It has been ten years since the bomb threat at our Freedom to Marry ceremony. Ten years ago on February 12, Walter and I joined about 50 other couples to share rings and vows. As parents gathered the smaller kids together and scurried out of the church, I was so proud of the United Methodist pastor who calmly advanced us to the next part of the service inviting love to overcome fear.
Just 8 ½ years ago, I searched around the church office to find the nearest other LGBT person. She and I then joined hands and jumped up and down singing “we are not criminals anymore.” Just hours before as we woke up that morning with our partners in our own homes in Houston, Texas, we had been criminals. That morning criminals, but by midday we were not as the Supremes issued Lawrence v. Texas.
This month, we saw Prop 8 taking one more step to the new set of Supremes and wonder if we will have more to sing about for California’s lesbian and gay families. Soon Washington state will advance marriage equality in a matter of days—the Senate, the House, and now the Governor. Now, a similar marriage equality bill begins in the Illinois legislature a few days later.
I’m particularly touched by legislators who testify to their own faith journey to a changed heart that moves them to speak publicly and vote differently now. And I’m heartened by new allies and new polls showing a majority of Americans now affirming marriage for all. And I’m lifted by the shifted policies of the UCC, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches embracing 10 million protestants with inclusion.
Still, I remember the bomb threat. Still, I remember the anti-gay policies of my own United Methodist Church. Still, I remember clergy put on trial. Still, I remember the silence of allies. And yet, yes another yet, I consider the 38 UM bishops who push for gay ordination and the over 1,100 UM clergy who commit to marriage equality regardless of anti-gay policy.
I really want to hold hands together, and jump up and down, and sing in celebration again—in the church, in The United Methodist Church. Until that day, which will come, because God wants it to, I affirm God’s love overcoming fear in each instance of hearts changed and love lived out.
Recently, Walter and I went to the First Baptist Church of Galesburg while visiting his dad. During the sharing of thanksgivings, Walter shared, “I’m thankful that as my partner Troy and I near 15 years together, we are planning to get legally married in Iowa and that the marriage will be recognized in Illinois.” They applauded. No bomb threats. And now we have choices to make, which I’m sure will include some songs of celebration.
In the midst of changing times, there won’t always be applause. But marriage is the right word and language does matter. And as the polls, policies, and laws shift, the friendly climate for exclusion and discrimination dissolves. For a recent episode of “What Would You Do?” , a gay couple gets engaged at a restaurant with a vocal detractor nearby to see how the rest of the diners respond. View and wonder, just what would you do?
Prior to RMN, Troy served for 13 years on the pastoral staff of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. He directed Bering’s on-site counseling center for those affected by HIV/AIDS. Outside Bering’s sanctuary in 1999, he performed a “street wedding” for a lesbian couple celebrating 25 years together and facilitated Bering’s equal treatment of all couples policy. He also coordinated Bible Study, mission trips, retreats, and nonviolence training. Facing a bomb threat with 50 other couples, Troy and Walter, shared promises and rings on Freedom To Marry Day, February 12, 2003 for their 5th anniversary.