I’m delighted and fascinated by the huge shifts in support of Gay Marriage. 58% of Americans now favor marriage equality. The shift to over 50% wasn’t that long ago … and in 1988 only 13% approved! That is a huge shift in a relatively short period of time. NPR reports that this kind of change is not due to generational shifts; that is, those against Gay marriage didn’t all get old and die. Demographics in population cannot explain this much of a change in a relatively short span of time. The truth is that people actually changed their minds. That’s what I find fascinating. We changed our minds. At a time when we are so polarized on political issues and it seems as if there’s no negotiation, when we define ourselves as pro-this or anti-that, when our Facebook statuses and shares are more about telling our friends what we think and supporting our stance than it is about discussion and dialogue … we changed our minds! Wow!
I hesitate to use the inclusive “we” here, though … because … I’m one of the 1988 13%. I didn’t change my mind. In fact, I my greatest hope is that I have the courage of character to change my mind on important human issues when called upon. I didn’t change my mind, but I did come to my opinion quite like everyone else. I knew and loved people who are Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgendered and Questioning (GLBTQ).
In High School my best friend was bisexual. We didn’t talk about it openly much. But, I figured it out, despite my conservative religious upbringing and reputation for naiveté. We were best friends, after all, and we talked about religion, about our futures, about right and wrong, about what mattered most in life. We shared our pains and our struggles (most of them) over love and loss. I was curiously naive, though, I questioned … even in my spiritual journey I questioned “why?” all the time. I’m sure it drove my pastor crazy. “Because the Bible says so.” was never a good enough answer for me. It caused a lot of guilt and pain, but I kept struggling. God is bigger than our human existence, God is loving, God cares deeply for us and we should care deeply for others.
All of this led me to know in my heart … that God cares about people who are GLBTQ … their pain is often caused by the hostility of the church, by the shame that becomes internalized in them, by the anger that they cannot share the kind of relationship that is as fully committed in the eyes of the law and of God as heterosexual men and women can. That pain and the awesome possibilities is what God responds to. I saw pain and frustration and fullness and imagination in my good friend. And a few years later, I saw all of that in my own brother.
Loving someone, knowing their pain and frustrations, longing with them and seeing the world a little more from their perspective us what changes us. Seeing their goodness and knowing their beauty is all part of love. This kind of dramatic shift of opinion doesn’t come from academic studies or rational debates; it comes from relationships. It’s not something we decide to change, but it’s something that changes us. Love changes our mind.
In the late 1980’s I made the commitment to my brother that if he ever found a man to commit his life to, I would be willing to risk my career to perform that wedding. I meant it … and I mean it … I hope and pray that one day my “little” brother will be able to share the same fullness of love and commitment as I do with Dwayne. I will continually pray for wisdom and for rationality for our supreme court justices this week … but I also pray for love. Let them allow their love to change the law … just as it changes us.