May 18, 2012

One evening last week, my spouse and I went to a local pub. It’s our favorite pub, and we’ve gone there for years, usually just to relax and have a good Scottish meal. This night was a bit different. We had just come from a doctor’s appointment at which my spouse received a less-than-optimistic report concerning a cancerous skin growth that had been surgically removed.

As we sat waiting for our dinner, her tears flowing despite my words of comfort, loud voices suddenly intruded into our sad and yet sacred space. At the table next to ours, seven older men began to talk loudly about their disgust over President Obama’s newly announced support for marriage equality. These comments were followed by distasteful comments about gays and lesbians. The crowning blow came when one man lamely compared gay people to drug pushers, joking, “Have you heard the latest? Even the drug dealers are upset they can’t get licenses, too!”

The men erupted in laughter. We sat in stunned silence, quickly finished our meal and left. This insulting experience was a far cry from the affirming one we experienced a week earlier, when we went to the hospital for my spouse’s surgery. At this Roman Catholic hospital, the doctors, nurses and administrative staff could not have been more hospitable, more caring and more supportive of us — a same-sex couple. My rights as a spouse were never challenged. My presence in the recovery room was fully welcomed. Our relationship status was never questioned.

It is our marriage license (we were married in the District in 2010) that gives us the comfort of knowing that no matter what, in sickness and in health, we will be respected as a couple in this way. We will never be denied access to each other. We will never be subjected to the indignity of having strangers make important life decisions for us.

I know that those who oppose marriage equality do so because of their thoughts, feelings or religious and political convictions. But gay people are not intellectual exercises, opinions, agendas and convictions. Laws against marriage equality affect our very lives.

As a priest in the Episcopal Church, I hope that one day people will do as Jesus did with so much empathy and humility: Put love, compassion and justice before personal feelings and convictions that do harm to other human beings. People like me and my spouse, who want only to be able to sit at a table and receive the same respect, support and protection granted any other married couple going through a difficult time.

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