God's Spirit at Work: Marriage Equality and the LGBTQ Movement

The religious debate over marriage equality has often been framed as a question of whether same-sex relationships are blessed by God and the Bible. Both sides can find proof texts to support their positions, and debate the matter endlessly. I believe that God loves all human beings equally and that Scripture supports the notion that God wants people to love God and one another, and this includes in marriage.

I officiated at my first same-sex commitment ceremony more than 20 years ago, for a lesbian couple, at a time when not one of these United States sanctified such unions. I officiated at my latest such ceremony a few months ago at my apartment, for a binational gay couple, who made their union official under New York State's Marriage Equality Act. My 17-year-old daughter and her friends got dressed up for the occasion, happy to be a part of it. They're of the generation that, by and large, takes it for granted that gays and lesbians are, well, just like anybody else.

For more and more people, especially of my daughter's age, the full equality of LGBTQ people is assumed. Indeed, nationally, social progress on marriage equality has far outpaced the progress made in our nation's courts. We need look no further than the shifts in public opinion, or the recent spate of voter-supported state laws for marriage equality. As fast as the progress has been in recent decades, it has been a long time in coming and I hope the Supreme Court rulings will affirm fundamental equality for the LGBTQ community.

After all, there have always been gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. These are modern terms, of course, but they describe human experiences that I can only imagine have existed as long as our species; even in the Bible we can see shadows of LGBTQ people. Thousands of years ago, their daily tribulations would likely not have been articulated in anything but personal terms. It may have only been the ability of two people in isolation to be companions to one another, or of an individual woman to live her true gender in spite of being seen as a man.

But thanks to the great strides made, especially in the last 50 years, we can broaden our vision. We can now see that the personal struggles of the ancients, and the Supreme Court rulings expected this month are both part of a great historical struggle for the full moral equality of LGBTQ people. That is not just a political matter; it is also a religious one. I am proud that Union Theological Seminary has long been part of this struggle. Our faculty and staff have argued for the abolition of slavery, for women's suffrage, and other causes, helping to enlarge democratic participation and make way for the modern LGBTQ movement. In more recent years, myself and other Union faculty and staff, both LGBTQ and not, have counseled those who were considering marriage, officiated at their weddings, and shared in their celebrations and sorrows. And not least of all, our students have been at the cutting edge of a more welcoming theology and an ever more loving society. At our recent Commencement ceremony there were 17 out LGBTQ graduates. Our community has also spoken out against local violence that has run parallel to the recent gains: Officials in New York City report a marked increase in violence against LGBTQ people as compared to last year.

As we await the Supreme Court rulings on these matters, let us people of faith thank the LGBTQ movement for helping us love God and neighbor better and move ever more closely to a gospel of justice. From the struggle of the ancients to merely consummate their relationships; to the great movement for marriage equality in our own country; to the work of brave people around the world who know that the real Supreme ruling is not merely about marriage equality but about moral equality; the struggle continues.