Friday, June 26, 2015

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. –Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion granting marriage equality.

My heart is full this morning as I celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. I confess: it has struck me more profoundly than I thought it would; I can’t seem to stop the tears of joy from spilling over. HISTORY IS MADE!! I posted on my facebook wall, and indeed it has been. Two years ago, on this same date, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of equality, overturning California’s discriminatory Proposition 8 and recognizing the validity of the marriage between Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer in The United States vs WindsorI said these words at a rally held in Colorado Springs:
We are here today to celebrate a victory that has been decades in the making.
When Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society in 1950 as an international fraternal order of gay men to protect and improve the rights of homosexuals, we began planning this party. When the Daughters of Bilitis formed in 1955 in San Francisco as the first lesbian civial and political organization, we started choosing the invitations. When the first commitment ceremony performed by a Unitarian Universalist minister for a same gender couple was reportedly done in the late 1950s, we began to get an idea that this party was going to be big.
In 1963 , when Bayard Rustin, organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as an openly gay man with full support from Dr. King, we started thinking about who would get those invitations.
In 1968 when Troy Perry– whose name is on the Prop 8 case, as one of the plaintiffs, along with his husband Philip De Bliek--when Troy Perry founded Metropolitan Community Church, as a queer Christian church, we started thinking about the entertainment.
In 1969, during the Stonewall Uprising, on June 28 , drag queens and butch lesbians and transgender folk got started on the party a little early when somebody called the cops.
In 1970 when the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution urging support for the glbtq community and in 1972 when the United Church of Christ ordained their first openly gay minister, Bill Johnson, we got a few more details for this party.
And so it has been, through the years, that we have been preparing for this moment. If not us, personally, than our forebears who went before, who courageously paved the way, who dared to speak love’s name loud and proud, who would not sit down and shut up, no matter who told them to.
And so we stand here today, celebrating a great victory: The recognition by the Supreme Court that marriage cannot be separate but equal; that all marriages should be treated equally under the law.
Of course, the struggle continues, but the dominoes of injustice and inequity are falling, my friends, their precarious rigid black and white pattern is being replaced by the beautiful, powerful, rainbow-hued colors of freedom and equality.
So we’re throwing this party tonight. In fact, let's just call it a wedding reception. And we are celebrating but we are not stopping our march toward full freedom and equity under the law. And we won’t stop until it is achieved.
Theodore Parker, 19th c Unitarian minister, wrote this:
"Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used this phrase to give him hope in the Civil Rights movement. May these words give us hope today as we rejoice in the victories we have won and look to the long arc still ahead, confident it bends always towards justice.” 

On that same day, Minnesota outgoing Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had this to say on SCOTUS overturning DOMA: “Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted.”
I couldn’t help but think how similar her words sounded to the words spoken in 1958 by Trial judge Leon Bazile in the original trial of Richard and Mildred Loving, arrested for violating the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924:
“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” 

I thought then of what a long, Sisyphean task it must have appeared to be, to seek the right for people of different races to be able to marry with all the love and dignity afforded same race couples. Yet love persevered, hope kept going, and justice was won. Now, as Justice Kennedy said—using this word nine times in his opinion—gay and lesbian couples are finally afforded the dignity of legal marriage should they so desire. History is made! Even as recently as 10 years ago, I said with full optimism, “Marriage equality will happen—probably not in my lifetime—but it will happen.” There is no way in the world I could have foreseen how swiftly the tide of justice would roll over the land; there is no way in the world I could have foreseen this momentous day happening just 46 years after the Stonewall riot which heralded the beginning of the Queer rights movement, and exactly 12 years following the SCOTUS decision on Lawrence v. Texas. That decision, on June 26, 2003, which declared that sodomy laws in the U.S. are unconstitutional." Overturning the Texas "Homosexual Conduct" law which made it illegal for two people of the same gender to have oral or anal sex (which was already legal if with someone of another gender) was instrumental in making this day a reality. June 26 is a good day, indeed! I can't help but look back over my 21 years here in Colorado Springs and how hard we, as a community, have fought for this right. I can’t even count how many times we had a demonstration at the downtown office of the County Clerk; all these gay and lesbian couples lining up to apply for a marriage license, $20 (then $30) and driver's license in hand, only to be turned down by the (apologetic) workers who had to inform them, that, according to Colorado  law, marriage was only between one man and one woman. And then, how Ryan Acker (then the Executive Director of the Pride Center) and I would step forward, a lesbian and a gay man, who had never even gone out on a single date together, with cash in hand, and our driver's license at the ready to prove our identification; the two of us, who weren't even a couple (though I told everyone he was registered at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and I was registered at Home Depot); the two of us, achingly single in reality, yet we could step up and by virtue of the gender listed on our drivers license, we could get a marriage license. We could step right past those gay and lesbian couples, some of them together for decades, and get what was denied them, on the basis of whether or not we peed standing up. How many marriage licenses did we get? Five, ten? And all of them unsigned, a dusty testament to the abuses of a legal system that did not require evidence of love, commitment, trust, only an F and M in the appropriate boxes. 
Today, our fake relationship is trumped by true love, today the law of the land honors the love of all couples. 
Today, I cry tears of joy for the journey it has taken to get us, for the future queer children who will see their love fully represented legally and in society, for those whom we lost before this victory was granted, to despair and shame. 
Today, even though I am perennially always the officiant, never the bride, I understand what it feels like to be fully recognized as a citizen of this country, with all the rights accorded therein. 
Today I have been seen, because, to paraphrase Justice Kennedy’s words, we have asked for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants us that right. In my lifetime. In yours. Let the party begin!

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