we do) accepting us for the way we are, and somehow loving us anyway. I had said things to God that night that I wouldn’t say to a bill collector, and yet that was … ok.
“I love you anyway, boy.”
“Thank you, God. I really needed to hear that.”
“Yea. I know.”
I learned that if we’re going to be in this weird prayerful and spiritual relationship, it’s the same as being married (without the morning breath!) If we are upset – tell God we’re upset. If we’re happy or sad or just bored…Tell. Him. To be open and comfortable enough to call someone who absolutely loves us a feckless bastard, purely out of your childish anger, and realize that it’s ok because they will still love us after we calm down. It’s a relationship of forgiveness and love that should teach us how we should be treating each other.
If we could just get over all the childishness and name calling.
It was a revelation that changed all of my assumptions about me… God … stuff. It was ok. It helped me work through how awful I felt. And by having that safe spot of “ok,” then I could get over my(damn)self, get up, and continue that relationship… that conversation with God.
“I love you anyway, boy.”
“Thank you, God. I really needed to hear that.”
“Yea. I know.”
My former chaplain certainly landed on his feet. He was eventually removed from the episcopate for abandoning his vows as a minister and bishop. But that’s ok because he managed to spend his time as a conservative Episcopal mouthpiece traveling around the world, make a few friends in weird places, and set up his own little ultra conservative Anglican sect, and even set himself up as primate!
And because of what I know was spoken of sub sigillo all those many hours in that little North Carolina parish, from those words, all his efforts at exclusion and bigotry are based on a fatal, sinful lie.
Good on him. He’s history that has passed too.
Years later, I became more absent in that parish as I began to deal with a long series of chronic illness that shook my life to its foundation, then built it up again, differently. I was near death and unable to walk and recovering from awful chemotherapy treatments and sinking into a physical morass. A small package arrived. It was a paperback book on getting up and “standing up” (more spiritually than physically since that wasn’t really an option at the time) from illness. It was signed by one of my old university deans who I figured didn’t know me from Adam, since Adam was still pretty young back in the days I was at University.
He was the man who was sitting behind me with his wife in that first, awful meeting. I was distraught to the point of barely being able to speak above a whisper that night, and I barely remember his taking a turn at the mic, standing with a Bible and a prayer book in his arm, looking like this strange mix of Baptist preacher about to let it fly, and an intensely wise academic who was stumbling on all the futility and stupidity in the room. After all those years between the Gay Crap that night, and my recovering from cancer treatment, he remembered me, and sent this book with an inscription on the flyleaf that gave that same confidence as from years before:
Just as in your sadness, so is it now with your great illness: we are with you. We offer you part of our light. We – in all things – have your back.
And so history goes. Things get better, then they get worse, then better again. History as we hope and expect is always changing. And we, as people of faith and power, we who must save that light for the generation that comes after us, we must stand up – as tired as we are – press forward. Through the tears. Through the physical pain. Through it all.
Regardless of the situation at the moment, no matter which of us is down low or up high, we continue to love and accept. And we keep talking with every voice we have in our head from praying to singing to preaching to cussing like a sailor. Remembering as we go, the song we learned in Sunday School and probably forgot in the great mashup of God, Man, Politics, and Religion. Remembering the single thing that is most important that we pass along to each other like a plate of warm biscuits around the supper table:
Love, love, love, love,
The gospel in a word is love.
Love your neighbor as your brother;
Love, love, love.
Sing it loudly and repeat as necessary until it becomes the language of your life.
Keep the faith!