Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Blessed Eastertide

He is Risen!! He is Risen Indeed!! Alleluia!!

Wishing you Easter Joy in the Risen, Living Christ!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why Gay Marriage Matters

Great article by MICHAEL JUDGE in Iowa City, Iowa

I often tell friends that a part of me is gay, even though I've been happily married to my wife for 12 years. What I mean is that in April 2003 I donated a kidney to my older brother David, who is gay. The transplant took place at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics -- and it was, in a very real sense, a miraculous event for our entire family.

So when David called me last Friday excited about the Iowa Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal, I wasn't surprised. "You know what this means, don't you?" he asked. "It means we can visit those we love when they're dying in the hospital; it means we're finally treated like family."

Most hospitals in America only allow spouses and immediate family members to visit a patient during a medical emergency, when a patient is unconscious or in critical condition after a car accident, heart attack or kidney failure, for example. These are the moments when our spouses are most needed, the moments when life and death decisions are made -- and, if necessary, goodbyes are said. My brother, whose kidneys failed when he was in his 30s, understands these moments.

Of course, this is just one example of how Friday's decision changes the lives of gay and lesbian couples in Iowa. As the court wrote in its unanimous decision, the 12 plaintiffs (six couples) expressed "the disadvantages and fears they face each day due to the inability to obtain a civil marriage in Iowa." These include: "the legal inability to make many life and death decisions affecting their partner, including decisions related to health care . . . the inability to share in their partners' state-provided health insurance, public employee pension benefits, and many private-employer-provided benefits and protections," and the denial of "several tax benefits."

"Yet, perhaps the ultimate disadvantage expressed in the testimony of the plaintiffs," the court continued, "is the inability to obtain for themselves and for their children the personal and public affirmation that accompanies marriage." In other words, they desire to be recognized as married couples, as a "family" to use my brother's word.

With Friday's ruling -- which upheld a lower-court ruling that rejected a state law restricting marriage to a union between a man and woman -- that desire has become law. As early as April 24, gays and lesbians will be able to exchange vows in civil services.

As for religious attitudes toward same-sex marriage, the court respectfully, and in typically plain-spoken manner, explains that "the sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past. The only difference is civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law."

My brother and I and millions of Iowans are proud of our state at this moment. Others aren't. There are many (some of them beloved family members) who believe marriage, civil or otherwise, should only be between a man and woman; others aren't opposed to same-sex marriage but don't think the courts should mandate it. Indeed, there's a movement here in Iowa as in other states to amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union solely between a man and woman. (Such an amendment couldn't get on the ballot here until 2012 at the earliest.)

To this, I would simply ask why? Why blemish our constitution and narrow our definition of equal protection when our state has been a leader on such historic civil-rights issues as slavery, interracial marriage, women's rights, and desegregation?

As the court wrote in its decision: "We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."

Here's to marriage, a "supremely important civil institution." And here's to including, not excluding, kind-hearted people like my brother David, who want nothing more than to find the right person, settle down, and one day perhaps get married.

Mr. Judge, a fifth generation Iowan, is a freelance journalist and a contributing editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Racial Reconciliation and Enlarged Hearts

These past two days at the seminary have been rich with lectures and music and discussion on the subjects of African American Spirituality, the Black Church and Music. The culminating event was a celebratory Eucharist today at Noon. All this in honor and remembrance of the Martrydom of The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Having visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, I was able to picture exactly what Dean Pollard described in his opening address yesterday afternoon. We all must tell our own stories and listen to each others stories in truth and love, because only then will reconcilation happen and our hearts will be enlarged!

This editorial from the Washington Post provides some hope that we are on our way to that glorious day about which Martin Luther King Jr. spoke when "we will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character." Thanks be to God!