From Rev. Dr. Becky Edmiston-Lange
Maybe I’m dating myself with that reference to the 1980 Kool and the Gang song. But in fact the struggle for marriage equality for LGBTQ people has been going on for even longer. The issue was first raised before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 when the Court dismissed three cases brought by same-sex couples challenging the denial of marriage. Now, 43 years later, the Supreme Court finally got it right and I feel like – to borrow another dated reference – “dancing in the street!”
It’s been a long time coming – and there’s been a lot of sorrow and waste that needn’t have been. Lots of couples who were denied the rights that just automatically accrued to heterosexual couples – spouses who died without their beloved at their side because hospitals didn’t recognize same-sex spouses as legitimate relatives – surviving spouses who were left with little or nothing because the state did not recognize their union and accompanying property rights – children who have been denied the security and protection of having two legal parents whose union is acknowledged by the state. Not to mention the insidious indignity of not having one’s commitment to a life partner be accorded the same integrity and honor as a heterosexual marriage. It’s been a long time coming, but finally, LGBTQ people are free to enter the central social and legal institution of our society on the same basis as heterosexual couples.
Millions of people have been waiting for this day; millions of people have been working toward this day. I’m proud that Unitarian Universalists have been among them. Did you know that a UU minister first performed a ceremony of union for a same gender couple in the late 1950's? In 1984, our denomination officially affirmed the practice of conducting services of union for gay and lesbian couples and in 1996 the UUA made history by being the first mainline denomination in the US to support full marriage equality. Several of the plaintiffs in the court cases which paved the way for marriage equality have been Unitarian Universalists. The UUA has filed court cases and joined amicus curiae briefs while thousands of Unitarian Universalists have written, petitioned, and visited legislators, marched in Standing on the Side of Love rallies, and quietly lobbied their families and friends to make marriage equality a reality throughout the United States.
It’s been a long time coming and the struggle isn’t over. Many of the kinds of discrimination LGBTQ people currently face will remain unaffected by the Supreme Court’s decision. There are no federal protections in employment and housing, for example; so, ironically, many of the decisions that tend to follow on the heels of marriage – such as where to live, where to work and how to support a family – are more fraught with risk for LGBTQ people.
Yes, there is still work to be done. But for now, let us rejoice that Marriage Equality is now the law of the land. Emerson will be celebrating in high fashion this summer when the congregation comes together to help 25 couples “tie the knot!” Like the song says, there’ll be “a party goin' on right here . . . Yahoo!”