Letter to a Kentucky Jail

Dear Kim,

You do not know me from Adam. In all likelihood, you may never read this. However, sometimes circumstance compels us to speak and to act even where common sense tells us otherwise. So, past the protesters and reporters and U.S. Marshals leading you to your cell, I hope to reach you -- and together, speak.

I must first admit that I am a gay man who hopes one day to love and marry another man. I would say "God willing," but I am not even a Christian. You have made clear by your refusal to perform your duties as a county clerk that my hope for a family is not one you share. I have no interest in debating you, or belittling you or even expressing any satisfaction at your incarceration.

In a former life, I believed in the Word. I took comfort in its assurances of paradise for the humble and the righteous -- that one day, as life took loved ones from me, I would see them again. I thrilled over the mysteries of Scriptures and looked longingly for meaning among the verses. So despite where my life has taken me -- the choices I have made and that were made for me -- trust that I understand your beliefs and your fears. Even if I do not share them.

The title of this letter is deliberate. I spent much of my life in Birmingham, the heart of the civil rights movement -- that beleaguered city that jailed Martin Luther King Jr. in his nonviolent protest to the obscene injustices of segregation. I am sure many of your fellow Christians would enjoy greatly to liken your plight to his -- a devout Christian standing by her beliefs in the face of an oppressive legal system. I am sure already the parallels to King and to the martyrs of the early Christians of Acts that I marveled at as a child have already begun to form in the minds of your brothers and sisters in Christ.

They are wrong.

I do not say this to discount your experience -- only to put it in its proper context. You are not being oppressed. No one is telling you to believe anything other than what you believe. If you are called by your faith to believe that marriage belongs solely to a man and a woman, then follow that calling. But do not think that men and women like me who wish to take part in that union somehow devalue that calling -- or imperil the sanctity of your own soul.

King wrote from his cell that "any law that uplifts human personality is just" and that "shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding people of ill will." I use his words to say, you may think you mean well by following your Scripture, but your conviction has endangered both the followers of the God you serve and the members of my family -- the gays and lesbians across this country who have shared a common bond of struggle older even than your faith. Even now, outside the court in Ashland, our two tribes scream and yell and claw at each other because of a shared fear over what this outlandish sense of martyrdom will bring.

I am a gay man, and I want to take nothing from you -- not your faith and not your freedom. You take comfort in the Lord's covenant, and I take comfort in man's, as imperfect as it may be -- that all men and women are created equal. To quote King again, "oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever."

As time has passed, the memory of Jesus Christ's commandments have faded in my mind. But I remember how his words moved me. To seek humility, to tender forgiveness and to go through life as an example -- not an extorter -- of his compassion and grace. From what I have learned of your God, I cannot believe that he would sanction you to an eternity of perdition by giving a chance at love and faith and security to a few well-meaning men and women who want nothing more than to live their own convictions -- the same as you. There are many beautiful passages in the Bible, but one of my favorites remains Ecclesiastes 4:11.

"Again, if two lie together, then they have heat. But how can one be warm alone?"

Too long have gay men and women in Kentucky and throughout the nation been forced to live a life bereft of that warmth -- the simple, radiating comfort of another that, at least in this line of Scripture, carries with it the Lord's own simple sanction of eternity. Do not by your inaction further prolong our time in the cold. Believe, as we do, that this world -- this creation -- is vast and plentiful enough for the two of us.

Let us forgive each other. Come forward, fulfill your oath and take no more worry of your soul. If I am wrong and the time does come for a reckoning, I would be glad to stand with you at the Lord's seat and await judgment. I have a feeling that, if this world has a God, he will care less about a few slips of paper with your signature and more about an ostentatious showing of religiosity that imperiled his followers and turned them away from the love they owed Him and each other.

To echo Christ, don't destroy the law; fulfill it.

Sincerely,

Michael