I was sitting at the airport gate, waiting to fly to Halifax. Breaking news on television: President Barack Obama announces his support for marriage equality. He is the first U.S. president to do so. Finally. Will I always remember where I was when this happened?
On my way home, I heard a Black preacher talk about public policy versus theology. That is the crux of the issue. Marriage is both a public policy and a theology. So the public policy must – yes, must – reflect equity. Same-sex couples … just like Whites and Blacks … must be able to marry in a court of law. Marriage is a civil act first. And all the benefits of the law – at the federal, state, and local levels – must be available to all.
Theology comes along after public policy. So your church or mosque or synagogue can say, “We won’t celebrate the marriage in our faith.” Fine. But couples who wish to marry don’t need to marry in your faith.
It’s too bad that the U.S. delegated marriages to faith groups. In France, for example, the legal marriage is in the civil courts. That’s public policy. After that legal act, couples can celebrate their marriage in their faith. But the faith celebration is a celebration only. It is not the legal marriage act.
Read Charles Blow’s “Liberty and Justice for All,” in the New York Times, May 9, 2012. “Today, we are an inch taller as a nation. Today, we are a mile closer to the ideals described in the Declaration of Independence. Today, we have been transported light-years beyond where many ever thought we would be. History will remember this president in this moment. He stood up for personal liberty and publicly affirmed what should have needed no affirmation: that in a just society the rights of some must be the rights of all, that we do not condemn those who love differently, that we are all made greater when we are all treated equally.”
Of course, any number of pundits wonder if this was the right thing to do at this time. After all, this is an election year. Pretty risky. Honestly, I worry that President Obama’s righteous proclamation will harm his election chances.
But I vote for leadership. I want to elect courageous leaders. As Mr. Blow said in his op-ed piece: “There is no wrong time to do the right thing. But the calculation of delay can erode the virtue of acting on what your conscience is telling you. The courage required in the present is greater than the comforts afforded by the future…. Leaders with vision understand this.”
Mr. Blow goes on to remind us of what Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffer, and struggle.”
A few days later, RI Senator Jack Reed, announced his support for marriage equality. Good for him. It’s tough in RI, this very Catholic of states. The Bishop of RI’s Catholic Diocese constantly rails against reproductive choice and marriage equality. I don’t remember him complaining so much about pedophilia in the Catholic church. Of course, the Pope doesn’t do that much either.
By the way, the vast majority of RI Catholics do believe in reproductive choice (and that includes artificial birth control). And lots of RI Catholics believe in marriage equality. I wonder how long the Catholic Church will maintain its hold over U.S. Catholics.