Rev. Keith Kron is the Director of the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Concerns at the UUA. A graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry, he spent nine years as an elementary school teacher in Lexington, KY. He collects children’s books and plays tennis.
I grew up pretty much like a lot of folks. I was repeatedly reminded to tuck in my shirt, or at the very least, untuck all of it. I went to church. I anxiously awaited my new copy of Sports Illustrated in every Friday’s mail. I vegged out by watching M*A*S*H* and way too many reruns of Gilligan’s Island. I was taken care of by parents who assured me I could grow up to be anything I wanted to be and would some day fall in love and get married.
My parents, like so many, did not know they were lying. Like most people they assumed I would fall in love with a woman and get married. At 14, it would be my subscription to Sports Illustrated that would be the awakening of a different reality.
Sitting on my grandmother’s couch, looking at the pictures of the Boston Red Sox’s two star outfielders, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, it hit me. This wasn’t just admiration, it was a crush. And there went my parents’ promise out the window. At the time I didn’t worry about whether or not I could get married, but whether or not I could keep quiet about my sexual orientation and avoid harassment, violence, institutionalization and deprogramming until my adulthood. Then perhaps I could find my center fielder and live a quiet life with my “best friend.” That seemed the best I could hope for in 1975 in Kentucky.
Now, I hope for more. Youth still get harassed, attacked, institutionalized, and “deprogrammed”, but there are also role models of couples who’ve gotten married in several states and Canada, gay characters on television and in the movies, and a far greater acceptance than I might have thought would ever be possible at fourteen.
It’s progress. But progress is not equality. And it won’t happen until full marriage is welcomed for same-sex couples.
The current marriage debate hinges for me on two arguments:
1) Marriage is about love.
2) People should be treated equally and fairly.
The first statement is a newer thing. Shakespeare was way ahead of his time. Throughout most of human history, marriage was an arrangement between families, often as much about how many goats a family might get through an arranged marriage (or whatever might make families more prosperous) and rarely about love. In these times, which still exist in parts of the world, sexual orientation really didn’t matter. You weren’t marrying because someone caught the glimmer of your eye and stole your heart. You married because it was arranged. In some places where it wasn’t about money, people didn’t even bother to get married.
But somewhere along the line, marriage became about the heart—and not just the Disney kind, but the kind where a person agreed to be with someone over time, to take care of the other person, to be a constant. That’s been a common belief here in the United States for over 100 years.
The second statement is also a newer thing. Even our constitution says “All Men are created equal.” It’s only recently that many of us have begun believing in the value of treating all people equally because we are inherently equal. Women, people of color, people with disabilities and many others still face inequality.
Yet if you believe that this is the goal and if you believe that marriage is about love, then how can you not support marriage for same-sex couples?
When I realized my crush as a 14 year old, one of the leading arguments against equal rights for women was that it would permit same-sex couples to marry. But Unitarian Universalism was already coming from a different place. In 1975, our faith had created, funded, and staffed a small office to do work on homophobia. We had passed a resolution supporting nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and had included the issue in our sexuality education for youth. Now some 34 years later, we see the results of this in our congregations and in our lives. Actually, some of our ministers even began performing ceremonies for same sex couples before 1975.
A current look at what 34 years of work on homophobia has reaped. We have many valued openly b/g/l/t ministers, welcome families with same sex parents, over 60% of our congregations explicitly welcome b/g/l/t members, and they were instrumental in helping to legalize same sex marriage in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Our congregations have grown and prospered. Our children are not only unharmed by this, but now they understand that children can grow up in families with all kinds of parents. As one UU college student put it, after being asked why she was supporting the rights of b/g/l/t people, “I grew up a UU. It’s my religion.”
The sky has yet to fall, not only in Unitarian Universalism but also in Massachusetts. The only difference one can see in Massachusetts since the 2004 beginning of same-sex marriages is that my beloved Boston Red Sox have won not one but two World Series. (The Patriots and Celtics also have championships since 2004.)
In fact, our families seem to be strengthened by having same-sex couples and b/g/l/t people in our midst, where children can talk about loving their two dads or their Aunts Jane and Lisa. Our youth are less anxious about sex and sexual orientation and more likely to talk about loving someone, and our adults are advocating for full equality for all people.
During Freedom to Marry Week, each of us can speak out in conversations with neighbors and friends, at work and with our families about marriage being about love and equal rights for all people—working toward a day when we can truthfully tell all our children that they will some day grow up, fall in love, become a responsible adult, and get married.
It’s our religion.