Ok, here we go. Over twenty years ago I was so very blessed to marry my life’s love, my soul mate and best friend, Teresa. I cannot imagine having taken this journey with someone else. I am so thankful.
Because Teresa and I are Christians, our marriage took place in a church building, with a Christian minister officiating. But interestingly, the “paper trail” of our wedding began earlier, not in a church building, but in a county office in Abilene, Texas. The civil authorities issued our marriage license and demanded a copy back, signed, for their records.
I believe our faith has framed and guided our marriage, and it is integral to who we are. But it was the civil government which allowed us to marry and have all those rights and privileges afforded a married couple. Those privileges, by the way, have nothing intrinsically to do with gender, faith or sexual orientation… visitation rights, filing joint taxes, hospital visitation, insurance coverage, etc.
Why does the civil government do this? Well, because we have this amazing document we call The Constitution that was created to, among other things, “..secure the Blessings of Liberty…” Those nation builders were poetic rascals, and that phrase rings very similar to the idea put forth in our nation’s Declaration of Independence that all people have certain rights as human beings including the rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Being married has made me so happy! Living with the liberty to seek marriage to the one I love, and then to obtain marriage to the one I love, has been one of the most worthwhile pursuits of my life. It has been a pursuit and realization of happiness.
Today, in the same country many simply do not have the same rights and protections as I do, because they love and wish to marry someone of the same gender. In some way, we have decided their endowed right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness shall have restrictions imposed that are not imposed on my own. All those rights and privileges I mentioned, that have nothing to do with gender or faith, can and are most often denied to them.
My friends, I do not believe that my own faith instructs me to oppose same-sex marriage. I do however understand that many of you believe that your faith does not allow you the option of same-sex marriage or orientation. And for the sake of your conscience, and because it is your right to live life based on your faith convictions, I respect and support your living by that faith. No one should ever force you to live in an orientation or marriage that you do not desire. But we are talking civil rights, folks. We are talking about the very base of civil rights which afford you and I and everyone the opportunity to worship and live according to personal faith, as one’s conscience dictates. These are shared rights to pursue happiness in freedom.
While proofing this blog for me, my previously mentioned wife, the beautiful Teresa, asked me to mention something about interracial marriage in our nation. She said, “This isn’t a new issue” meaning that the denial of people’s right to marry whom they choose is not a new problem. Many Americans fought the civil right of others to marry someone of different ethnicity, often again on religious grounds. Though it was legal in many States, marrying a person of another ethnicity was not a protected right for all people in our country until a 1967 ruling by the Supreme Court. 1967!
You may answer the question of same-sex marriage by any criteria you wish to use, for your own life. This is your right. Answering it for your neighbor, by any criteria of your own choosing, is not however your moral, ethical or constitutional right.
Everyone can empathize with a person’s desire to pursue life-long love with their chosen partner. And we can also empathize with the desire simply to be free to do something, even if we ultimately choose not to do it. We know that the burden of not being free is an emotional, psychological and spiritual injury. We must not be a people who do such injury to others.
For straight people, the freedom to marry remains their right whether they marry or not. A freedom is strength. A freedom is joy. Not being free is painful. Right now, a majority of people in our country enjoy the strength and happiness of a basic civil right to pursue personal happiness in the agreement of marriage and all it’s attendant rights and privileges. And at the same time in the same country a minority is held bound in the pain and loss of being denied the same right.
For me, the burden of my own rights will necessitate that I support the rights of my neighbor. My freedom to marry cannot be a selfishly hoarded treasure. If I am given this gift by my civil authorities, pursuant to the execution of our nation’s founding documents, then this gift is also for my neighbor, regardless of ethnicity, gender, orientation or personal faith.
In short, I stand with my homosexual neighbors, now and always, in support of their intrinsic human dignity and their full, complete set of civil rights. My faith tells me that they are beloved of God, and so it is my joy to serve them and love them. Whether my gay neighbor is a citizen of my country or not, I will always support their freedom and human rights, but especially in the country of my birth, I will expect that they are treated as full citizens, endowed with every right I myself enjoy.
And maybe one day, one glorious day off sometime in the future… I won’t have to even clarify that I am standing with my gay neighbor, or my straight neighbor, or my Christian neighbor, or my Muslim neighbor, or Hindu neighbor, my atheist neighbor, my male neighbor, my female neighbor… maybe, just maybe, we’ll grow up into a mature respect of people that no longer needs such labels to engage their amazing worth, value and dignity as human beings. Amen.