Friday, May 18, 2012

Obama and Same-Sex Marriages

Ever read, “Funny Boy?” It’s found in John Grisham’s book of short stories called, Ford Country. The narrative is set in Mississippi. Twenty-thirty years ago. Men are sitting around the barbershop talking. Somebody said, “Did you hear that Funny Boy is coming home from California?” They began to talk about Funny Boy in school, how different he was. Strange, really. Almost everybody called him Funny Boy.  Nobody said gay or queer but the words lurked barely beneath the surface. Funny Boy came home. He was HIV positive and was dying. His family turned their backs on him and finally a black family took him in where he lived until he died. There were so many layers of sadness in that story.  

When I heard that our President had announced that he was officially embracing same-sex marriages I thought about Grisham’s Funny Boy story. And I also thought about all those across the country who have suffered for years and years in closets, in secrecy, in shame or utter frustration simply because they could not be who they were. The President addressed this issue head-on: “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” 

In the last few years the country has moved closer toward equality for gays and lesbians. Almost every poll suggests this. Still gay rights are an explosive issue for families, for churches and for the nation. Whole denominations are split over this issue. Who knows what effect these words from the President will have on next November’s election? 

But I applaud the President’s courage. He is the President of the whole nation. Columnist Charles Blow has written that, “History will remember this president in this moment. He stood up for a personal liberty and publicly affirmed what should have needed no affirmation: that in a just society the rights of some must be the rights of all, that we do condemn those who love differently, that we are all made greater when we are all treated equally.” 

Great leaders do not do the popular thing but the right thing. That seems to be a rare quality in our time. Dr. King once said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”

I keep thinking of all the boys and girls around our country who have suffered terribly simply because of their sexual orientation. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are. We are still learning that painful lesson in our struggle with the racial issue. Maybe, just maybe in time we might conquer our fears and prejudices on this matter and move on to the next challenge. Nothing ever stays won. There will always be some justice and human right’s issue which will once again test our faith and courage and commitment to that old document which reads: “We hold these truths that all... are created equal...”

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