Today’s post is written by the Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle, minister of the Bay Area Unitarian Universalist Church in Houston, Texas. He is also a retired naval officer, former university professor, marathon runner, and triathlete. Matt and his wife Gail have two children, Alex (16) and Andy (11).
On Valentines Day, as I have done for several years, I will again co-officiate Houston’s Freedom to Marry wedding ceremony where as many as fifty gay and lesbian couples will get married. Every time I participate in this ceremony, or conduct an individual wedding ceremony for a same-sex couple, I am brought back to the holy in a unique way. Of course, the holy is present at every wedding. To facilitate the public profession of the sacred bond of love between two people is a deep honor and privilege. But to marry a couple whose profession is most often ignored and rejected by society at large comes with additional responsibility and accountability–responsibility to work tirelessly for the day when discrimination is neither legislated by the government nor perpetuated by ignorance–accountability to God and to humanity that all souls are able to live with equal freedoms and without fear.
Whenever I perform same-sex wedding, I say the following:
Although the State of Texas does not yet recognize marriage between same-sex couples, this is in no way diminishes the union we celebrate today. This couple is formalizing their commitment today not before the laws of the state, but before the loving witness of each other, of their families and friends, and before that which is holy and sacred to them in their love for one another. All love is holy. The bonds of marriage are unique that two people, who began their lives apart, find one another and recognize the joy they experience in one another. In our society, the romantic bond of love between two women or between two men is usually received with misunderstanding, fear, and constant discrimination. Love in the face of such obstacles is tested unlike that of most couples. This love has to be even stronger in the face of adversity, this is indeed a sacred bond of a very special love.
And yet, I am saddened every time I say these words because I shouldn’t have to. I am saddened that fear and disdain of the other perpetuates such discrimination. Human beings are naturally afraid of what they don’t understand. Most heterosexuals don’t understand what it means to be gay. I always recommend asking a gay or lesbian person about their lives. If you think you don’t know anyone, think again. They are in your neighborhood, at work, at school, in line at the grocery store with their families, and sitting next to you in church. Most of them will tell you that they are afraid too. They are afraid of losing their jobs, their children, their homes, their extended families and friends, or worse. They are afraid of being the victims of violent hate crimes. Sadly, there is more than enough evidence to support all of their fears. Ironically, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support being afraid of homosexuality or what might happen if marriage was a universal right between two loving people.
I can’t understand why anyone would deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Because they can’t procreate together? Neither can many heterosexual couples, but we allow them to marry. Because homosexuality is a sin? Even if it was, all of us have sinned, and should think twice before throwing stones. But homosexuality is not a sin. It is not a choice. It is not a lifestyle. If you don’t understand this, think about when you decided to be heterosexual. Chances are you never decided. Being heterosexual is simply who you are. Everyone falls in love and everyone should have the same right to solemnize and legalize their loving, healthy, and monogamous relationship. Should we deny same-sex marriage because it threatens traditional marriage? No. Honoring lifelong love and commitment between two people does not weaken, but strengthens, the institution of marriage regardless of whether they are man and woman, man and man, or woman and woman.
Freedom to marry for all loving couples is not only a step toward building a beloved community–it is a step away from the fear that grips our lives.
For those who will respond to this post with their own disdain, using as absolute authority either scripture or research to deny marriage equality (as folks always do when I have the audacity to promote the virtue of love and equality), I ask you to try something different this time. Here are some suggestions:
- Come to the ceremony on Valentines Day (or go to one in your area if you are not in Houston).
- Talk deeply with your gay family member or friend (you do have one) about their lives.
- Go see the movie “Milk.”
- Rent or buy the documentary, “For the Bible Tells Me So.”
In short, do anything that is an authentic step toward loving your neighbor and loving your enemy as yourself and learning about someone who is different than you before you see fit to condemn them.
This entry was reprinted from Rev. Dr. Matt Tittle’s blog “Keep The Faith,” which is hosted by the Houston Chronicle.