At this very moment the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the first of two cases this week on same-sex marriage. But no matter how the Court rules, the question of same-sex marriage has been settled. A solid majority of Americans now say they are just fine with it, and that is the decision which will rule the future of the issue.
This is an amazing turn-around in just a couple of years. As recently as 2004, George W supposedly won Ohio, and thus the presidency, because an anti-same-sex marriage measure was on the ballot. (There's a question, of course, as to whether Bush actually won Ohio or stole it in 2004.) After 2004, people across America continued until almost now to tell pollsters they disapproved of same-sex marriage by about 2-to-1. Now that number has flipped. Almost overnight Americans have changed their minds and now accept same-sex marriage overwhelmingly. Even a majority of younger Republicans have changed their minds.
Americans saw that the issue wasn't really about sex and Old Testament proscriptions but about love. They saw couples in San Francisco joyously marrying in the mayor's office in the brief opportunity before Prop 8 fell like an axe. They saw brides clutching flowers and beaming. Who could resist those beaming smiles? They saw old couples who had been together for a lifetime, clutching each other and weeping for a joy long deferred. They saw families gathered around the wedding couples, grateful that there was now someone committed to taking care of their brother or sister or child for all the years ahead, that one of their own beloved had found someone to love and cherish.
Love is powerful. It lasts beyond death. It can summon any sacrifice. It can endow strength. My mother once lifted an automobile because it had fallen on my father. My daughter once tutored a Vietnamese girl in college who had, at the age of eight, gotten her six-year-old sister all across war-torn Vietnam and onto a little open boat and then a big boat headed for America. She had gotten no help. She had to fight her way. But she could because she had her sister to care for, because of love.
Love is the burden that makes us free. When we love our family member or friend or community, it sets us free. We are empowered to let go of anger, hurt feelings, disappointment, even fear. Love doesn't blind us; it let's us see very clearly the worth and wonder of other people.
So strong and shining are the tv images of same-sex couples getting married that some of that love has just jumped off the screens and into the hearts of the American people. Hey, we love too! And we think we love you, you happy folks there getting married. You're not different. You're the same. Because love is the same. It's uncontrollably contagious, like suppressed laughter at a funeral. And those joyful smiles at all those same-sex weddings now light the hearts of most of us. As the song says, "I've had a love of my own..."
So it's settled now, no matter what the Supreme Court does. The GOP, the right wing, and the evangelicals will all battle on a bit more, but it's over. Already the GOP is backing off, while Ralph Reed and Gary Bauer, barnacles on the back of the evangelical movement, are screaming that the polls are not reliable (remind you of Karl Rove during the election?). Maybe the evangelicals will be discouraged enough that they will go back to their traditional pre-1980 role of staying out of politics, but that may be too much to hope for.
So hate may hang on for a while. North Carolina's Rep. Virginia Foxx (R) will continue to say that Matthew Shepard wasn't a victim of a hate crime as a homosexual but was killed in the course of a robbery. Somehow this makes ultra-conservatives feel better and gives them grounds to fight legislation that would protect against sex-based hate crimes. What kind of people get their highs out of hatred and fear? Little people. Frightened people.
This week commemorates important events in two major religions. Both events are about freedom and change. I speak of Passover and Easter. In one, the people flee slavery across forty years; in the other the teacher shows the way to freedom within through love. For thousands of years humans have resisted - even tried to destroy - these beneficent forces. But the Jews are still here, while Jesus who hung from a cross still inspires. And the image of Matthew Shepard, arms outstretched along a barbed wire fence, yet haunts us. His death too marked a change, an awakening.
Change is frightening but come it will. Those most frightened, the old white folks, will keep dying off. Since I'm 77 I'm taking lots of them with me to the grave! And thus I shall die smiling!
A final word about love, if I may: Hugh Grant's voice-over in the film "Love, Actually" says something rather important. It says that if you listen to the voices from the Twin Towers and the hijacked planes on 9/11, no one is leaving messages of anger or hate. They are all of them conveying messages of love.
Love is indeed powerful. May you too walk in its shining path. And invite some folks to join you.
It's a very wide path.