Edie Windsor at NYC Pride June 30, 2013
Edie Windsor is the awe-inspiring 84-year-old woman from the now infamous “United States v. Windsor” Supreme Court case. I hope you were able to spend some time this week watching the celebrations of those most closely impacted by the rulings in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. I was an emotional wreck watching speech after tear-jerking speech. In an historic victory this week, Edie’s 40-year relationship with her late partner was finally given the validation and dignity it deserves as SCOTUS voted to strike down discriminatory parts of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). During her post-ruling-announcement speech, Edie said something that still gives me chills…
“It’s the beginning of the end of stigma. Of lying about who we are. I think it’s the end of suicides. I think it’s the end of teenagers falling in love and not knowing that there’s a future for them, with love.”
I can’t help but also think about this through a spiritual lens. Is it truly the beginning of the end of stigma? What about religious stigma? Here is an article that collected some of the official religious responses to the SCOTUS rulings. I was pleasantly surprised to see some very positive reactions. And not so surprised to see some others.
“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth that marriage is between a man and a woman. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to witness to this truth.” -United States Conference of Catholic Bishop
“We are devastated that the Supreme Court succumbed to political pressure by voting to weaken the sacred institution… This ruling will only accelerate the further erosion of our communities and society… It is time for African-Americans and the Christian community to rise up and renew their efforts to protect marriage and strengthen the families in their communities. African-Americans pay a disproportionate price as collateral damage of the aggressive gay agenda, and it will take leaders across the country to resist the cultural shift on marriage.” -Coalition of African-American Pastors
Although disappointing, the first quote did not surprise me. The second quote probably stood out to me most due to some recent discussion (in the fallout of the VRA decision) about the need for collaboration across identities. I highly recommend that you take a quick read of a blog post by a great friend and mentor, Dr. D-L Stewart, in which he states: “We had better figure out what it means to be an ally, what it means to work in solidarity, what it means to see how oppressive systems intersect to reinforce and support each other. We had better learn how to work for each other’s interests with the understanding and acceptance that ‘their’ interests should be/must be/are OUR interests.” What would it mean, I wonder, if the Coalition could instead act in solidarity with the equality effort in the name of love and human dignity?
While there is much to be celebrated and still so much yet to be done on behalf of the LGBT community, I think spiritual inclusivity and queer faith may be one of the last frontiers of this “stigma” that Edie speaks of. Even as laws and protections continue to expand to all people, progress within many churches and faith communities themselves is still much slower. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, it’s both disheartening and destructive when spiritual advisors and trusted religious leaders are not the ones providing safe and loving spaces for marginalized folks.
Recently, a local church community called Collective asked me to sit on a discussion panel at an event they were hosting for high school and college students from Gay/Straight Alliance groups. I was able to share my faith journey and its connection to my coming-out story. I answered questions and was able to listen to the voices of students who identified as religious, atheist, and everything in between. It was such a meaningful experience for all of us! We need more of that. Props to Collective for creating that space and for so often welcoming me into leadership roles on their team. That’s a powerful thing.
For true advancement in queer faith, we need fewer arguments of a perceived “Christian minority” (great read here, by the way), and more open/affirming communities like Collective. We need more brave religious leaders like Derek Penwell who publish articles, asking important questions like, “What if gay kids had a church that loved them” (another great read). We need spiritual leaders who will ask the tough questions and advocate for inclusion. This is how lives are saved. This is how faith communities fulfill their purpose. This is how we come to feel safe, secure, and worthy of love. This is what gives us permission to pursue spiritual growth. Permission to serve, to give. Permission to believe.
Included in the same quotes from the beginning of this post was another, more hopeful remark about the recent SCOTUS decisions:
“Today’s rulings will allow more people of all faiths to see what we in the Episcopal Church have seen for decades: Same-sex couples and their families are evidence of the goodness of God’s creation. They bless our congregations and communities immeasurably, and we have all learned from their steadfast love for one another and the evidence of God’s goodness that they show us. We are not done yet. We will not be done until the laws of the entire land and the whole church of God recognize the dignity of every human being and the equality of all faithful couples. Today, however, we are closer to the justice God calls us to seek.” -The Episcopal Church
Many battles have been won. Many battles are still ahead. The struggle for inclusion continues. And that struggle must include “the unutterable” (a previous post of mine) spiritual fight as well. What if we decided to challenge those faith community norms? What if we challenged that “stigma”? If we chose to only speak to one another in love and kindness? What if we chose to acknowledge the connectedness of every soul on earth, and to remember that (as Marin Luther King, Jr. teaches us), “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” …even within church walls. Big things happened this week because some people chose to fight for what they believed in. What if we also fought for believing in general? The right to believe. Even for LGBT folks.
In the spirit of victory, celebration, and continued advocacy… let me leave you with what Jon Stewart would call “a moment of zen!” Check out this live video of the wedding between two of the plaintiffs from the Prop 8 case! Thanks for listening to my ramblings and now get your tissues ready 🙂