Marriage equality isn’t only about fairness; it’s about celebration!

November 25, 2013

Since this blog is no longer based primarily on one special daily link, I’ll sometimes build it around a more comprehensive theme, covering a topic through numerous links— just as I often did with the blog’s much earlier predecessor, “Web Explorations for Christian Feminists.”   Today’s theme? Marriage equality— emphasizing the celebration side.

First, the news

Marriage equality was in the news a lot this month:

  • •  Illinois became the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriages after the governor signed the state’s Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which had already been passed by the General Assembly.
  • •  A dispute erupted in former Vice President Dick Cheney’s family after daughter Liz Cheney, hoping to win the Republican primary in Wyoming next year in the race for a U.S. Senate seat, told Fox News that she believed marriage is comprised of one man and one woman.  The words deeply hurt and offended her legally married lesbian sister and sister-in-law, both of whom made the dispute public on social media.
  • •  A Pennsylvania United Methodist pastor, Rev. Frank  Schaefer, was put on trial by his denomination and found guilty of breaking church law by officiating at the marriage of his son to his male partner. The jury gave him a 30-day suspension, after which he could be defrocked it he does not agree to stop performing same-sex marriages.  He says he will not stop.
  • •  Six states have been defying the order of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel who has said they must stop their discrimination against legally married same-sex couples. These states are refusing to process ID’s for same-sex spouses of active duty members of the National Guard.  If they want to receive such spouse ID’s, they are told they must travel considerable distances to federal installations.  These IDs, easily available to heterosexual spouses on these state military bases, are necessary for receiving the military benefits spouses are due, such as medical care, increased housing allowances, and the privilege of shopping at the base commissary. State authorities say that in their states, same sex marriages are illegal.

Why does recognition of a marriage matter so much?

Marriage, whether same-sex or heterosexual, is much more than some abstract concept. It goes beyond definitions, and rights, and laws—although it includes all these things.  But fundamentally it’s about people – about  two people who love each other and want to commit their lives to each other. They want to be one another’s next of kin. To belong to each other in a unique way. And they want the world to know about it!

Marriage by its very nature means public acknowledgement. It’s one reason entering it requires witnesses.  It’s something to be declared. And celebrated.

A few months ago, I linked to an episode of the old television program, All in the Family, in which Edith and Archie Bunker attended the funeral of Edith’s cousin, a closeted lesbian. The video clip that was used, however, didn’t  include an earlier scene where Cousin Liz’s widowed partner, Veronica, came out to Edith.  At first, totally stunned to learn the nature of Liz and Veronica’s 25-year relationship, which Veronica described as “like a marriage,” Edith quickly recovered from the shock and regained her composure— and her compassion.

She said, “Oh Veronica, I wish you hadn’t told me about this.”  Misreading Edith’s intended meaning as rejection and disapproval, Veronica started to walk away, saying, “So do I.” Her voice showed a mixture of deep hurt, anger, and stored-up bitterness over society’s attitudes toward gay people,  Edith replied, “Oh no, I didn’t mean that. I mean it’s so sad.  It must have been terrible—loving somebody and not being able to talk about it.” She said Veronica should be the one to inherit the special family heirloom. “You’re her next of kin.”

At the time when that All in the Family episode was aired, attitudes toward LGBT persons were extremely negative, and teachers such as Liz and Veronica would have been fired. (It could still happen in many states today.)  And so their longing to declare their love openly had to go unmet and their relationship constantly hidden under pretense. (See the lyrics to Fred Small’s song, “Annie,” from his Heart of the Appaloosa album.) Not being able to tell is painful—and lonely, as this closeted gay professor at a Christian College attests.

Shout out the love!

One gay person told me many years ago, long before same-sex marriage was made legal in their state,  “I wish I could shout my love for my partner from the rooftops!”  Now changing laws and attitudes —and the Internet— have made that possible as never before.

Even from the rooftop of a bus, brass band and all!    (Play this video full screen for best view.)

And even in the aisles of a Home Depot!  (Be sure to watch Ellen’s follow-up about this celebration, too.)

Then watch this edition of Kids React as children talk about both of these same-sex marriage proposals and the joyful celebrations surrounding them.  (You may remember these kids from their discussion of the Cheerios commercial about interracial marriage featured as a link this past summer.)

More from our website

Here are some related articles from our Christian Feminism Today website:

“Grandma, I’ll Go to Hell with You” by Louise Davis

“Our Marriage Was Taken from Us” by Rev. Marie M. Fortune

“There Is More than One Christian View of Homosexuality” by Letha Dawson Scanzoni

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni is an independent scholar, writer, and editor. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992).

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