Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Healing from Prop 8

Yesterday was a busy day for many leaders in the faith community. For those of us who serve congregations with Gay and Lesbian parishioners, it was a day of tending torn hearts, and helping people find their voice. For those in the Yes on 8 campaign, it was celebrating that discrimination could be so easily written into a state constitution to protect heterosexual superiority in California.

My day began with an Interfaith prayer service at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco, where we were encouraged to be hopeful and peaceful, whatever decision came down from the California Supreme Court. We then marched together, singing songs down to the Supreme Court building. There were already hundreds of people there by then, with signs both pro and con. So, we kept singing, supporting those present whose actual relationships were being decided upon by the court.

I was hopeful that the Supreme Court would invalidate Prop 8, as I believe they should have before the election. But their decision on the narrowest portion of the question of the referendum created three classes of people in California. Heterosexual couples, same-gender loving couples (who were fortunate enough to get married while available), and those same-gender loving couples who would like to marry but now cannot do so. Will these couples really have all the same protections of their rights that the other two classes now enjoy? They will not be able to file joint tax returns in California, though married same-gender loving couples are still not able to file jointly on their federal taxes. One married Lesbian friend mentioned how difficult it is to file taxes when they have to be prepared multiple ways to fill out the forms correctly.

The other item lost in the conversation is the portability of marriage rights. While an increasing number of states recognize the marriages of all from other states, for couples traveling in those that do not means that they go without hospital visitation rights or prepare a half-an inch thick wad of paper documentation to keep with them wherever they go. This is why genuine Marriage Equality will not be fully achieved until this civil right is recognized by the Federal Government.

So in the meantime, as a pastor, I find my role is two pronged. I must be available for my gay and lesbian parishioners during this time of grief and anger, and I must lend my voice and position to calling this country – and my denomination – to accept the full humanity of every citizen and member. This is why I joined the civil disobedience in the streets of San Francisco after the decision was made public. If the church cannot stand up for its own members and families, then how can we call ourselves the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. I am sure that there are those who don't understand why anyone would do this – or what difference this will every make – but at least I can sleep at night knowing where I was on that day. I was listening to the stories, hearing the pain, and walking in solidarity with those that the well-funded Christian Fundamentalists want to strip of their humanity. There is another way to follow in Christ's footsteps, and that is the way of the outcast, the foreigners, and the aliens.

Below is a brief video from the Contra Costa Times, which did an article on the different responses around the county. After this brief time out on the street, our group of 30 or so went into the church and had an opportunity to share about how it felt to hear the news. People who haven't set foot in a Christian church in years decided to join us for the conversation, because we decided to be the church and provide a sanctuary for them.

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