Saturday, August 23, 2014

While the Band Plays On …

While many of us would prefer a Virginia reel, marriage equality dances in waltz time in these parts: two steps forward, one step back. In January we celebrated when a federal district judge struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, and, last month, we danced with joy as the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district judge’s ruling. This week the dance got put on hold when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the appeals court order and blocked Virginia officials from issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples.
The session of the congregation I serve signed an amicus brief filed with the appeals court by People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, and we’ll continue our faithful witness in the public square in the days to come. We trust that, ultimately, love and justice will prevail, but just now that’s of little comfort.
Though the Supreme Court’s order was widely expected, its timing came as a painful personal reminder that so much more is at stake than wedding dances delayed. The single paragraph of legalese staying the appeals court decision was handed down in the midst of days still raw with grieving the sudden and unexpected death of a friend whose husband and partner of 34 years has been a parish associate at our church for almost 20 years.
Robert* was just beginning his pastoral work in the late 1970s when he met William, and faced the choice: follow his heart or follow his vocation. He chose love, and while he has no regrets those of us in the church certainly should. Robert has done significant work in the nonprofit world over the years. He has also preached, led study groups, and planned worship often for our small congregation. The larger church needs the erudite, thoughtful, compassionate leadership he would have offered in abundance had he been able to serve openly. William, who was smart, funny, and creative, would have been a great preacher’s spouse, though I imagine he’d howl in laughter at the thought.
When it comes time for National Capital Presbytery to vote on marriage equality, I’ll be thinking of so many folks who have waited far too long for simple justice, and I’ll be thinking, in particular, of William and Robert.
The two of them loved to dance. They just preferred something a whole lot faster than a waltz.

* I’ve used pseudonyms to protect privacy.