On Friday night, Alex and I went to dinner with my Aunt Kathy, Uncle Dave and my cousin David. While discussing our joint birthdays, Alex's recent college graduation and our legal marriage the day before, my aunt began asking questions about the statute of legality and the process of appeals for gay marriage in Indiana. First of all, let me tell you a little bit about my Aunt Kathy, who although being the only sister of my mother, has always been much, much different than her younger half. My aunt is always impeccably dressed, way ahead of fashion trends and able to whip off the name of current designers with the best of style's youth. Although liberal minded, she is extremely conservative politically. She believes in doing the right thing and is quick to discern anyone about the misuse of personal choices, even including the overabundance of food, which she will quickly correct and tell you that maybe you should watch what you are eating. My Aunt Kathy, like my mother, is a Hoosier, through and through. She graduated from Broad Ripple High School and previously attended all Indianapolis Public Schools. She graduated from Indiana University, where she was a proud Pi Beta Phi, like my mother, and even went on to be extremely involved in the Indianapolis Junior League. She is also a member of Meridian Street United Methodist Church. My Aunt Kathy has lived in Indiana all her life and, I believe, would define herself as a proud Hoosier.
This is important, because in recent discussions of same-sex marriage, much of the political discussion has been about what the heterosexual, law-abiding, Christians would want for their state. My aunt has always been supportive of my being gay, never even giving it a second thought. When Alex and I asked her to be part of our wedding several years ago, she seemed surprised when we thanked her for her support, stating, "Peter, this isn't my first gay wedding, dear."
During our dinner, my aunt handed us a folded piece of paper containing an email she had received from the senior pastor of the Meridian Street United Methodist Church, Anne Rosebrock. I quickly read the email and was greatly impressed by the powerful message it contained.
"Wednesday was a big day in Indiana. A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Indiana law defining marriage as a legal commitment between "a man and woman" is unconstitutional (by the U.S. Constitution) because it discriminates against same-gender couples who want to get married in Indiana. Newscasters have reported that since Wednesday, over 400 marriage certificates have been issued in Marion County with an additional 200 certificates in surrounding counties. In addition, The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA recently voted to change their definition of marriage from "one man and one woman" to "two persons."
Certainly change is an ever constant reality. In my lifetime, I have experienced radical changes in the church through the benefits of desegregation and the role of women in professional ministry. Certainly in the United Methodist tradition, all persons have sacred worth and are members of the family of God.
Bishop Coyner sent a communication yesterday about this change in the law and said, "While there are no recording teachings of Jesus in the Gospels about the issue of homosexuality or same-gender marriages, the teachings of Jesus about religious hypocrisy are quite clear and convicting. Those of us who are heterosexual must be very cautious to avoid the sin of religious hypocrisy."
Already I have received e-mails from some persons lamenting that these same-gender marriages have 'damaged the institution of marriage.' My response is the contrary: the institution of marriage has been damaged in recent decades by the misconduct, misuse, and immorality of heterosexuals. We have allowed marriage to be violated, ignored, abused, and reduced to mere convenience. It is the heterosexual community which needs to confess and repent for our destruction of the institution of marriage. Until we do that, our judgmental attitude toward same-gender couples who want to commit to a life-long monogamous relationship must cease. Indeed, as I watched the news report about the hundreds of same-gender couples who hurried to the courthouses of Indiana to get a marriage license, I found myself admiring their desire to be married and faithful and legal. And I remembered the times when, as a pastor, I officiated weddings of heterosexual couples who seemed not to take seriously their marriage vows. As such times, as a pastor I have felt "used" by those couples, and I doubted that our church was being treated with respect. All pastors can tell such stories with regret. In the midst of that reality, I am very reluctant to engage in judgement and condemnation of anyone who really wants to be married, committed, and faithful."
I honor Bishop Coyner's perspective as my concern has never been about gender, but rather respect and monogamy. From my perspective, the damage done to marriages from domestic violence, psychological abuse and promiscuity are the greatest threats to marriage. I pray that we rejoice with all those who do choose to make a lasting commitment to each other no matter what their gender.
The Attorney General of the state of Indiana has already filed an appeal of the decision that was handed down on Wednesday. There is sure to be a lengthy battle in the courts over this issue. However, in the moment, may we all celebrate love which is unpredictable, life-giving and beyond our ability to legislate. For is only because of God's generous love for us that we are able to love one another."
I was moved to tears while reading this, because it is only in recognition of the human experience, not the Christian or Buddhist, Democratic or Republican, gay or straight experience that we truly understand the importance of life; the ability to love one another.
My Aunt Kathy understands this. She has always understood this, which is why good things come her way, why she is surrounded by people who love and appreciate her and I believe, why she lives a pretty good life. She's a pretty cool chick!
Hopefully, someday, there will be no need for discussion of same-sex or same-gender marriages, because there will only exist...marriage.