Sunday, June 29, 2014

Not a trifling thing...tho the trifle was stupendous

It was quite a week in our little midwestern red state last week.  A federal judge struck down the state's Constitutional ban on gay marriage with words I think we all should reflect on.

"These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such."

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, the families down the street were a lot like mine. Wealthier, to be sure, but white, headed by males for whom you waited on dinner and prouncements of all major decisions, and at least a few kids. Any disfunction was kept snugly under the rugs scattered throughout the house and everyone went to church come Sunday.

For us it was twice on Sunday and also Wednesday night. Every damn night during summer tent revival.  And it was very clear that if you weren't a believer in the church your parents grew up in, you were clearly on the road to Hell.

Do I remember it clearly or have I attached a bit of drama to the whole thing? Probably I'm a little dramatic. But what I remember was that if you were different -- generally that meant color, but it could also mean Baptist or Catholic or being more feminine or masculine than the accepted level for your gender -- there was something wrong with you. And you were clearly on the road to Hell.

Course you always could repent and Jesus would cure you of whatever ailed you. Skin color, maybe
you were stuck with that, but I do believe we'd have let you into the church. As long as you stuck to loving only those of your same color.

I like to think my strict interpretation father would have fully softened his stance on beliefs like that. He'd certainly come a long way around to it before he died. I would have loved to have talked to him this week. I think he'd have sat and considered it a bit before shaking his head and saying, "Well I never thought I'd see the day."

I think he'd close his eyes, stretch back in his chair and maybe say, "You know, I have to say I sure did like Jeff's brother and his, uh, friend. They were all right."

And I don't think it would take him long to start thinking more deeply about people in his own family, And then, I think he'd start reflecting on scriptures from the New Testament that talk about love and acceptance and kindness. And I think he's ultimately say that it's not up to him to judge and that maybe, just maybe, we ought to stop dwelling so what other people are doing and focus a bit more on ourselves. 

I think there's also hope for the rest of Indiana that got all upset about the ruling. One story from a woman I grew up with talked about her daughter who was happy she could marry her girlfriend and her mother who thought the ruling was wrong. The granddaughter laughed off her grandmother's position with a somewhat snarky but dead on comment about how maybe the courts should examine whether grandma's multiple marriages and divorces were affecting the sanctity of traditional marriage.

For me and pretty much everyone I see on a regular basis, the ruling was a cause for celebration. Even my friend Jim Shella, who is as cynical as they come, wrote about the joy that infused the city-county building as hundreds of couples rushed to say their vows before the court order was put on ice.

You can read about it here: http://tinyurlcom/n9qlvt7 if you want. Or just Google. My bet is if you google the word "joy" the city of Indianapolis will pop up somewhere and you'll see picture after picture of couples young and old, male and female, parents and childless, with their hearts in their eyes and happiness just jumping off the screen.

I was lucky enough to get to deliver small gestures of celebration around my workplace where several couples got married. Alison got to go with me and some co-workers on our delivery run of cupcakes and cards. We've talked a lot about equality and justice and when I told her the ban was overturned she thought it was a great thing. 

She did question why it had to happen at all though. She thinks it's crazy that women once didn't have equal rights to vote and own property and make their own decisions -- and that in some countries they still don't. She thinks its incredible that people of color were denied equal rights. And the idea that you can't openly love who you love and have equal rights and protections as any other couple is just foreign to her.

I like that.

So of course the ruling has now been stayed and we're waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to tell us what we already know: that it's wrong to discriminate. Period. The end. It's just wrong.

Jeff and I went to an Indiana Statehouse Press Corps reunion this weekend, where we talked about a ton of things current and past. All of the folks still covering state news had covered the ruling of course, and they were all still talking about the atmosphere inspired by the ruling. Love was almost literally in the air around here. It was fabulous to witness.

We talked about the political courage it took for Beth White, a candidate for statewide office, to expand office hours to accommodate the long lines of Hoosiers wanting to get married. There's a lot of dissent about gay marriage in Indiana, but she declared herself on the side of love and fairness and I think it'll affect her chances this fall. I hope she wins, of course.  

It's been more than 20 years since I was a news reporter and no one would call me a political strategist, but I keep in touch with a lot of folks from back in the day. It helped that after I stopped reporting, I joined the dark side and spent another 10 years or so still around the press corps while I worked in state government. I respect and like all of them, and some of them are dear friends.  Friends so close we'll scavange the remains of the trifle from the serving bowl together...

So it was fun to see everyone and tell old stories. It was a great time. And our hostess, Niki Kelly Lohrmann, made a great trifle. 

It's just a week away from Independence Day, and Jeff's been itching to break out his fireworks. So he brought some along and lit up the sky in a pretty spectacular, albeit spontaneous display.

Come to think about it, the fireworks were a lot like the situation most of the couples who got married this week. Many of them dropped what they were doing when the ruling came down, texted and called each other with notes like, "Well, do you want to do it?" and "Are you proposing to me? I thought I was going to do that!" and "We'd better hurry before the stay is issued." 

So what that there weren't a lot of bended knees and sky writing. No one who witnessed a wedding or the aftermath reported a lack of romance.

Congrats to all those who got to become officially husbands and wives. #LoveWins.

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