I have heard it all, and I’m sure I will again when I click “post” on this. I know this isn’t the popular opinion held within those I closely associate, but I really don’t care. I never was popular anyways. I’ve been debating writing this for months and months. While at the Martin Luther King Memorial, I saw this quote, and felt the words tremble within my bones:
It is not comfortable or convenient for me to post this now. In fact, I’ve had massive panic attacks over posting anything about it at all. I’ve already received HARSH criticism for my beliefs, and I’m sure it will continue. This is how I feel. I’m not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. But I could no longer keep something I think is this important to myself.
I’m afraid to post this because I know that there will be a negative reaction from both people outside of my church, wondering how it is that I can disagree with a church that I love and still be in full fellowship, and from inside the church, for, well, exactly the same reason. This post isn’t about my religion. I had to mention it because that’s the question that gets asked, and I’ll tell you now what my church leader told me when I “confessed” this to him: I was doing nothing wrong by supporting gay marriage if that was what my convictions were. I did not have to support Prop 8 or any other measures that the church was endorsing. The church had asked its members to support these measures across the country, but did not punish if they refused. I was not punished by the church. In fact, my beliefs on this issue are not in spite of my Christianity, but because of it. I feel like God loves all of his children. I don’t know why He chooses for some to be born with the challenges they face, I sure as heck don’t know why he chose me to have to special needs kids, but I know this much: he loves all of us. Gay, straight, religious or not.
Moving on to the subject at hand.
Last Friday I went with Peyton on his Kindergarten field trip to the National Monuments. We wound through the Jefferson, the FDR and then came to the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. We had a little worksheet to fill out and one of the questions asked what Dr. King did. Peyton plopped himself down on a bench next to two men as we talked. In response to a question, Peyton said, “He (Dr. King) thought that all men and women should be treated the same, no matter what.” That’s when I noticed that the two men sitting next to Peyton were holding hands. They smiled as they listened to a boy saying what he knew to be right. And he was right.
I am profoundly grateful for Dr. King’s work. The Civil Rights Movement paved the way for the Disability Rights movement. The Disability Rights movement is alive and at work in my everyday life. It ensures that my children, one born with autism, the other born with Down syndrome, the same rights as everyone else. It took individuals who were not disabled to stand alongside ones that were, to add to their voices, to be heard. It was a long time coming. As recently as 1970 in New York, it was against the law for people who were disabled to go out in public in order to protect the sensitivities of those who were not disabled. Children like mine were institutionalized, some were sterilized against their will. Those things make me cringe even as I write them.
And, hopefully, it is the way our children will cringe when they hear that the generation before would not allow two people who are in love to get married. Because of fear. The same fear that made segregation last so long. The same fear that kept people with disabilities hidden from view. Because somewhere along the line, people believed that it helped themselves to not have to deal with those things. That it made the world a better place.
I just can’t conceive how the world would not be a better place with more happy marriages in it. My marriage is by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. And at the same time, I hear people argue that allowing gay marriage wrecks the sanctity of marriage. How would it worse than what we’ve already done to it? Almost half of marriages end in divorce. And that’s regardless of how religious you are.
Here’s what it comes down to: I don’t believe this is a religious issue. I believe that when you protect the rights and freedoms of others, you are also protecting your own rights and freedoms. It happened with the women’s, civil, and disability movements. In each case these people received their rights and their dignity, really, and the world didn’t come to a crashing end as was believed by many at the time. When these movements started to succeed in their goals, the churches still held their own rights. These churches were never forced to allow women or blacks in their leadership or clergy, they were never forced to marry interracial couples. I believe that freedom of religion is a sacrosanct principle to Americans, it’s protected in the Constitution, and allowing gay people to greater rights under the law is never going to be allowed to infringe on those freedoms. Remember, that there’s a big difference between Religion and organizations run by churches.
Why shouldn’t they be afforded the same privileges I get because I am straight? I hear you say, “well, let’s let them have separate ‘civil unions’ because they’re pretty much equal to ‘marriages’, right?”
Did you see what I did there?
I guess what it really comes down to with me is that I just don’t get why it’s even a big deal to begin with. Why is it so tough for us to imagine gay people are good, loving, and dare I say, wholesome, human beings? Why not let two people who are in love make that commitment to each other and have it be recognized universally? Does it really affect your marriage? Do you really think the fires of hell will rain down upon us if we allow such a thing? And how would the fires of hell rain DOWN on us if hell is beneath us?
I never really understood that one.