Last October, Bill ...left his home in Columbus, Ohio, for a business trip...he thought he felt an old cold coming back. Then he developed a nasty cough.
He remembers nothing of that day, but Mike ... recalls sharply how doctors in Philadelphia called him in Columbus to say they suspected pneumonia. Mike...is Bill's partner of 30 years.....At 3 a.m. the next day, the phone woke him up. It was a doctor in Philadelphia. Mike needed to come to Philadelphia immediately. Bill had gone into septic shock and might not survive more than a few hours.
"Here's the key principle," Peter Sprigg, a gay-marriage opponent with the Family Research Council, said in an April radio interview on Southern California's KCRW. "Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society. And therefore the burden of proof has to be on the advocates of same-sex marriage to demonstrate that homosexual relationships benefit society. Not just benefit the individuals who participate but benefit society in the same way and to the same degree that heterosexual marriage does. And that's a burden that I don't think they can meet."
Having just been told, at 3 a.m., that his partner of three decades might die within hours, Mike .. was told something else: Before rushing to Bill's side, he needed to collect and bring with him documents proving his medical power of attorney. This indignity, unheard-of in the world of heterosexual marriage, is a commonplace of American gay life.....
National Review has a cover story this month by Maggie Gallagher, a prominent anti-gay-marriage activist, subtitled: "Why Gay Marriage Isn't Inevitable." She is right, in a sense. Most states explicitly ban same-sex marriage, often by constitutional amendment, and the country remains deeply divided. The national argument over marriage's meaning will go on for years to come.
In another sense, however, she is wrong. Never again will America not have gay marriage, and never again will less than a majority favor some kind of legal and social recognition for same-sex couples. The genie that gay-marriage opponents still hope to stuff back into the bottle is out and out for good.
Oddly, Gallagher, Sprigg, and other gay-marriage opponents don't understand why this has happened.... It comes down to Mike and Bill......Peter Sprigg and Maggie Gallagher ...have in common what they offer to couples like Mike and Bill: silence. The same is true of nearly all other prominent opponents of same-sex marriage. ....If gay couples can't be allowed to marry, what should they be able to do? ...Effectively, conservatives are saying that what Mike and Bill do for each other has no significance outside their own bedroom.
If cultural conservatism continues to treat same-sex couples as outside the social covenant, the currents of history will flow right around it.
But what happened in that hospital in Philadelphia for those six weeks was not just Mike and Bill's business, a fact that is self-evident to any reasonable human being who hears the story. "Mike was making a medical decision at least once a day that would have serious consequences," Bill told me. Who but a life partner would or could have done that? Who but a life partner will drop everything to provide constant care? Bill's mother told me that if not for Mike, her son would have died. Faced with this reality, what kind of person, morally, simply turns away and offers silence?
Not the sort of person who populates the United States of America. If Republicans wonder why they find themselves culturally marginalized, particularly by younger Americans, they might consider the fact that when the party looks at couples like Mike and Bill it sees, in effect, nothing....
Conservatives have a decision to make. They can continue pretending that the bond between Mike and Bill does not exist, is of no social value, or has no place on conservatives' agenda. ...Or they can acknowledge what to most of the country is already obvious: Whether the nation finally settles on marriage or on something else for gay couples, Bill and Mike are now in the mainstream and the Republican Party is not. If cultural conservatism continues to treat same-sex couples as outside the social covenant, the currents of history will flow right around it, and future generations of conservatives will wonder how their predecessors could ever have made such a callous and politically costly mistake.
Friday, August 7, 2009
The genie is out: gay couples are here. So what is the pastoral response?
You absolutely, positively, have to go read the whole thing.