Love Is Good: Why Marriage Equality Makes Us All Better

Love is good.

It feels good. It makes people better, the world brighter, and life... well, worth living.

Love is good.

The 20-year battle to pass same-sex marriage in Hawaii was fought with courage, grace and love. Marriage equality is about love. It is really that plain and simple. And as I listened to the marathon House floor vote and Hawaii State House representatives speaking to the measure, I chose to focus on those who spoke of love and equality.

There were many eloquent speakers who stood in support of the measure, but one piece of testimony in particular caught my attention, it was from Representative John Mizuno, who voted in support with reservations (he had formerly voted against civil unions). Mizuno is of Filipino descent, and represents an area with a large, religious Filipino population. Members of his district and members of the Filipino community strongly opposed this bill. I have no doubt he was under tremendous pressure to oppose the bill, but his testimony spoke to a simple but moving point: his own love for his wife. He spoke these words:

"I love my wife, May, more than anyone and anything on earth. May has been so loyal and supportive and it hurts her to see the personal attacks I have taken for this measure. This is pure LOVE and joy. I don't know how I would live without May -- she is everything to me -- I cannot imagine what my life would be like if we were not allowed to marry ten years ago. [These are] just my personal thoughts on love. Who am I to stand between two people who love each other and want to marry?"

Love is good.

Many of my dearest friends are members of the LGBT community, and honestly I've struggled these past two weeks with remembering to designate them as "my LGBT friends," because I never think of them that way. They're my friends; there's no adjective before that word in my mind. Many of them I consider to be my family.

Many of the most joyful, memorable, and enriching moments of my life have been spent with these family members.

They didn't need this bill. Sure, many will take advantage of the different benefits that derive from the passage of marriage equity bills, but in the larger, philosophical sense: they didn't need this bill. They have love, joy, friends, family and rich and beautiful lives without this bill.

It's the rest of us who needed this bill.

It's the rest of us who needed to realize how rampant hate and bigotry was in our society.

The gay community knew how hateful and ugly bigotry was; they've lived with it their entire lives.

The rest of us needed the wake up call.

And now that we are awake: Where do we go from here?

Pragmatically speaking, I don't think we will have great difficulty moving forward. This isn't racial desegregation. There aren't schools to integrate. This isn't Watts and this isn't 1965.

I also think we need to be mindful now to unequivocally protect the rights of churches to exercise religious practices as they see fit, even if that means they deny gay couples the opportunity to marry in those churches. I believe in granting people rights, even if they do the wrong things with them. Such is the maturation process of a civil society.

Yet, above all else, I hope church leaders, particularly those churches that led the charge against marriage equality, have some serious internal conversations in the upcoming months about their beliefs and practices. I hope these discussions recognize that both the New and Old Testaments call for penalizing adulterers with death, yet adultery continues in society. In fact, adultery appears to be gaining in popularity among celebrities and politicians.

I hope churches recognize that there is a shortage of foster homes in our community for children who need good homes and supportive environments. I hope someone mentions that in 2012, according to the FBI, there were 3,300 violent crimes committed in Hawaii: 29 murders and non-negligent homicides, 285 forcible rapes, 1,040 robberies, 1,976 aggravated assaults. Divorce remains legal and as popular as ever. Perhaps, in consideration of these statistics and within the greater scheme of things, they will organically decide that opposing the expansion of civil rights is not the best use of time, energy or resources.

On August 16, 1967, in a speech given at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words:

"And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems. And I'm going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn't popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I'm not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I'm talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. I've seen too much hate on the faces of sheriffs in the South. I've seen hate on the faces of too many Klansmen and too many White Citizens Councilors in the South to want to hate, myself, because every time I see it, I know that it does something to their faces and their personalities, and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love."

I hope someone reads these words to those church leaders and I hope churches stick with love. I hope they remember John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

God loves.

I hope churches talk. I hope they talk about these things, pray on these things and come to the conclusion that God's love is for everyone. I hope they realize this and open their churches to all people and any couple who wants to marry.

Because, and if for no other reason, love is good.