So yesterday was a beautiful day. Sun. Celebration. Support. Story. Hope.
I gave a cúpla focail at the marriage equality gathering in the city. It was organized by the wonderful people at the Rainbow Project, Amnesty and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Over 10,000 people gathered in the sun to hear speeches about the love of LGBT people. I don't think I will ever get used to the joy of walking through a city on the odd days when the city says "your right to be safe is a right worth protecting". And that's one of the underlying dynamics of marriage equality - this is an opportunity for people like me to believe that our society believes in our safety; people like the beautiful ones I know who have lived through too much public distaste, too many exorcisms, too much change therapy, too much #loveyouhateyoursin
There is a need to have public ways to honour the love that LGBT couples have for each other. Marriage equality is one way to wind down the cycle of pain that LGBT people learn.
It's worth repeating that there are already aspects of marriage equality in Northern Ireland. There are marriages between one man and one woman. Many of these marriages have children; others of those marriages don't have children. Those marriages are celebrated and blessed and recognized by places of faith. Those marriages are beautiful and protected and it should always be.
There are also marriages between people who've been married before - some of these marriages are blessed by places of faith, some not. There are interfaith marriages and marriages between people who don't claim any religious viewpoint. Some places of faith recognize these as valid marriages, others don't. But they are recognized and protected by law. The love at the heart of all marriages is given legal protection, whether or not those marriages are recognized and validated as such in places of faith. Different churches, different places of faith, civil marriage sites - they already disagree between the marriages each validate and the ones they don't. That's what this is - adding to an already diverse space.
No minister will go to jail because they won't celebrate the marriage of a same sex couple. No priest is in jail because he won't celebrate the marriage of a couple one of whom has been previously married. To engage in a fantasy of persecution is just that - a fantasy. The theological question is one of love. One of the questions is: do the couple love each other? If this is true, then what is the source of that love? God, you are the source of all things good and of your own we give you, our Anglican friends pray that - it's my favourite part of their liturgy. Another question is this: Rather than imagining Christian persecution because of marriage laws in this jurisdiction, it's best to stay with love. Have leaders of faith shown enough love to deserve an invitation to the weddings of LGBT couples? This is the practical theology at the heart of this public debate. What is the quality and affect of our love?
I have many friends who disagree with me on this. Throughout this discussion we will remain friends, and we will remain committed to strong dialogue, engaged discussion, refusal to insult each other or play insinuation games that deride or mock. To insult one cheapens us all. Integrity calls for the truth, and I am committed to the gentle and powerful truth of the impact of public words on the private lives of individuals most affected by those public words. Shirley McMillan was at the event yesterday with folks from the Gay Straight Alliances of Shimna and Hazlewood Integrated Schools. Those schools are intentionally creating places of safety for those who have had to recognize harsh words about them far too early. The stories from yesterday - from couples who shared their stories, from allies who spoke of their support, writer Glenn Patterson, organizations who pledged their support, individuals who spoke of their journey towards courage, drag queens, artists, writers, trade unionists, people in the crowd, people who waved, people who smiled - it is an extraordinary thing to feel a city swell in the simplicity of support to say "We're glad you're part of the city". Let's make Love the Law.
Anyway, here are the words from yesterday:
Friends we are here today for love and because of love.
When I was 12 I heard someone say that gay people couldn’t love each other and would be the breakdown of society. So I kept secrets because I was too frightened to tell the truth.
At 18, I heard someone say that LGBT people don’t love each other, can’t love each other.
I heard it again at 19 and 20 and 21 and most years since. I heard it last week.
But we know that LGBT people can and do love each other. Let’s tell that truth.
Our love for each other is what helps us live, what helps us survive and thrive. Our love is powerful, generous, supportive, kind, strong and lifegiving.
Let’s honour the word Marriage with another word: Equal.
We need nobody’s permission to live and show and share our love.
What we want is recognition and protection in law.
Our straight allies, places of faith, work, our families - they know this is true and they know it’s good news:
The marriages of LGBT couples are worth protecting in law. It’s good for us and is good for all of society.
Too many young people today still hear messages that depress them and threaten their dignity. It is not acceptable that our love is deemed distasteful.
As a person of faith I believe our love is a sign of our deepest morality - and our society will deepen its strength, its faith and its quality by acknowledging — in law — the love that we have for each other.
So let’s make Tá the Law. Let’s make Grá the Law. Ulster says Yes.