Six thousand Americans will die today. Many will be seniors who suffer a stroke, end their battle with cancer, or drift away peacefully after a long decline. Others are younger and will go suddenly–in a car accident or after slipping on a banana peel on the top of a subway stairwell.
Life is unpredictable. Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last is a motto drilled into us–though we do a poor job absorbing it.
I thought about that this weekend while reading the graceful tributes to Mothers & Grandmothers everywhere. Many expressed gratitude for those still around; others lit candles while remembering those gone.
All that outpouring of love made me think–as I do often–about marriage.
With three states passing marriage equality laws in two weeks, most assume that nationwide marriage equality is “just a matter of time.” I agree. But time matters.
Because six thousand people die every day. Mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, wives, husbands…fiances…”partners.”
One of the most common excuses that wavering lawmakers squeak in opposition to equality is: Why are we talking about this now? There are more important things to deal with. We need to “create jobs;” gay marriage can wait. There are a dozen issues that come first.
We are hearing this in Illinois right now, as certain members wiggle to convince themselves that there are logical reasons to oppose equality besides “some religious people in my district don’t like it.” Obviously, this argument is a dodge. Legislators always consider dozens of issues at once.
Much more importantly, however, the argument completely misses the reason why gay couples and the growing number of passionate allies are fighting for equality now: We don’t know how much time we have.
Every day people lose the chance to have their mother walk them down the aisle, be kissed on the cheek by their father, or have their grandmother sit in the front row, watch her grandchild say his vows, and consider how large her legacy has grown over the last fifty years.
This Issue Is Different
Many other political issues are “more important” — Pension costs, tax rates, education reform, the healthcare system…
But make no mistake: They are different.
We all have the same goal in mind with those issues: a better healthcare system, a better education system, more secure financial footing. Even those who are political opposites have the same big-picture end-game–they just have vastly different ideas about how to get there.
Marriage equality is different. The two sides do not have the same goal. One side believes that gay couples should be treated the same as their straight counterparts. The other side does not.
When Rosa Parks stood firm in 1955, the only issue at stake was a seat on a bus. Seating arrangements in Montgomery were of little importance when we had communism to fight, tax rates to set, and education to fund, right?
The importance of political issues are dictated by the principles that underlie them. The Civil Rights movement was important, but not because bus seating in Montgomery affected people more than avoiding nuclear holocaust with the Soviets. Marriage equality is important, but not because allowing gay couples to marry affects more people than pension reform..or healthcare…or taxes.
In the United States, Equality is always important. Very important. Critical.
When citizens do not have equal protection under the law, we fix it. We don’t wait until everything else is perfect. We don’t say that we will get to it after we pass an education bill or pension reform measure. We do it now. Right now. Because now is all we have for sure.
But also because everyone wants Grandma at their wedding. Or the chance to have a wedding at all.
When I am finally able to get married…in five years…in a decade…in fifteen years…who won’t be there? Will I even make it? I’m quite clumsy.
Nothing is more important than Now.
The vote may happen in the next week or two in Illinois. We may be only a single vote short. Please take one moment to send a final message to your Illinois representative and remind them that delay is unacceptable. Today is all we are guaranteed. Equality cannot wait: CONTACT INFORMATION HERE
Just like Rio de Janiero stole our 2016 Summer Olympics, it looks like another South American country (damn Argentina!) has swiped our chance at the first American Pope. This week the archbishop (“really big bishop”) of Buenos Aires was magically transformed into Pope Francis I (do we even use I or do the numbers start at II?). Catholic friends whose judgment I trust are reportedly happy about this development as Francis will be the first Latin American vicar of Christ–and a Jesuit to boot! Most of my Catholic friends are Jesuits, so obviously their opinion is biased.
Confession: I attended a Jesuit law school. I even took a small law school class led by a Jesuit priest with whom I had a private lunch at Ralph Lauren. He paid. Long story short, my opinion on the matter is also suspect. I wouldn’t blame you if you stop reading now because this blog post was being written at the command of my Jesuit masters. I’m easily bought.
I digress. Being a one-dimensional person, upon hearing the glorious news of the Pope’s naming (how we survived a few days without a Pope still baffles), I immediately Googled to get his opinion on gay rights. I know what you’re thinking. That’s like Googling to find out which of the Dixie Chicks is the talented one. The answer is obvious: all of them. Why bother Googling Pope candidates on gay rights. They are all against it. That’s what you were thinking, wasn’t it? And you’d be right. But I didn’t know that at the time, so cut me some slack.
After a Google search that returned 250,000,000 items and took .13 seconds I learned from the Huffington Post:
In 2010 Bergoglio said about a gay marriage bill in Argentina that “At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”
He went on to describe it as a “‘move of the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.” In John 8:44, the Father of Lies is the devil.
I wasn’t expecting an archbishop who has “Gay Pride Parade Grand Marshal” on his (“her” is not a pronoun that could ever apply here) resume. But I was at least hoping for a guy who was a little more subdued on the sexual issues. Dreams shattered.
Normally I could pick up the pieces after this disappointment by remembering: “I’m not Catholic, so what the hell do I care what their leader says?”
But I couldn’t shake it off this time. Why? Because I read news like this on the same day that Bergoglio became Francis:
[In a discussion about the prospects for the gay marriage bill in the Illinois House]…One House Democrat I talked with last week wants to vote for gay marriage, but his strongly Catholic wife is absolutely, completely dead set against it.
Read that sentence again and then take a moment to bang your head against the nearest solid object four or five times (whatever number seems appropriate to you). What should I discuss: why it is idiotic for a legislator to vote to deny equal rights because his wife says so OR why it is idiotic for a legislator to vote to deny equal rights because one particular Church doctrine thinks those people are influenced by the devil? I don’t have time to discuss both. I’ll just go with the church one, because this whole post is mostly about Popes.
Believe it or not this anonymous Democratic legislator’s wife is not the only Catholic working to ensure gay couples are never allowed to marry. For example, Chicago’s own archbishop, Cardinal Francis George (totally different Francis) penned a letter which said:
[Allowing gay marriage would force people to] “pretend to accept something that is contrary to the common sense of the human race.”
Sheesh Cardinal Francis George, tell me how you really feel. I don’t recall every saying a bad word about you…at least before this post. You’ll be happy to know that after reading your thoughtful letter I sat down and seriously contemplated whether the most important, intimate relationship of my life was indeed “contrary to the common sense of the human race.” And while I cannot speak for the rest of the human race, for my own sake I concluded that you were full of shit.
Making matters worse (I’m no longer writing as if I’m talking to the Cardinal), this letter was required to be read in virtually all Catholic churches in Illinois. Besides talking about the human race, it called on parishioners–everyday Catholics; good folks–to call their legislators to ensure that state law only allows people to get married if the Catholic church deems them worthy (divorced people?).
So where are we now?
Awaiting a final vote in the Illinois House which would end one more vestige of enshrined legal discrimination. But depending on who you talk to we are either one or five or ten or twelve votes behind. Everyone agrees that it’s a bit shaky.
Keep in mind, this is in a chamber made up of 71 Democrats when only 60 votes are needed for passage. Even if we assume that not a single Republican will do the right thing (*sigh*), that still means that one to two dozen Illinois Democrats are prepared to permanently put their names in the history books with a vote for discrimination. (In a few decades I’m sure they will have good excuses worked up for why they had no backbone when it counted most).
What on earth are they thinking? My guess: they are scared of angry church letters. And wives. It’s mostly the wives fault. Which is why I have taken a vow to never marry a woman.
P.S. In all seriousness, I do wish Pope Francis the best. May he use the position he’s been given to heal more people on the planet than he harms.
P.P.S. Statistics actually show that wives generally support marriage equality at far higher rates than husbands.
Andrew Sullivan has long been my favorite mega-blogger. His online audience is so huge, however, that it often seems silly to parrot things he says. It’s like posting something said by Oprah because she needs help spreading the word. Kind of unneccessary. Yet, I like his stream of conscious comments today summing up his role in making hay about gay rights matters..
It’s that last point that brings this home. A gay couple can be together for thirty years and still be regarded as total strangers by their own government and by their own president and their own Speaker. They can be denied access to hospitals, thrown out of shared apartments if one of them dies, barred from the funerals of their spouses, and denied over one thousand federal benefits. They can be forced to testify against one another in court, or be forced to leave the country in order to have a stable home if one of them is an immigrant. […]