Fifty years ago, I was a shy high school kid in Salt Lake City. I was more likely to be found with my nose in a book or watching “Shindig” on TV than out raising cain.
I knew some cain-raisers, though. For a while, one of their fads was to drive around Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park, a known meeting place for gay men.
If they caught one alone, they’d take his money and beat him up. For these kids, it was a cruel kind of blood sport.
Shy kid that I was, I didn’t join those escapades. But I look back with remorse because, at the time, I didn’t see much problem, either.
The police didn’t much care. If a gay man reported the mugging, the police would just lecture him. Those rough kids never worried about getting caught.
Society was brutally homophobic. I was homophobic, too, as bad as anyone I knew.
Fifty years have passed. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve gotten to know all kinds of folks. I’ve found out, none of us is really any better than anybody else. “Gay marriage?” That’s just marriage.
The legal status of same-sex marriage is moving so fast now, it’s hard to keep up. A federal judge struck down Indiana’s ban on June 25.
In the two days before an appeals court put that decision on hold, a bunch of same-sex couples got married. I’m proud to say, I had the honor to perform one of those weddings.
By the time the Bartholomew County Clerk’s Office finally started giving out licenses, a retired Presbyterian minister was at the courthouse to perform weddings on the spot.
I’m still kind of a shy kid, though. I didn’t go downtown. I just put out word that I would be at our church, ready to marry any couple that could show they were actually a couple.
Sure enough, a couple I knew did call. They’d been together a few years. Now they had a license and wanted me to wed them before the court changed its mind.
A half-hour later, they arrived with family. We went into the sanctuary, and I performed a standard wedding ritual — just a word changed here and there to fit the landmark occasion.
When I agreed to marry this same-sex couple, I thought I was just doing my job — standing up for equal human rights. But as we went through the wedding service, it became more deeply moving than I had expected.
The couple cried as I led them through the vows. The witnesses got damp-eyed, too. But I got mistier than anyone.
This meant so much to these two human beings. To be part of their joy and common humanity was — I have to say — among the most spiritual moments of my long life.
Lawyers and posturing politicians and religious zealots can keep arguing — and they will. But we’re privileged to witness something bigger than all that.
“What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Point well taken.
Indiana’s General Assembly can try to ban anything it wants. But a loving marriage is bigger than politics.
Our tiny human prejudices will slowly catch up. Not that long ago, interracial marriage, female ministers and even women voting were seen as scandalous violations of “natural law,” as well.
The Rev. Dennis McCarty is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Columbus. His opinions are his own, and members of his church may or may not agree with them. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.