Edited to fix the typos resulting from being on painkillers while writing. Stupid kidney stones…
The Supreme Court of the United States handed down two decisions of great interest to me today: one on a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, and one on the legality of California’s Prop 8. The result of both of these was, for the most part, a favorable one. Despite the largely positive outcome however, the rulings, and the resulting “dialogue,” have left me feeling both happy, and a little sad.
Five years ago this month, I walked into (and shortly thereafter out of) an LDS Sunday service for the last time. Prop 8, which would end up passing in California just a few months later, was heavily in the news, and I was torn between two worlds. I was a gay man trying to find his place in a church that was actively engaged in preventing gay men and women from receiving equal legal standing in the eyes of the State of California.
That Fathers day, I sat in Sacrament meeting, listening to young men, young women, children, and wives extoll the virtues of fatherhood and having a priesthood presence in the home, and it finally struck me: you will NEVER belong here. No matter how hard you try, you will always be an outsider, a potential liability, a project, and a failure in the eyes of this culture. I sat in the chapel overflow, miserable and depressed, and I remember having a distinct and clear though: “It’s time to move on. You’ve tried your best, and God is pleased with your efforts. He also knows that you’re not happy here. There is no need to put yourself through this torture any longer.” It was the closest thing to a personal revelation I have ever experienced. And so, in the middle of the service, I stood up, exited the chapel, walked to my car, and never returned.
Over the five intervening years, I have watched a massive and awe-inspiring shift in the public acceptance of gay men and women by a burgeoning portion of our society. As someone who used to be terrified of anyone discovering my orientation, I am regularly astonished at how many people now consider homosexuality simply to be a non-issue. Where telling someone you were gay used to be (and, to be fair, sometimes still is) a major ordeal with uncertain consequences, oftentimes an “I am gay” pronouncement these days is treated with the same gravitas as “I got a haircut” or “I’m wearing a blue shirt.” Most people just don’t seem to care one way or the other. To see this shift is heartening, and brings me peace. Were Prop 8 brought to a vote today, I do not believe that it would pass, even were the same millions of dollars and tens of thousands of man hours dedicated to its cause once again. The winds of change are blowing, and for that, I am deeply grateful.
I continue to feel a sense of loss over my departure from the spiritual stomping grounds of my youth. Far from being bitter or angry, however, I am simply saddened by the religious teachings of many “Christian” faiths that gay people aren’t complete, can’t be spiritually whole, and can’t be happy. I am saddened that spiritual gay men and women aren’t being welcomed into full fellowship, and that the continuing dogma of homosexuality as spiritual bankruptcy continues.
Even the carefully worded response of the LDS Church to the Supreme Court decision came across as sour grapes and veiled insults, wrapped in a see-through lace teddy of civility. I understand that change is slow within the workings of the church, particularly when being led by a handful of octogenarian white men who use fear of the changing world as a motivator for obedience and righteousness. I understand it, but it saddens me. I wish the change that I can see happening in the younger generations of the believers, in the progressives and the liberals, in the unheralded minorities, could work its way into the general attitude of Christians faster than the decades it will take the next several generations to ascend to positions of leadership and then pass on. In the meantime, I will take what little peace I can from the knowledge that things are changing. Glacially, perhaps. But they are changing.
And on a more personal level, how do these rulings affect me in my life right now? Not at all. I’m not married. I’m not even dating. Hell, I can barely get anyone to return a ping on Match.com. But I am grateful for the hard-fought steps forward being made so that Tim and Ken, Wayne and Mark, Eric and Clay, Lauren and Tia, and a whole host of other wonderful, loving, devoted, and caring couples can enjoy not only the same legal status and protections in this great country of ours, but that those loving relationships can be they can be accepted and honored by the law of the land as well. And I and grateful that, if I am ever fortunately enough to find someone with whom I can share my life, I may be able to take advantage of this progress.
To quote the great song: “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”