Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rainbow flags and moral voices

Well now that was quite a day, what with those U.S. Supreme Court rulings that affirmed same-sex marriage and all. Maybe even a little disorienting, especially for those of us teetering on the brink of our dotages who look back on substantial chunks of life in the relational shadows, lived with carefully compartmentalized public personas.

But good. Especially for married gay couples in the now-13 states (and District of Columbia), including Iowa, occupied by roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population, where same-sex marriages are both performed and legally recognized. All federal benefits previously reserved for heterosexual couples will flow automatically to them once the technicalities are ironed out.

Place of residence rather than marital status, however, will continue to restrict the flow of many federal benefits to legally married couples who live in states where their marriages are not recognized --- until conflicting program eligibility standards are harmonized. Both the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration, for example, apply a "place of residence" standard even though couples were legally married elsewhere.

Most likely those restrictions will fall now that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional --- but that will take time and Republicans will resist.

The rulings fell into line with what LGBT-affirming legal types felt were the most likely, although not assured, outcomes. Same-sex marriage returns to California because the court ruled (narrowly) that defenders of Proposition 8 had no standing in the federal court system. That ruling does not affect marriage restrictions in other states.

While the DOMA ruling steered clear of any limits on a state's authority to restrict access to marriage within its borders, the justices' broad invocation of the equal-protection provision of the Fifth Amendment to assure equal access to federal recognition provided powerful ammunition for use in future challenges.


It seems likely that the institutional church will continue to be a big loser as efforts accelerate now to bring equal marriage to more states, primarily because the viciously conservative end of that contraption now forms the public face of Christianity.

The right wing --- Southern Baptist, the Roman Catholic all-male hierarchy and others --- responded harshly and loudly to Wednesday's rulings with the usual absurdly inflated rhetoric. "Jesus wept," the execrable Mike Huckabee declared. And the media gleefully reported all of that.

But you can hardly blame the media. Strong moral voices that might have spoken joyfully for the millions of Christians who are affirming, were silent or muted --- as generally is the case.

Just for giggles, I did a little poking around last night and found strong and supportive voices among the Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ leadership. My own head honcho, Bishop Katharine, seemed pleased --- but she is infected with the virus called "nuance" that so many Episcopalians fall victim to and that makes communications a challenge. ("Nuance" translates in most instances as "unintelligible.")

The official United Methodist response to the rulings seemed to be a lengthy discourse on how difficult is was going to be for United Methodists to resolve their own conflicts. It is rumored, by the way, that parenthetical modifications to that denomination's official description of itself will be considered during the next annual conference: "Open Hearts (60 percent), Open Minds (40 percent), Open Doors (9 a.m.-noon Sundays and by appointment)." 

The recent right-wing mantra has been, "Gays will destroy the church." Actually, there's no need for LGBT folks to focus on that mission. The church is doing quite nicely on its own.

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