It’s like you wait forever then–Boom! Justice comes all at once. Or maybe I should say, “most at once.”
*DOMA–the defense of marriage act–is dead.
*Same gender couples can marry (again!) in the state of California.
*Same gender-married couples are afforded full rights….in states that allow gay marriage.
*And in May, the Boy Scouts of America lifted the ban on gay youth.
The jubilation folks are feeling and expressing over these decisions is well-founded and grounded. When the UCC General Synod voted to affirm gay marriage in 2005, the reality of legal gay marriage seemed far in the future. “Maybe in my lifetime,” I said. Not only has it happened in my lifetime, it wasn’t even a decade in the future….just 8 years.
Three things are coming to mind in the wake of the momentous decisions this week…
1) CELEBRATE! All of us can celebrate that LOVE HAS WON. In many ways and places, LGBTQ folks are no longer second class citizens. Their love–which is human love and blessed by God– is recognized legally. THAT must be celebrated!
2) THANK YOU! The celebrations happening right now would not have been possible without myriad incremental acts of justice for years and years and years. The struggle sometimes is so hard. Often, seekers of justice labor under the assumption that, while their acts will lead to justice someday, they could well die before they “get to the promised land” themselves. That kind of consistent, brave work takes tremendous energy and courage.
For all the people who have labored for justice for LGBTQ folks, THANK YOU. For the couples who have lived their marriages with integrity, even when others refused to acknowledge them, THANK YOU. For every one who filed a lawsuit–and everyone who navigated it through the court system–THANK YOU. For the Supreme Court justices who decided in favor of human dignity–THANK YOU. For all the clergy who have been preaching the love of God for all people for decades–centuries–THANK YOU. For the UCC, who ordained its first openly gay person in 1973 and its first woman in 1853–THANK YOU.
No one person, no one process creates tide changes like the one marked by yesterday’s SCOTUS decisions. It takes tons of brave people taking tiny step by tiny step toward justice. This week, we must say THANK YOU to everyone who has helped make this week possible.
3) WHAT NEXT? Even as we celebrate the momentous decisions this week, other decisions point out the large amount of justice work still left to do.
[a] While the rights of same gender married couples were affirmed in states that recognize gay marriage, those rights do not extend to same gender couples in states that do NOT recognize gay marriage. On this issue, the Court missed an opportunity to strike down discrimination at its core. In states like Georgia, same gender couples still must live as second class citizens in the eyes of the state.
[b] The Voting Rights Act decision….I have mixed feelings about this decision. With the Court, I really would like to affirm that–nearly 50 years out–the South (and other regions affected by the Act) have changed. I would like to believe that oversight by the Federal Government of certain states’ polling practices is no longer needed. Though the restrictions on certain states were put in place because of massive abuses in those states, there’s something that feels overly punitive–and belittling–about adding a layer of oversight on some states and not others.
That said, I just don’t think we’ve arrived with fair voting practices. Some of the comments I’ve heard at Poll Worker training (by those being trained) convince me that discrimination at the polls still exists. And very few voting districts in the metro Atlanta area seem racially mixed. In my voting precinct, Democratic candidates rarely even run. Is that evidence of a fair and balanced system?
With this decision, I feel a need to increase my vigilance on fair voting practices, particularly in my work as a poll worker.
[c] Boy Scouts. At Pilgrimage UCC, we’ve been deeply immersed in conversation about the recent decision by the Boy Scouts to lift the ban on gay youth. We haven’t made a final decision yet on whether to charter a troop. While we want to affirm this important step by BSA, we still are deeply troubled by the ban on gay leaders. I was troubled even more by a member of the BSA leadership who said, “Our current policy on Scout leaders has worked for 100 years. It’s okay as it stands.” (That’s not a direct quote….but it does catch the spirit of what he said.)
As our act of justice in regard to the Boy Scouts’ decision, at Pilgrimage we are continuing to talk and discern the best way to demonstrate the dignity of all people, what, for us, is a theological value.
So….It’s important to celebrate this week’s victories. That’s great. It’s equally important, though, to realize that there are so many other areas in which we have not arrived. In those areas, all seekers of justice will continue working until the promised land is open to EVERYONE.