A friend posted an article online this afternoon, which described the “evolution” of President Obama’s stand on same-sex marriage (Jo Becker, New York Times, 2014). I was not surprised by it: though I have to admit that I was a bit annoyed. A trifle offended, even. I was reminded of the time when I was working with “Arkansans For Human Rights”, back in 2003-2004, trying to fight the Arkansas Marriage Amendment. We tried to get a number of Democratic lawmakers to assist us in our struggle for Marriage Equality. Much though several told us they understood and goals and even agreed, they could not go on record as supporting such a preposterous suggestion (at least in Arkansas) as same-sex marriage. I find it ironic (though far from humorous), remembering those conversations, that the state has moved so far in only a decade, and the very amendment that was passed that year is now being challenged in court (Arkansas Matters, 2014). Many of our lawmakers, our leaders and heralds, would rather be seen siding with public opinion than with challenging outdated ideas. Few of those who are now in charge are actually “leading”. Much though in the developing American culture (both Canada and the U.S.), we’ve had our moments of leading the world in social justice, our leaders today seem much more intent to stay safe and cozy under the blanket of public opinion.
Directly related to this: the story of a man who was together with his partner for 58 years, but who is unable to collect on national benefits because he was not married to him long enough (Ron Lieber, New York Times, 2014): even though they were married within a month of when it was legally possible to do so in their state. It’s better than stories that were told ten years ago about men being financially ruined when their same-sex partner died unexpectedly and the family blocked the inheritance; being involved with gay rodeo at the time, I knew several such stories. But it’s still upsetting. The problem is that same-sex marriage has been around now in different nations long enough now that there are expectations associated with it: and it’s no longer just an appreciation of being able to do. We also wonder why individuals have to bear the consequences for why it took so long to implement.
I was studying with a friend over the past few weeks: we did a “Lenten Study” through the season and explored different aspects of our relationship with our church. One week the subject was “service”. One of the questions asked was about role models and who we looked up to. Although I could come up with a number of role models in the past, few came to mind currently: particularly in the political realm. Jack Layton would have once been in this category, but he is no longer here to fight the battle. Unfortunately I tend to have high ideals when it comes to my role models: and as I’ve gotten older I’ve seen a fair bit of disappointment. Maybe I’m just jaded. Maybe I’ve moved through too many communities. But too few of us really seem concerned about “others” when it comes to challenges we might have to face ourselves.