It’s a big day in the US. The Supreme Court is hearing marriage equality cases, Prop 8 from California, and DOMA. It has been the dedicated work of many many lives to achieve what has been achieved. Not just 9 states plus Washington, DC currently recognize marriage equality, but victories at the ballot-box against bans and for marriage, and a fundamental shift in public opinion. This is a movement that is not slowing. The movement is powerful, a slow tide, but a tide progressing nonetheless. I hope the Supreme Court makes the right decision, when a ruling comes this summer. I don’t know that it will, but I’m hopeful.
Something I’ve been thinking about of late, regarding the marriage debate and religion and equality in America, subjects of frequent rumination these days, is how terrifying it can be to recognize the inherent power of another. This other could be a woman, a minority, a homosexual, an other; inherently powerful but unrecognized. Today, it is marriage equality, extending the cultural power to choose marriage. This is not just acknowledging power as an individual human person, but extending the right to claim that power: to be publicly, legitimately, autonomously powerful. To admit to one’s self that the gay or lesbian individual or couple has a right to recognize a cultural presence, a right to marry, a right to stake their own makings in the world. Not power over another, but over merely the self.
This language of power comes from a Joss Whedon interview given years back that I just recently encountered. During an acceptance speech for Equality Now, Whedon discusses a press junket question he receives time and again: why does he always writes such powerful female characters? It’s a lovely speech (you can watch it here) but what stood out was the simple statement he makes about power: “Recognizing someone else’s power does not diminish your own.” I think this is what we’re failing to do, now.
Criminalizing transgendered bathroom use fails to recognize someone else’s power for fear of diminishing your own. Banning marriages, refusing hospital visits, what are these actions but an attempt to ignore the power of an other’s love in order to protect our own. Arguing that because you believe in your values, another must be restricted from their rights fails to recognize someone else’s power. You need not change your religious values; condemnation is welcome and as American as apple pie. But it is not a foundation for discrimination, not grounds for rejecting another.
Today, on the social media of the world, there are statements of support for a movement that deserves support. There are symbols embraced on behalf of a cultural moment that recognizes the need for equality. This has my full backing. I believe in the cause of marriage equality. Fully.
Hopefully too, though, we take a moment to consider the power of the individuals that comprise the heart of this fight. Today’s Supreme Court cases have the potential to extend equality to all corners of our country, a cause which makes for enthusiastic outcries from gay and straight and Christian and heathen. But, as important, is the potential to provide power to the individual man or woman, quietly, in the home, in the heart. To recognize equality not just as a concept but as an actual, literal, necessary enabler of power in the life of an actual human person. A person who has perhaps dedicated his or her life to this cause, or perhaps dedicated his or her life to another in private, and has been awaiting the time when the nation will finally realize that recognizing this power and this relationship does not diminish one’s own.