Shame. That’s a strong word. But toward the end of his life (he died at 89) he had changed a lot. Goldwater was a strong pro-choice advocate — his wife was one of the original founders of Planned Parenthood in Arizona. He was also pro-gay rights long before it really became a public issue. His grandson was gay.
Still, he was ashamed of that one thing in his life.
Today, there are many potential Goldwaters out there on the gay marriage issue, which has recently been argued in two cases before the Supreme Court: reviews of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage. There are decent people with good values who are against gay marriage. One day, in the not-so-distant future, these people will be ashamed of their position. If any of the Supreme Court justices vote against it, they will eventually be ashamed as well. Not only that but their children, their grandchildren and their heirs will be ashamed of them.
To see how quickly the public has come around on this issue is to recognize how soon it will be totally accepted in our country.
However, the people who will have the toughest time with their anti-gay positions are the religious. The priests and pastors and ministers and rabbis who are against gay marriage are struggling with their consciences more than anyone else. In their hearts, they cannot square their teachings that God made man in his own image, that we are all children of God, with the fact that they discriminate against people simply because of those they love.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan said recently that he felt the Catholic Church needed to do better and that he didn’t want the church’s “defense of marriage” to become an “attack on gay people.” But the first thing he would say to gay people is: “I love you, too, and God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness. And . . . we want your happiness . . . and you’re entitled to friendship . . . but we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness . . . especially when it comes to sexual love — that is intended only for a man and a woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”
The head of the U.S. bishops conference then watched when a gay man from New York, who was active in the church until he married his partner, was kicked out of church ministry. This, despite 18,000 signatures in his defense.
I have had a few religious leaders confide in me that they were not personally against gay marriage but could not take that position publicly for fear of losing their congregations. Think of the conflict and, yes, shame they must be feeling now and how it will only worsen with time. One day, they will have to come around or they really will lose their congregations. They have one thing going for them. Most religions believe in redemption. They’ll need to pray for it big-time.