The divisive debate regarding whether or not there is going to be equal access to marriage in various states took a disappointing turn when the voters of Maine rejected an already established law allowing for equal access to marriage for both straight and gay people.
As was the case of California, so it was in Maine: a standing law, guaranteeing the rights of all people who desire to be wed and live in a married relationship, was thwarted by misinformed voters, driven by the powers of negative advertisement. One set of televised ads came out of a place of great fear, appealing powerfully to those opposed to equal marriage. Political consultants Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint noticed that if they framed the debate in an educational, public school context, where children would be taught that two men or two women could wed, as can a man and a woman, then the reaction of older parents was strongly against equal access to marriage by gays and straights (“Gay Marriage Foes Win with Message About School,” News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C., Nov. 6, 2009).
This reaction against equal access to marriage that is inclusive of gay and straight people is based on the fear that such access would radically change the notion of family, though in reality people who identify as straight or gay have lived in long term, significant relationships for generations, just perhaps not always as open and visible to the wider public. It is this same fear based perspective that recently caused a justice of the peace, Judge Bardwell of Louisiana, to turn down the request of an inter-racial couple to marry, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled inter-racial couples could marry in the 1967. The judge said he feared that any offspring would be treated poorly. It is fear of moving outside of our comfort zone, of the known, of the “we’ve always been doing it this way.” This last line is also known as the seven last words of a church before it dies. Fear strangles and suffocates life. Fear prevented the Maine law from standing, denying the truth that, under the law, all of us are created equal, gay and straight alike.
What will conquer the fear of the unknown are openness, acceptance, and love. That is why equal marriage access to marriage will, sooner or later, be the law of the land: because love is stronger than fear. The Catholic activist Dorothy Day reminds us that love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams, but it is the only way to real freedom.
Then let us, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer expressing, questioning (LGBTQ) and straight allies practice a radical love that is real. Let us outstretch our arms and offer a hand, literally and figuratively, and practice love. Let us practice love that is philial, of friends, of brotherly and sisterly love, as we walk hand-in-hand as we protest our rights of all people to marry, as well as shaking the hands of politicians to craft bills that cover all who desire to wed. Let us practice love that is eros, embracing in a hug that is comforting and reassuring the ones we love, giving a tender kiss in a quiet public place, gay and straight alike.
This is an essential component to remind everyone in our country that this issue affects many people, not a few individuals. And let us practice love that is agape, a sacrificial love, with open hands, hearts, and minds, understanding well the fear of differentness that others embrace as we patiently lead each other to see how it is love between two consenting adults that creates a relationship that sustains people in good, challenging, and overall satisfying times in a marriage, whether a couple is gay or straight. In the end, love will conquer fear, in which we can then gather at the abundant fountain of love, not at the dark pit of stifling fear.