A year and a half ago, I was asked by a couple from Alabama to perform their wedding. These two women had been together for 26 years, but never foresaw the opportunity have their state recognize their marriage. They were Sacred Harp singers who were going to come to Minnesota for our September singing convention. I was honored to perform the ceremony in our Baptist church surrounded by their singing friends. It meant so much to them that the ceremony was held in a church, a Baptist church, no less. I signed the paperwork granting federal recognition even when the state refused to recognize their marriage.
Fast forward to today when the Supreme Court refused to uphold the state stay on banning same-sex marriage in that state. Who would have believed that two years after Minnesota become the 13th state to approve same-sex marriage, Alabama would become the 36th state to approve same-sex marriage?
Now the stage is set for the Supreme Court to make a landmark decision about same-sex marriage. All indications are that they will side with those of us advocating marriage equality. It just makes sense. Not only is having love recognized by the State and the country good for society, it is also in keeping with the 14th amendment which guarantees equal protection under the law. This would include the protection for each person to marry the person of their choosing.
It would seem that this battle in the culture war is cruising to a victory. But we must not let up our pressure. For in the void following our victories across the country, extremists can regroup and change their message. What we need to remember is that our message is a better one. It is a Gospel message of love, inclusion, justice and freedom. It is a message that sets people free and models the best of our churches.
So, if a victory comes from the Supreme Court, enjoy it for a while. Make sure your words to our opponents are gracious and compassionate. Don’t take the hate bait. Embody instead a sense of gratitude and humility, knowing that we have helped to save some lives. And model the Gospel message of peace, love, mercy and compassion. That’s how we will be known.
The Rev. Doug Donley
Pastor, University Baptist Church