Back in North Carolina, fresh out of seminary, still listening to Rush Limbaugh daily, I got into an interesting conversation with a southern Baptist preacher.
“Would you marry a gay couple?” he asked me.
This was not something I was expecting to hear; we were in rural North Carolina and the only gay person I knew was the funeral home director in the even more rural town where my other congregation was. To be honest, it was not something that had even crossed my mind. In fact, my initial question back was “why would they want to?”
As he explained the dilemma, it was apparent that this was something eating away at him as his once mainline denomination was starting to change. He noted that marriage was much more than procreation and if that were taken out, why would not gay marriage be accepted. As for his argument, it would be like marrying a woman who was past child bearing years. An interesting argument, and something I have thought about a lot over the years.
The discussion of sexuality and especially homosexuality has been very difficult in our society. Even with the sexual revolution of the sixties, the discussions have often never moved out of emotion into reality and moral superiority often took over, squashing any real debate or discussion. For my Baptist friend, he was seeking understanding where his church wanted to take a stance, a moral high ground. Interestingly, for my friend, who has now left the Baptist Church, the question was not how we judge them but how we as a church and as Christian leaders help facilitate their relationship with Jesus Christ.
It was interesting many years ago when I spent a couple weeks with my uncle. My uncle at 17 joined the Marines with my Grandmother’s signature and left for Korea. When he got back and the boat unloaded onto Treasure Island, he knew he found a new home and after a very short time met his partner Ronnie. They were together from their youth until Ronnie died of lung cancer. They were committed to each other, as my uncle says in a loving relationship that lasted longer than most marriages in this country. The thing is, when I went with my uncle one afternoon to visit where Ronnie’s ashes were and I saw the way he looked at his name, there was no mistake in his eyes either the genuineness of his love or the fact that they had a depth to their love that even many straight couples do not achieve.
What made it even more apparent that their relationship was a marriage was the way they impacted those around them. In our marriage service we always talk about how two individuals come together to create a better couple than individuals joining their gifts together for the betterment of their community and family. When I met Ken’s friend I recognized that they were not friends, rather they were family. He had those who he looked out for when they had just come out in San Francisco, and those who he had cared for through the AIDS epidemic. I could go on, but it is hard to say how his relationship and what he did with Ronnie was any less than what my parents are in their relationship.
It is interesting; I have now gotten to the point where I cannot remember the number of marriages I have done. Now most of the marriages I have officiated were straight, but I have done a couple gay ones, I have also done a few relationship blessings, for those who cannot get married for financial or familial reasons and a couples civil unions. Through all of those I have witnessed to the fact that no two couple get married for exactly the same reasons, but close to the top of every list is always Love, and, believe it or not, close in many is the recognition that they are better together than apart.
Actually, my hope and prayers go to allowing pastors to marry couples. To be honest, when asked, I will do more gay marriages regardless of what comes out of this meeting. Actually, I also think that most gay marriages are traditional marriages with the one difference of procreation. This is funny, since I would say that of the straight marriages I have done about a quarter have explicitly said that they did not want to have kids and one of the homosexual marriages was for the expressed purpose of having a child.
Something to think about.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen