by Rev. Roland Stringfellow
As a family prepares for a wedding it’s common to say, “You are not losing a daughter. You are gaining a son-in-law”. Yet, when that new family member is of the same gender as the one getting married, then some families feel as if they are in effect losing their son or daughter for good.
Many Michigan residents are experiencing anxiety upon hearing that marriage is increasingly available to lesbian and gay couples. It is just a matter of time when there will be no need to rush to a courthouse without hair being combed or cut, without wedding rings, and without the people most significant to you by your side celebrating your love. All this racing so couples could slide into a rapidly closing window of opportunity on March 22.
Opponents to marriage equality are experiencing high anxiety because they feel the institution of marriage they have come to recognize is deteriorating. Some same-gender couples who will be afforded the opportunity to wed are now faced with pressing questions. “Do I really want to marry this person?” “Does this mean we now will share one another’s debt?” “What will my family think if I get legally married?” “What will I call him/her afterward? My spouse, my husband/wife?” “Are we ready to be so public with our relationship after spending so much time keeping it incognito for so long?”
While we are in the heat of this moment, for many opponents and supporters, it can feel as if change is coming too, too fast. But, as we look back on all the changes for progress that our cities, state and nation have gone through, we have learned from experience that people adapt, get over changes, and move forward with their lives.
I witnessed this first hand from my time in California as a marriage equality advocate among religious communities involved in the Prop 8 campaign. I worked with people in Catholic, Mormon and African-American congregations, which is what many considered to be the “Big Three” who are resistant to LGBT equality. I felt their passion as they spoke in favor of their religious-based definition of marriage being between one man and one woman. Of course, they feel that they received this definition from their sacred text. The strategy needed to help change hearts and minds on this issue is to focus on the family. (Pun intended).
The heart of the matter is getting these opposing parents and clergy to look beyond their convictions and see their loved one once again. In other words, family should always be stronger than any doctrine or opinion. Gay marriage doesn’t destroy the family; it is actually the rejection and alienation of family members that destroys families.
A person cannot say on one hand, IC “I stand for ‘traditional marriage’ because it protects children”; while on the other, condemn and shame a child or teen when they come out of the closet.
People will justify their actions based upon their religious convictions. Yet, it is practicing bad religion to strip a son or daughter of their membership in the family based upon doctrine or opinion.
The winds of change are coming. Let us anticipate the anxiety that will surely come from having marriage equality. Let us not overstate the situation that our world is ending. Let us reframe it as not an ending, but a beautiful new beginning. We will not lose, but will gain when respect is given to all families.