Combating the Collateral Damage of Homophobia

Marriage equality is back in the news cycle. As the April 28 date for oral arguments in the Supreme Court approaches, my inbox is full of appeals for support for the work of making the case for equality. There is an increasingly long line snaking around the court building in Washington, D.C. -- hearty souls hoping to hear a piece of history by camping out for seats in the gallery. And links to "breaking news" stories keep popping up in my Twitter feed.

Stories with titles like "Gay Marriage Will Cause 900,000 abortions."

And stories with quotes like this one from Rand Paul: "You could have both: traditional marriage which I believe in and then you could also have the neutrality of the law that allows people to have contracts with another."

So a leading GOP presidential candidate thinks that "allowing people to have contracts with each other" is a sufficient bone for same-sex couples yearning to love, honor and cherish each other until death do they part. And if the Supreme Court rules that equal protection should equally protect all Americans 900,000 babies will die.

Yes, we should "consider the source." Yes, the poll numbers are dramatically and encouragingly up in support of ending marriage discrimination against same-sex couples. And yes, we are optimistic as we head into oral arguments on April 28 and look toward Decision Day sometime in June.

And yet I want to caution that for all the drama, excitement, enthusiasm and analysis sparked by the political dimension of the debate, there is also a deeply personal and profoundly pastoral dimension that is easy to overlook. It is the collateral damage of systemic homophobia that accelerates when marriage equality is in the news cycle.

It is what comes up for folks who have their internalized homophobia triggered by the "old tapes" of messages they're hearing again -- messages that they're not good enough, not worthy enough, not deserving enough to be treated equally. Only they're not hearing those tapes in their heads; they are hearing them on the radio or the television in Supreme Court arguments and from presidential candidates.

It is what happens when children see families like theirs being talked about in "the news" with question marks about whether they are "real" families -- about whether they deserve the same protection the family next door has.

It is the ongoing indignity of having our deepest, holiest, most precious loves and relationships debated and dissected in the public arena as "an issue" -- as if that in itself wasn't deeply dehumanizing and as if it was not profoundly personal.

So if you find yourself hurting, angry, anxious, scared or snarky in the days and weeks ahead, reach out and let someone you love remind you that you are loved and that no matter what we are going to get through this.

And if you know someone who may not reach out, go find them where they are. Remind them that they are loved and that justice will roll down like waters and the arc of history will bend toward equality and -- in the words of Saint Julian of Norwich -- in the end all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things shall indeed be well.

And if all things are not yet well then it's not the end. Yet.

La lucha continua. The struggle continues!