From the moment that I publicly revealed my sexual orientation the whirling vortex of religious authority has not ceased in its attempt to claim sovereignty in defining the rights, privileges and value of my most intimate relationship. For all the ways that my faith has come to shape the integrity with which I hope to love and be loved, I, and others like me must contend with the irony that it is from those who teach love we are most often wounded. After two years of listening and comforting the countless heartbroken religiously induced casualties of this era-defining social issue, I committed to launching Inside Out Faith as a NPO for LGBT faith advocacy. It has been a challenging endeavor, as it often requires stretching the bounds of available grace when many refuse to acknowledge the diversity of human sexuality. Asking folks to stop bullying gay people is one thing, getting endorsements of same-sex marriages can be an entirely different matter. In a foolish attempt to keep some sense of remaining favor with my religious opponents, I have spent considerable effort in hedging my public answer to the marriage equality question with all the adroitness of a dancing hippo. But yesterday, the President called me out. If I intend in any manner to lead, then I must speak plainly: human dignity demands marriage equality.
There is no way around it. President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage strikes at the deepest nerve of religious conscience. I admit, I openly wept at his candid account of personal “evolution”; a conversion he credited to both his faith (as Christian) and his experience in listening to the accounts of his LGBT friends and colleagues. I wept because my own experience was echoed in his confession. I wept because his interview was, at its core, a model of all that I’ve hoped to replicate in my own life as well as Inside Out Faith. The President was willing to expose how his faith was not the impediment to LGBT equality, but rather the inspiration for it. Humbly, he chose the familiar language of his faith to express the significance of his own transformation. And he did so without apology.
Though the faiths we practice are often subject to tradition, we must be wiling to encounter the reality of lived experience. We must be willing to listen, encounter and believe in the experiences of those who dare to speak love’s name. By acknowledging the impact in meeting and hearing the real people who live out love’s hope, President Obama gave value to innumerable families, friends and children in our midst. At the heart of effective social change is the undeniable power of story. Few of us change our traditions or prejudices without a meaningful encounter to lead us there. Our President has experienced how silence is often confused for consent. It is a heavy reminder that without taking individual responsibility to act with compassion and courage we concede authority to those who claim it at the expense of our loved ones.
If our religious institutions and leadership make any claim to speak as authorities on love, then the practiced action must corroborate the claim. Love’s many faces do not threaten the beauty of my faith, but it is easily mocked by refusals to recognize its appearances. If, indeed, I speak with the tongue of angels but have not love I am but a clanging cymbal. If love is patient and kind, then it must also be courageous to speak of its presence. So, after ten years of monogamous, joy-filled and devoted union, my relationship may not be recognized as marriage, but it is sacred and it speaks. Thank you, Mr. President for listening.