As I write this, it is the eve of the Supreme Court Justices’ decision on the legality of same-sex marriage for the United States. I believe that their decision will be YES! I am a hopeful guy. How could it not be YES! In College my friends had four letter nick names for each other. I was HOPE because I was really naive and believed almost anything was possible. I am much older now but I am usually very optimistic, hopeful.
I realize that this is a legal decision but I would be lost if I did not believe that divine grace was not part of the process that has brought the GLBT community this far. We are good people just like all of creation. So many people have been told that they were going to Hell, that they were no good, that they did not belong or kicked out of what was their home. We are on the eve of a new “revelation” of what God has created as good. All of us! We will be told that there is no room for discrimination but are called to embrace the immensity of God’s expression of love.
When I was a child I thought there was only two ways of living. Either you married or you were not married (single). In the fifth grade my essay about what I wanted to be when I grew up was a “good father” like my dad. I did not know of any other role models. Although I could not describe it I knew that I was not attracted to women. I liked women but I did not have a physical attraction that other boys talked about when they referred to girls. So I thought that meant that I was to remain single and since I was raised Roman Catholic, that I was called to be celibate. Wow, what wonderful news. I knew that I was different but did not know how to articulate my feelings but finally this must be the way to be truly ME. Tomorrow when the Justices say YES, other boys and girls will publicly be told there are more choices and marriage means much more than with a man and woman. I wish I had known that there were other options.
It can be a sad place when you feel different than others in your environment and are told that you are not wanted. I can still picture our church cemetery as a child which had a tomb stone of a person buried on the other side from all the other tombstones. He had been alienated. They took his money for a burial plot but he did not get buried with the community. Having legal status means that we pay our way but we are recognized and have the benefits as equals. No one should be alone. We all have dignity. The Justices will say that tomorrow with their YES.
I was really lonely as a Roman Catholic priest. I had people all around me but I was very lonely. I can remember when I was young that sleeping above my parent’s bedroom I could hear them talk to each other. It is what I wanted. They were in relationship. Sure being in a relationship with God is important but God didn’t ever make an appearance to fulfill my loneliness. The YES of the Justices says that indeed all relationships are important and should be protected. Everyone should have the possibility of being in a bedroom, sharing dreams, financial struggles, goals and fears with someone. Everyone should have someone to touch them, love them, speak to them and listen to them. Everyone was created to be in relationship on many levels, same-sex marriage being one of them.
When I was to be confirmed I chose the name John the Baptist much to my parent’s dismay. My sponsor’s name was Joseph and they thought I should take that name. I told them that I was a voice crying out in the wildness. They let me take John the Baptist. Maybe Adolph Eugene “Joseph” Dwenger might have had a better ring! And so my first real memory of a justice conversation happened with my Aunt Emma. Aunt Emma had never married and would visit on different weekends her sibling’s family. Aunt Emma was sitting at the dinner table and she made a statement that unless you were Catholic you could not go to Heaven. I proceeded to tell her that she was wrong. I was sent to my room. My parents later talked with me and told me that I could believe differently than Aunt Emma but that I was never to be disrespectful to my elder and I had been disrespectful. This was great news for me because I was thinking about inclusiveness and my parents did not necessarily disagree with me. I just needed to be more intelligent in my debate. The Justices’ YES will permit the debate, the conversation of better understanding each other continue, rather than be met with closed doors.
Have you ever met two heterosexual married couples that are alike? They are really different and unique. The arguments against same-sex marriage seem to me to often throw all GLBT people into a same category. No same-sex relationship is the same. I met my partner Rick in 1998. It was a blind date. I had left the institutional Roman Catholic Church and was a pastor of an independent Catholic Eucharistic church. My congregation knew that I was gay. It was one of the stipulations of the leadership role. I was finally out of the closet and would never be asexual again. One of the same-sex couples in the church couldn’t believe that I was single. They wanted to fix me up on a blind date. I told them that I was not interested in a blind date but that I always needed to eat so I would come over for dinner as invited. Rick was there for dinner also. Rick and I have been together since 1998 but we have never really had a relationship with the couple who introduced us. We didn’t find much in common except all four of us are gay men. We need to stop grouping people into categories so we can explain who has value and who doesn’t. The Justices’ will ask what is so unique that we can deny some and let others marry. They will say YES tomorrow to all.
I proposed to Rick at his place of work wearing a suit, with 2 dozen roses on bended knee with his co-workers watching (it was the afternoon before I attended the FCM Indianapolis regional meeting that evening). He was not expecting this. I was shaking inside but I was determined to speak the words. I had finally found the man that I was to be with and I would share conversations at night, cry and laugh together, talk about goals and pray together. Rick has told me that he was looking for someone who would pray with him. I would have the relationship just like I heard my parents when I was young. He said yes to my proposal. In 1998 we could not get married in Indiana. We did have a union service. It is 2015 and we live in Ohio and we still can’t get married. But tomorrow the Justices’ will tell the world anyone can be married.
Rick has been on disability since 2001. He has had some tough times physically and mentally. There have been several times that Rick’s illness has hospitalized him and challenged him in such a way that he could not recognize me, know who I was. As tough as those times have been it has been a blessing on other levels. When my father was 91, my parents had been married for 64 years and Dad was starting to become confused. It was not easy for Mom who cared for him. I picked Dad up to take him to a family function and Mom stayed at home to rest. During the whole time that Dad was with me he wanted to go back home to be with his wife. I would convince him that we just needed to eat, have some coffee, remind him that dessert was pie etc. He did not recognize me as his son. He continually talked about his wife, how much he loved her, how he was successful only because of her, how the children were successful because of her and he really wanted me to take him back home because he missed her. After about 3.5 hours I took him back home. I knew Mom’s plan was to take a nap. Dad gave his wife a kiss; I tucked him into bed and went into the living room to talk with my Mom. I told her, “You are so blessed. I know he is probably exhausting for you but he never stopped talking about anyone except you.” And so does Rick about me. On several occasions I have been sitting in the hospital room and he would tell the nurse that he didn’t know where Adolph was, it was not like Adolph not to be with him, that he loves Adolph and they should call him because he must not know he is in the hospital. One time he told the nurses that they needed to find Adolph and to get the man (me) out of the room. I guess some would be upset by that but I am a hopeful guy and what a blessing that Rick loves me even if he can’t tell me.
You see, I have the marriage that my parents had. I have the listening, and touching, the bantering and laughing, the flirting, and the serious moments that need two to be together. But we still don’t have what my parents had. I should not have to explain who I am and where is Rick’s spouse when he needs medical attention away from his familiar setting I should not have to show a power of attorney or medical directive with my name on it so I can get into the gates of care. I should not have to explain to my neighbors where I sleep. Yes, when we moved to Ohio in 2011 I was asked on my front lawn where I slept. I said “a bed.” I should not have to be told that I am not in the state of Grace. Yes, a different neighbor said that. I should not be refused communion and not told why. Yes I was refused communion at my father’s funeral and my mother’s funeral. I had to fight discrimination at my place of employment when Rick’s older brother had been tragically killed and I wanted time off without pay, (no benefits for a same-sex family funeral) to attend the funeral with Rick. Luckily my employer agreed that I was being discriminated against and my boss lost his job but at a time when I really just needed to support my Rick, I had to fight for my employment because I was seen as a bad manager because of my “lifestyle choices.”
My life has been good in comparison to so many other stories by the GLBT community but I really, really, really need the Supreme Court Justices’ to say YES on June 26, 2015 so others have an easier transition to marriage if they so desire. Tomorrow the United States will not be the same and another step towards equality will be part of our proud history as Americans.