I cried a tear of joy this weekend as New York became the sixth U.S. state to offer its gay and lesbian citizens marriage equality. When Massachusetts made marriage equality the law of its land in 2004, it was historic. When Iowa did it in 2009, it was a shocker. Iowa? Really? But, when New York did it this past weekend – I predict it will be remembered as the tipping point.
“The more that other states recognize the fairness and the importance of passing equal marriage rights, the more likely it is to pass here,” said Patrick Wojahn, the chairman of the board of the Equality Maryland Foundation, which fought this year’s marriage battle in Annapolis. “It’s a matter of it becoming a normal thing. People see it and realize the sky isn’t about to fall.” Thousands marched in the streets to celebrate passage of the law, signed quickly by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as the annual gay pride celebration fell on the same weekend. The first marriages are expected within 30 days.
While gays and lesbians and their allies partied, though, some on the religious right are beginning to see the writing on the wall. Several months ago, Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, conceded “we’re losing that one” when asked about marriage equality. Even Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Rev. Albert Mohler, Jr. called Evangelicals to repent of their homophobia earlier this month.
“The reality is that we as Christian churches have not done well on this issue — and I think if we’re unwilling to admit that, it is further to our shame,” he said.
While Mohler, of course, still believes LGBT people are sinful and need to “repent” – I think his stand is encouraging. At least he’s telling his fellow Evangelicals that while they may not approve of gays and lesbians, they at least have to stop fomenting hatred against them, or kicking their children out of the house when they come out. While Mohler’s conversion may not be complete, the first step to change is admitting that there is a problem.
Other staunch opponents of marriage equality, however, are fuming.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, of the diocese of Brooklyn wrote of the decision: “It is destructive because we fail to view marriage in the context of a vocation: a calling to participate in the great enterprise of forming the next generation. Marriage is reduced to an empty honor.”
Which is kind of odd, given that new U.S. Census data shows one-quarter of all same-sex households in the nation are raising children. To many gay and lesbian couples then, marriage remains a “vocation” – an institution for raising children, whether biological or adopted. That is far from “empty honor.”
DiMarzio also went a step further, asking Catholic schools to not accept any honors from Gov. Cuomo in the future and also instructing pastors and principals to “not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration.”
National Organization for Marriage president Brian Brown also took a swipe lambasted Republican lawmakers. “The Republican party has torn up its contract with the voters who trusted them in order to facilitate Andrew Cuomo’s bid to be president of the U.S. Selling out your principles to get elected is wrong. Selling out your principles to get the other guy elected is just plain dumb,” said NOM is pledging “to commit at least $2 million in the 2012 elections to hold politicians accountable for their vote.”
While certainly spending $2 million to, oh, I don’t know, help the poor or something, might be a better use of those dollars, it’s not surprising to see them commit that much of their resources to fighting something they see as evil. Sadly, these hardcore religious people, who just know that they have God and God’s ways figured out, have no intention of changing their views – even if that change comes with a party and a cake. This is exactly the moral of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son – an invitation to change not just our worldview, but our thinking on how God works in the world.
When the younger son returns home — that sinful younger son who squandered his inheritance and did unspeakable things in pig sties – the father throws a huge party for him. The older brother, however, is not amused and complains that no one threw a party for him, even though he did what he believed his dad wanted him to – stay home, never have an adventure, and never break a rule.
The father pleads with the older brother to join the party — to welcome his wayward little brother back into the fold — but he refuses – believe that if God – or in this case his father – will welcome someone like that sinner into his house – then perhaps he wants no part of this. The parable doesn’t reveal what choice the older brother finally makes. The story ends with him left out on the stoop, deciding his fate.
We have all been that older brother from time to time — appalled at God’s generosity and hospitality toward those we would rather hate. We all want to be that special child of God — with the luxury of looking down on our younger — less moral — brothers and sisters. The true celebration will begin when our right wing brothers and sisters decided to stop brooding on the porch, or plotting our destruction, and instead come on in and have some cake.