Obama, Gay Marriage, and Me
I've yet to post on President Obama's "coming out" on gay marriage. I was at a conference when the announcement came, and I've been otherwise distracted since then. But, I do want to say something. I realize that this is a political season, and that everything done and said will be seen through that lens. So, it's no surprise that the polls suggest that this is a political ploy, maybe to nail down the base. Perhaps it is, perhaps not. The reality is -- in practice, the Obama administration has been proactive in addressing long standing concerns of the LGBT community. These include ending "don't ask, don't tell," which was implemented by the Clinton administration as a half-way point to full inclusion. His administration has also stopped defending the constitutionality of the "Defense of Marriage Act." So, whatever his words now, the administration has in practice been opening up new avenues for gays and lesbians to enter more fully and openly into American life.
President Obama is like a lot of Americans -- his views have been changing. The same is true of me. The polls tell us that the scales have tipped and that more Americans approve of gay marriage than do not. It is especially clear that those under 40 have already made this transition. It's a non-issue for most persons under 40. It's much more an issue for those over 65, with the rest of us in a muddled place.
What has changed? For one thing, the way we view sexuality has changed. We have as a culture, with a few exceptions, moved beyond the place that sex (and thus marriage) is for procreation. Thus, the argument that gays should not marry because they don't produce children no longer stands. Many heterosexual couples marry without the intention of procreating, or for various reasons are unable to procreate. Should they not marry? There has been a concern that gay marriage redefines marriage, but the question is -- in what ways? Perhaps, and I believe this to be true, marriage will redefine the way gays come together. If we believe that marriage has the power to cement relationships, then would we not want this for gay and lesbian partners? Would this not be a conservative measure?
Our views have changed as well as Gays and Lesbians have come out of the closet and we've discovered that they are our neighbors, our friends, our brothers and sisters, or our children. These are people we know and love. Whatever our ideologies, these are real people, and these relationships have softened and changed the way we see the issues.
My own views have evolved. They began to change, when my brother came out. I realized that this was no longer an abstract discussion. It was personal. It was real life. So, I reexamined the texts and the arguments, and eventually embraced the full inclusion of LGBT folks into the realm of God.
Now, I've yet to perform a wedding for a gay or lesbian couple. There are several reasons for this, starting with -- I've yet to be formally asked. I also must consider the congregation I serve. Would this hinder their own evolution as a congregation? We'll see, probably sooner than later.
President Obama's announcement has made this a topic of conversation. There is no one view. There are a variety of views present. Some say they oppose gay marriage, but approve of civil unions (the President's former position). Others disapprove of both. Some believe that we might be best served by separating legal, civil union, from the sacred act of marriage -- that is, clergy should get out of the legal business and stick to the sacred side of things.
This announcement doesn't end the debate, it only opens it up further. But this I do know -- a decade from now we won't be having this discussion. Gay marriage will be legal across the country. Some will disapprove, most will approve -- just like interracial marriage today!!