I have worked with people near the end of their lives for well over a decade in our community through my hospice work. I have laughed, cried, prayed, sung, and worshipped with people of almost every denomination and church in our area during a very sacred time- a time of loss and healing. While this work can sometimes be hard, it has taught me many lessons and given me a lot of perspective on life, love, death, and the next life. It has taught me to treasure every moment, because we don’t know how long our time on this earth will be. It’s taught me that we are not Democrats or Republicans, we are not black or white: we enter into this life as a child of God, and when the time comes God calls us back as his children- loved and forgiven. This work has also given me a unique perspective on an issue that deeply troubles me. I want to share with you what is on my heart in a way that is kind and respectful. I don’t wish to debate interpretation of Old Testament scripture. I recognize that people of good faith can read and interpret things differently. I know that my guiding principle in life is to love God and love all others as the highest commandment.
In my time I have worked with clients who were gay and lesbian. I have seen firsthand the very deep hurt that many of these people have experienced in their lives. They have lived with a lifetime of bullying; they are sometimes rejected and abandoned by family and friends, and have faced a life of inequality simply for who they are. This hurts people in ways that run so deep. It destroys self-esteem and self-worth and creates scars that sometimes never go away- even 30, 40, 50+ years later. It is a pain I can tell you many people take to their graves.
As a straight male, I don’t understand homosexuality. In being honest, the thought still makes me uncomfortable. Years ago my father, a Methodist Minister was assigned to a church in Minneapolis that welcomed people who are gay, lesbian, and transgender. The first time I sat down in a church so open about this, and realized I was sitting next to a transgender person, I became extremely uncomfortable. I didn’t understand why it was so important for “those people” who are gay to be open about who they were. But in time, as I prayed and worshipped with these people, as I listened to their hurts and their struggles I came to realize that “those people” were really no different from me. In their hopes and dreams, in their everyday lives, and in their love of God, they were really no different. The day my new-born son was baptized in that church, I looked around that sanctuary and realized that family and faith were every bit as important to them as it was to the people there who were straight.
I’ve since come to understand that God often places us in positions of discomfort as a way to challenge us to see beyond ourselves- to help us grow.
Despite my discomfort back then, I have since had the privilege to know many people who are gay and lesbian who are people of deep compassion and great moral character. I know that who they are is not a choice. If you know people who are gay then you would also know this is not a choice. I’ve grown to see that what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms is not what matters, rather it’s about the content of their character. I can tell you with no discomfort now that I love my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, even though I will never completely understand their sexuality. “Those people” are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. They deserve the same right to family and happiness as any of us.
I know people who are progressive who say that conservatives are hateful. After living, working, and serving with many conservative people in this community, I wholeheartedly reject that notion. In my conservative friends I have seen such great compassion and willingness to do anything to help ease the suffering of another human being- even for those who are different. We all have differences in our experience that affect the way we see the world. I pray we can all conduct ourselves in love, kindness, and open-mindedness as we discuss this issue. Judging and yelling at each other isn’t helpful on either side.
We face the decision to amend our constitution to permanently remove the rights of an entire group of people- a constitution that was devised to protect freedoms, not take them away. This amendment also threatens the religious freedom of those who believe deeply in marriage equality. Many faith communities are working against this amendment for this and other reasons. More importantly this amendment imposes one religious view and turns it into law. History has shown that this is never a good thing- especially in a democracy. There is already a law that prohibits gay marriage. Laws are things that we live by in a democracy. They are also something that we can change as our understanding grows and changes. They are something we can continue to discuss. This amendment will end that discussion and will curtail the freedoms of generations. It relegates a whole group of people to second-class citizenship. Is this really something we need to do?
I want to respectfully ask you to consider voting no on this amendment to limit marriage to one man and one woman. I ask you to give this another thought, to listen to your heart, to pray, and consider what impact this amendment might have on other families- on people you don’t even know. Is this a government intrusion we really want? If you are voting for this amendment because you believe homosexuality is a sin, I ask, is it not also a sin to further marginalize a whole group of people, to push them out of the American dream? Is that really consistent with family values- with Minnesota values- with American values? Is it right to impose our individual beliefs on others by amending our state constitution? And lastly I ask, isn’t life too short and precious to be limiting others in who they can and can’t love and commit their lives to?
“ ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ “(Matthew 25:40)