The wait is over. The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, has made marriage equality the law of the land in all 50 states. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court's majority, found that denial of marriage licenses to LGBT couples is in violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. And Kennedy wrote:
"The challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and they abridge central precepts of equality.The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbians."
This from a man who when he sat as a federal appeals judge in the 9th Circuit back in the 1970s ruled against one of the first married gay couples forcing them to leave the country, and then re-enter it illegally. Forty years have obviously given Justice Kennedy time to reflect and see a new way. It is possible, and we must never lose hope that reasonable people can change.
I hold that same hope for those meeting right now in Salt Lake City, Utah, at The Episcopal Church's General Convention #78. With the Supreme Court having made the final say on our secular law, the Church's large bicameral body is weighing what to do with its sacramental marriage rites. Will they make changes to Canon Law to allow for marriages to take place? Will they adopt concurrent resolutions designed to give some ease to potential language conflicts in the Book of Common Prayer? Will they defer and insist on more theological study, more evidence that the sacrament of Christian marriage can extend to two people and not just two people of opposite genders?
Our "Saint of the Day" at the 12:10 Eucharist today was Isabel Florence Hapgood, an Episcopalian with an affinity for the Russian Orthodox Church and its Divine Liturgy. Hapgood, after extensive study and travel in Russia in 1887-89, sought and received permission to translate the Orthodox liturgy into English. Her skills in language (Russian, Polish, French, Latin and Church Slovanic) made her a translator of note at the end of the 19th Century. That idea of "translator" resonated with me as I continued to offer up constant prayers for those examining the questions about the marriage rites in the Episcopal Church and the canonical and constitutional authority. I think what's needed most in this debate is that ability the Spirit provided in the upper room at Pentecost to translate and allow all parties to hear clearly the power of God. We need a translator to take our sometimes cumbersome language and practices and make them real and spiritually relevant to a world that is moving at a faster pace toward full equality. In other words, we need to have the ability to translate the Love of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in ways that are understood by generations who don't see a difference between the relationships of their LGBTQ friends and their straight friends. To keep treating them as separate and distinct is to create a further disconnect with the people who are seeking and searching for the God of Unconditional Love that they have heard tell about.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.