Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Right Side of History

Several times a week I am asked the question, “Do you think the constitutional amendment can be defeated on May 8?” On days when I am optimistic and have felt the energy of the movement to reject this discriminatory amendment against marriage equality, I say "yes."

When I think about the fact every other Southern state has adopted some form of this legislation, I hesitate and remark "it will be a difficult thing to defeat." So much for being a person of firm conviction.

But when I step away from the poll numbers, headlines of the day and my own sense of optimism/pessimism, I feel a clear answer deep inside my soul. I believe the struggle has already been won.

It is crucial in a country that values equality, freedom and human rights to be on the side of those virtues whenever a significant social justice issue is up for grabs. We have learned that lesson repeatedly in our history. The forces that sought to deny women and people of color their dignity, humanity and rights are now viewed shamefully.

Yes, we keep coming to this place of tension as a people whenever a minority group points out the blatant discrimination of the majority denying them the very same rights the majority takes for granted. We argue about it for years, fight battles in courts and legislatures, quote the Bible and the Constitution, but then the inevitable happens. The voices for justice and equality eventually win the day.

Why? Because we are Americans.

The greatness of our history is not rooted in our military conquests or economic power. The beauty of America is first and foremost our belief that every citizen deserves an equal chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

At its core the vote for or against marriage equality on May 8 is about these values we cherish. Other issues like religion, the nature of human sexuality and the history of marriage are not inconsequential to the discussion, but they are of secondary concern.

The real issue is what kind of people we are and what we cherish. We are people who care about the suffering of those treated unjustly. We are a people who cringe when unfairness is revealed in our democratic systems. We are a people who rejoice when any group anywhere in the world gets a taste of the freedom we bathe in every day in this land.

Does my belief that the arc of American history bends toward justice guarantee anything about the vote on May 8? Not hardly. Too often the majority in this country has clung to its privilege to the very last minute before being forced to relinquish it and allow others an equal slice of the American pie. That is why we must not rest in our efforts to defeat the constitutional amendment.

Regardless of what happens in this particular vote, though, the handwriting is on the wall. Polls demonstrate that more and more Americans find the discrimination against LGBTQ citizens unacceptable. State and federal courts are beginning to strike down laws that show a bias for the heterosexual majority. Even professional athletes are making public service announcements denouncing homophobia.

For me, though, the shifting of the tides is most obvious in private conversations with those I do not expect to be understanding or tolerant. For example, a conservative Christian husband recently told me he has discovered his wife is a lesbian and he knows this is the way God made her. Such moments suggest to me that the heterosexual hegemony in this country is crumbling.

It is not clear which side will win the vote on May 8. One thing is obvious, though. The votes for marriage equality will be on the right side of history and will reflect the very best of American values.


About Me

former pastor who is now a pastoral counselor and consultant (; married with two teenagers; progressive in my politics and theology