Yesterday I had the honor of officiating the marriage of two wonderful women. Each had children from previous relationships and they came together to celebrate this blessed union. I realized that more and more people are understanding that regardless of one’s sexuality, the sanctity of love between two committed individuals is worthy of deep respect and gratitude. Our world is slowly changing and although we are not “there” yet, we are certainly further than we’ve ever been and for that I thank G-d. Love has the power to change this world one person at a time and I’m so blessed to be able to witness that during moments like this.
Three Blocks to the Promised Land
Have you ever held the hand of your spouse in public before? Until April 28th I hadn’t. It wasn’t because I dislike public displays of affection nor was it because I never wanted to. It was simply because up until that day I have never felt safe enough to do so. You see, my spouse and I are two of the plaintiffs in the recent Supreme Court case for Marriage Equality. Being from the South, I know the violent consequences of same-sex couples simply holding hands. For our safety, we and many other same-sex couples learned earlier on in life to hide any indication that we are couples while in public. Yet the morning of April 28th was different because we felt equal and had sense of dignity for who God had created us to be. It was an experience I can’t put into words except to say it was a sacred moment.
For three blocks on our walk up to the Supreme Court with the other plaintiffs I held the hand of my spouse in world that was changing before our eyes. We held our heads high, smiling from ear to ear and it felt incredible! Approaching the court, we could see crowds of marriage equality supporters applauding and cheering for all of us. I’d never experienced being affirmed like that and I could see the reflection of God in the faces of the LGBT folk and allies lining the sidewalk. Some of them cried and patted our shoulders. As we entered the courthouse, each of those precious brothers and sisters were with us in spirit, their hopes, their dreams, and their faith intertwined with ours in this historic case for civil rights.
Waiting with the other plaintiffs to be led into the courtroom, I felt God’s comforting presence as a kind African American bailiff around seventy years old greeted us. He was in charge of taking folk into the court and seating them. I asked him his name and he smiled and said, “Moses.” Some will say that was a mere coincidence but not us. It was one more reminder that we weren’t alone. Our loving God had delivered us to the very place that had the legal authority to help create a promised land of equality in these United States of America. Egypt was behind us and weren’t going back.
Moses escorted us all into the courtroom. We stood as the Supreme Court justices entered. It was a surreal moment seeing those larger-than-life individuals sitting right in front you, each looking very serious in their black robe. We sat through the hearing for Question 1 on licensure , listening to attorneys argue for and against our rights as some of the justices questioned the validity of our request for marriage equality. For ninety minutes we heard other people discussing whether our love was in essence, equal to that of heterosexual couples, and therefore worthy of the same 1,400 rights and benefits that marriage brings. It was difficult to sit there and say nothing when your life was being discussed by folk, who for the most part, had never experienced what it’s like to be homosexual in homophobic world.
When court hearing was adjourned, I knew in my heart we’d won the argument. Gathering with all the other plaintiffs, we walked out into the sunlight. The crowds of supporters erupted with overwhelming applause. The floodwall that had held back my churning emotions broke loose and I began to cry. Making our way onto the plaza below I heard an angry set of voices screaming, “You’re all going to hell you fags!” I glanced over to see a man gripping a bible in one hand and a bullhorn in the other, surrounded by angry people shouting obscenities. As they continued to yell epithets at us, I felt the old wounds of homophobia begin to throb in my heart but then something happened. Like the Red Sea parting thousands of years ago, the power of God’s inclusive love broke forth making a way as the thousands of supporters began chanting soft at first but then louder, louder, and louder saying, “Love will win!”, “Love will win!”, “Love will win!” Their chants completely drowned out the hate and lifted our hearts above the pain so that we could know at last what equality felt like.
Coming back to Kentucky was bittersweet. It’s hard returning to place where you’re still not equal and feel unsafe holding the hand of your spouse in public. This is the current reality for LGBT folk but like the old spiritual says, “I’m so glad trouble don’t last always.” God is surely bringing equality but as wait and pray, Dominique and I will forever remember how incredible it felt holding each other’s hand as we walked the three blocks to the Promised Land. Have faith brothers and sisters, love will win! Amen
The bus ride down through Kentucky to Illinois was filled with anticipation and focused determination. I made final edits to Sarah and Kristy’s wedding liturgy and spoke with them about how important this marriage was going to be to the thousands of same-sex couples who were still denied the civil right to marriage in their home state of Kentucky. These two women were making history and I knew G-D was leading us in every step. The event was so powerful that I found myself having trouble taking it all in and being able to appreciate the moments that were passing me by like the landscape out the bus window.
The marriage took place in a small park in Metropolis, Illinois under the most beautiful sky you could imagine. Immediately afterward, we all entered the Massac County Courthouse and turned in the marriage license. The clerk then gave Sarah and Kristy their legal marriage certificate. The celebration began and we didn’t stop until the bus rolled back into Louisville some 3 1/2 hours later. The depressing fact was that crossing that river back into Kentucky brought with it the fact that gay couples had absolutely no rights to marriage in their home state. Yet we keep on fighting.
Hope is the shadow of love, cast by the light of G-D that never sets. We put all of our hope in the love that refuses to accept inequality, discrimination, and bigotry. Times are changing and we are so ready.