“Let justice roll down like waters,and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The prophet Amos preached those words (Amos 5:21-24 for those having to follow from afar) in ancient times to a people who had fallen away from the ways of God. They were God’s people but they were not following the ways of God. Amos looked into the future and saw that they were going to lose their Promised Land. They were going to be taken into exile. They were going to fall on hard times because they were not listening to God.
But Amos saw a vision, a vision of a just world. He said: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like and ever-flowing stream.” We got us some justice on Friday. Can I hear an “amen”? Forever in our nation’s history, gay and lesbian persons have been treated as second class citizens, denied the same rights as straight persons. And on Friday, the Supreme Court granted marriage to all persons. Love wins.
Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of that ruling: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of the civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. IT IS SO ORDERED."
They ask for equal dignity. This is about dignity, dignity for all persons. On Friday I stood outside the Lucas County Courthouse as the first few couples started to arrive. One couple, Tobi and James said they had been together for more than twenty years. They rushed down to the courthouse because they wanted to get married before anything could happen to reverse the decision. We assured them that the Supreme Court is the last stop on this train of justice. This decision will not be reversed.
I read about Jack Evans and George Harris who were the first couple to get married in Dallas in my home state of Texas. They have been together for 54 years. They said a lot of their friends went to another state or to Canada to get married but they “Wanted to hold out for Texas,” Harris said, “I said, well, I hope we live long enough.” Evans walks with a cane and had a rainbow flag tucked in his lapel, and Harris carried red roses for the ceremony. They said they kept their relationship a secret for the first twenty years. I’m sure they did, being in Texas in the 1960s. Can you imagine, waiting 54 years to get married?
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing-stream.” I wonder if some of you would like to share your reflections on what marriage equality means to you. Pat Groves “Cindy and I never thought we’d live to see this day”. Karen said she needs to work now to help the wider community loose it’s fear and so that this blessing can be fulfilled. Rosie reminded us that this is a legal relationship now, it comes with some fantastic rights, but also has responsibilities. Employment and Housing discrimination are still legal in most states and we’ve got work to do that, but this was a giant leap forward. Another Rosie, yes we have two, reminded us we have much more work to do, on race, on income, on so many issues. And, that it’s been a hard week for those how oppose us on this and many other issues, and we need to show them love. Deb and Jenny, who have been together for decades and decades, celebrated with their children, who have the rights so many already had.
Kurt (who is taking his privilege as blogger) wanted to share his text to his friends and family he sent from the floor of the Democratic National Convention in 2012 but couldn’t say the words fast enough. “As someone who is or loves someone who has been treated as a 2nd class citizen because of who you are or who you love, I wanted you to know I just voted (with a unanimous convention) to make it our party’s stand to end that NOW!”. I and thousands of my fellow Democrats first screamed second to making it a plank of our platform and then screamed YEA and cried as we passed it. We, the many allies at the Village, have waited for this day, with almost as much anticipation as our LGBT brothers and sisters.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Marriage equality was a long time coming, but justice will always come. It is only a matter of time.
Today is a day for celebration. But our work is not done. For one of our two partner denominations still has not recognized marriage equality. Yes the United Church of Christ has marriage equality (and at our General Synod in Cleveland, OH, right now they are celebrating by holding MANY marriage celebrations of all wondrous forms) but sadly, the United Methodist Church still does not. So even though it is the law of the land, the United Methodist Church law states that gay and lesbian unions will not be held in our churches and that our pastors may not preside at them. The Village, like many United Methodist Churches, stands in opposition to this church law and works for the day when it will be changed. A General Conference happens every four years and General Conference is where the church law can be revised. The next one is in Portland in 2016 and we pray that at that General Conference the elected delegates will see the light and change this unjust policy. Perhaps this change in US law will be enough to move the United Methodist Church into the 21st century.
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing-stream.” Today is a day for celebration. But our work is not done. We do not yet have protections in housing and employment for LGBT persons. In Ohio and in many other states, you can be fired or denied a job because you are gay or even perceives you to be gay. You can be kicked out of your apartment or denied the opportunity to rent a house because the landlord does not like the fact that you are gay or perceives you to be gay. We have protections against this sort of discrimination based on categories such as race, gender, age, or religion. But we don’t have protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. So our work is not done. Equality Ohio will be calling on us to work on getting non-discrimination laws passed through the Ohio General Assembly. We must answer their calls. We must write letters. We must make visits to our legislators. We must go to lobby days in Columbus. Now is not the time to get complacent. Now is the time to work harder for justice.
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing-stream. Today is a day for celebration. But our work is not done. Racism is rampant in our country. On the same day that we celebrated the ruling on marriage equality, Pastor Clementa Pinckney was laid to rest. He and eight others were the victims of a hate crime, gunned down during a Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. The perpetrator, when he committed the crime, stated that he had to do it because the blacks are taking over our country. His act is a symbol of the racism that is a cancer in our society. We don’t really don’t understand how deeply embedded racism is in our culture and until we deal with our racism, none of us are free. Those of us who are white must deal with our privilege. We must understand how the systems of privilege contribute to the oppression of persons of color. It’s complicated, but we must take the time as a nation to unpack the complexities of racism so that we as a nation can heal.
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” But today is a day for celebration. We have seen some justice thanks to our Supreme Court. And justice feels good. We have waited long and worked hard to get to this day. And God has blessed us. Today is a day to give thanks to God. We have marriage equality. All children can grow up in families where their parents’ relationships are acknowledged by the state. Partners don’t have to worry about what will happen to their assets when they die. Spouses can visit their loved ones in hospitals without fear of discrimination. All means all.
So let us give thanks to God who is a God of justice and a God of love. For those who have waiting so long, let the wedding planning begin! In the end Love wins. Thanks be to God. Love wins. Amen.