Well, if you’ve read my pastor’s perspectives for the past four years, you no doubt knew what I’d be thinking today–so I’ll (try and fail to) keep it short in order not to be overly superfluous. If you want more detail on what I think, you might find it here, here, and here.
Today the Supreme Court, by the narrowest of margins, finally settled a technical issue about legal recognition of marriages in 13 states that still had a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage that had the effect of legalizing gay marriage across the nation. We become the 21st nation in the world to recognize same sex marriage.
In answering whether the Constitution grants same-sex couples the right to marry, Justice Anthony Kennedy – considered the court’s key swing vote, and author of the majority opinion– based his decision on the recognition of four fundamental principles, arguing that marriage is inherent to the concept of individual autonomy, that it is of unparalleled importance to committed couples, that it is crucial for safeguarding the rights of the children of couples in committed relationships and that it has long been a keystone of social order.
He said “no union is more profound than marriage” and that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extends to “certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.”
“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” Kennedy wrote in the 34-page opinion. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”
I think that phrase that we “do not presume to know the extent of freedom in all its dimensions,” and that we “enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning” is a statement that resonates with my Wesleyan theological formation. These, of course, are all civil understandings of the value of marriage, but I believe there is religious benefit too–one that comes from a community of faith recognizing and celebrating the love and devotion of a couple, regardless of whether that couple is a man and woman, two men, or two women. It, I believe, springs from a broadening concept of love–to quote one of my favorite hymns:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty…..For the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind; and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.”
Freedom, like love, is evolving. In our Wesleyan way of understanding grace, love progresses forward, closer to what Charles Wesley termed, “Love Divine, all loves excelling.” And how did Charles Wesley see that divine love take root in us through sanctifying grace? He uses phrases in that (favorite) song like “fix in us thy humble dwelling” and “set our hearts at liberty.”
“Fix in us thy humble dwelling” makes me think of approaching this day with a spirit of kindness and thankfulness and humility rather than overly showy victory. Yes, I plan to go cut some flowers from our Kendall-Whittier G.R.O.W (Gardening to Reach Out and Welcome) Garden and make a bouquet to take to the Equality Center as a congratulations. But no, I won’t engage in any facebook arguments or tout “my side’s” victory over the other. Many have said, “LOVE WINS!” And I agree, this is a day when Love has won–but when Love wins, no one loses. Love draws in all people, and I’m confident that those supporting the opposition to the perspective of 5 Supreme Court justices will come around and see that this really is the best thing for our nation. Now–the struggle to convince the United Methodist Church of that point remains. The struggle to insure that people can’t be fired from their job because they are LGBTQ remains. Other injustices remain. But Love winning has a cumulative effect–Love will gain strength especially when people from other perspectives are drawn to the warmth and humanity and kindness of its victory.