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Est. April 5, 2002
July 02, 2015 - Issue 613

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The Welcome Challenges
 of Marriage Equality

"Democracy can only begin to work when
those relegated to the fringes of society
can begin to sample what those in society
take for granted as their inalienable right.
The right to marry regardless of a couple’s
sexual orientation or gender identity
is now one of them."

For some time now, my spouse and I have been bickering over where we should reside in our retiring years. She, being a child from the South, and me, being from the North, well, we have our tensions. I have jokingly dubbed them our “Mason-Dixon line feud.” We are not stretching our imaginations much to feel some of the same concerns our enslaved ancestors must have encountered as the considered the free states up North. 

My spouse is tied to the weather of the South - a moist, subtropical climate with sultry summers.  I, on the other hand, like the four seasons of the North. I could live in autumn all year round.

At particularly heated battles, our horns locked, I have questioned if her desire to live in Georgia was worth living in a state which didn’t recognize our marriage. Our marriage would be de facto dissolved. 

Our ongoing exhaustive argument gained a new complication (in my mind at least) with last week’s historic Supreme Court ruling, Obergefell v. Hodge, legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states. 

The ruling was a great day similar, I surmise, to that day in June 1967 when the Supreme Court case of Loving vs Virginia declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. 

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who wrote all recent decisions protecting LGBTQ rights, including the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas - which struck down sodomy laws that targeted gay men - and the 2013  U.S. v. Windsor - which would recognize and provide federal benefits to same-sex married couple in states where their marriages were legal - was once again the swing vote on this tough ruling.  His argument was Loving vs. Virginia redux, showing how these two historic struggles for marry equality are interconnected. 

Of course I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision. It would have been both wrong-hearted and wrong-headed to rule otherwise. 

But with victory comes backlash. This change in law will not come easy. A movement is already afoot with a 50-state plan to pass “Religion Freedom Restoration Acts” to roll back progress.

As the country battles this issue on a new front, we should hold onto Thomas Jefferson’s words about how change is required for progress:

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”

Same-sex marriage is of our times. And it’s democracy at its best. 

I understand democracy to be an ongoing process where people are part of a participatory government working to dismantle all existing discriminatory laws truncating their full participation in society.

And democracy can only begin to work when those relegated to the fringes of society can begin to sample what those in society take for granted as their inalienable right. The right to marry regardless of a couple’s sexual orientation or gender identity is now one of them. How wonderful to know that a same-sex couple in Mississippi has the same right to marry as someone here in Massachusetts.

Back to the challenge in my home. My spouse is all smiles now with this new ruling. She has been doing what I call “nicey nicey,” which is her attempt to wear down my recalcitrant stance on issues with her charm.

In celebration of Obergefell v. Hodge we went out for evening drinks at Legal Sea Foods in Harvard Square. While enjoying the evening summer breeze with our drinks, my spouse said we could have this experience all year in our retiring years if we moved to a milder climate.

I snapped back and said, “I ain’t moving to Georgia!”

And that’s what marriage equality looks like. Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is  Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC. 

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