On May 20th, 2014, my home state of Pennsylvania legalized same-sex marriage. A hometown girl at heart, I was thrilled that, when I was ready to get married, we’d be able to do it in the place I’d grown up. I thanked God for that day and couldn’t wait for my wedding day.
On June 19th, 2014, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted for a language change to their Book of Order declaring that marriage happens “between two people.” A lifelong Presbyterian, I couldn’t believe that the denomination I loved was finally willing to accept my relationship. I thanked God for that day and couldn’t wait for my wedding day.
On June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the Obergefell v. Hodges case, deciding that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. By that point I was engaged and the idea that my relationship would be recognized in all 50 states felt like a dream come true. I thanked God for that day and couldn’t wait for my wedding.
On June 12, 2016, Omar Mateen opened fire in Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and killed 49 LGBTQ people, mostly of Hispanic descent. When that happened, I wasn’t thinking about my wedding day.
The government, the Church, even I have spent a long time focusing on the issue of same-sex marriage. We have certainly made progress. But worrying about marriage didn’t stop those people from dying. It didn’t keep hatred, the kind that is just as easily found in fundamentalist Christianity as it is in Islamic fundamentalism, from stopping a man from seeing others as fully human. It won’t stop something like this from happening again.
Dr. King once said, “hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Perhaps we have been focused on the wrong kind of love.
The love of romantic relationships is beautiful and complex, but if we can’t have the basic love that comes from respect and seeing each other in the light of God, then all the work, all the approvals of the Church and the State, are worth nothing. Without understanding and working towards the love of individual human life, regardless of who they are, marriage has no meaning.
The love within a marriage is important, but it has no meaning if we don’t remember the words of Psalm 139:14: we are fearfully and wonderfully made. It has no meaning if we refuse to follow the commandments of Matthew 22:36-40: that we love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. It has no meaning if we don’t learn the lesson of 1 John: 7-21: that God lives in us when we love one another.
I still can’t wait to get married, but I also can’t wait for the day when LGBTQ people, especially black and brown LGBTQ people, don’t have to fear violence. I look forward to a day when no religion, especially Christianity, claims that anyone is unworthy of life. I am excited for the day when we can look at each other and see the love of God. On that day, I will know that my marriage will truly mean something.