It is a curious oddity that perhaps the most progressive state in the USA does not support marriage equality for same sex couples. I adamantly hold to the premise that civil rights should not be subject to popular vote. To allow any majority to impose their will on any minority group’s civil rights is just not right. That is the fallacy of prop 8.
Looking beyond California, the Prop 8 campaign has had major impact in the New England states where legislatures have legalized same sex marriage. California raised the conscience and awareness of marriage equality to people across the nation. Alas, California’s pain has made great inroads across the country. There is no doubt in my mind that California will be recognizing same sex marriages within the next two years.
I have worked on GLBT inclusion and clergy rostering issues within the Lutheran Church for many years. Northeast Ohio has not been the most welcoming of place for GLBT families. Our synod GLBT task force has spent 8+ years on working for change within the Church so that all are welcome and treated fairly across the synod. It has been disheartening to see GLBT oriented resolutions soundly defeated at synod assemblies year after year.
Few weeks back I witnessed a fundamental shift in Northeast Ohio. I coauthored a resolution with another gay layperson and a pastor asking the synod to pray for and seek a continual dialogue within the synod to better understand the lives, relationships and rostering of GLBT people and their relationship with the Church. When the resolution came to the floor for discussion, I was amazed by the supportive testimony of many people at the microphones. There were the normal suspects speaking against the resolution and unsuccessfully attempting to weaken it with amendments. What was most impressive was the flow of speakers, unknown to our task force, who came forward and spoke in its favor. The resolution passed handily with about 75% of the vote.
At the same assembly, a pastor submitted a resolution denouncing violence and discrimination of GLBT people. This resolution had been introduced by the GLBT task force in 2008 and was soundly defeated. This year the resolution received much positive testimony. Even more amazing was that it was amended to spell out gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in the resolution. It was also amended to direct the synod to publicize the passage of this resolution in any press release. The resolution passed with about the same 75% affirmative vote.
What does the above story tell us? The fight for GLBT rights is a slow continual process. Our synod task force continued to introduce resolutions and participate in the assembly resource fair for years even though the assembly participants rejected our resolutions. What I have witnessed over the years is the increasing acceptance of and dialogue with folks at our display table. People are more comfortable discussing GLBT issues and understand the importance of welcoming GLBT people in the Church. The passage of two pro-GLBT resolutions at the assembly only serves to support this shift.
I believe the same holds true for people working on behalf of marriage equality. The shift may not be obvious now, but it is underway. I believe that there should be a division of civil and secular marriage. The reality is that secular marriage influences the laws surrounding civil marriage in our country. For civil marriage to become law, society needs too understand the fundamental difference between secular and civil marriage. This takes time and education. Time is on the side of those supporting marriage equality. More and more people now understand that civil marriage is a civil right. Again, it’s all about civil rights and has nothing to do with religion.