It’s Time To Show Up – Witness for Marriage Equality At St. Paul’s Tonight at 6 PM
One of the greatest regrets of my life is how I gave in to my parents in 1963—when I was 16—who forbade me from going from our home in Michigan to Washington, D.C. to participate in the March on Washington. It was not that they disagreed with the cause—actually far from it—but rather that they feared for my safety in a time when violence was rising right alongside the hope for equality and justice that was emerging in our nation.
At that time, we—me, my parents, and a lot of other people–did not know that this gathering on the Mall would forever have the word “historic” attached to it. The Historic March on Washington.
This Monday and Tuesday, May 12 and 13, in Richmond, will not be like that. Not exactly. Not so big, and it is doubtful than any orators will come close to the power of Dr. King.
But it is historic. And it is time for us to show up. Indeed, it is essential, it is necessary, that we show up.
What’s so special about May 12 and 13?
On May 13, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (a court that hears cases from South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, as well as Virginia) will hear oral arguments in what we know as the Bostic case.
That case is before the court because those opposed to marriage equality objected to the magnificent decision by District Judge Arenda Wright Allen—you do remember that moment the night before Valentine’s Day, right?—declaring that marriage is a “fundamental right” and ruling that Virginia’s Marriage Discrimination Amendment violates the U.S. Constitution.
I expect that over the course of the summer, the Court of Appeals will uphold her decision. But there is no guarantee. They have the power to make a decision they think is correct legally.
But we have power, too. Our power is different. We can’t make rules that other people have to follow.
But we can push the arc of justice forward. We can help the courts—in Richmond, in Virginia generally, in Washington (where this will all end up)—know it is time do the right thing. And we can help people, ordinary people like us, move from their places of old belief to new conviction, new life, new visions of justice.
So, I urge you to interrupt your life on Monday and Tuesday, to stand up for love and marriage, and to stand up against the idea that marriage is a closed club, only open to a limited group that gets to define others out of their club.
Come downtown to the courtyard at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 815 East Grace Street, on Monday—that’s May 12—at 6:00 pm for an Interfaith Witness for Equality. But don’t stop there. Be inspired by singer/songwriter Susan Greenberg and the speakers, and stay a while longer.
March with us after the Witness down 9th Street to the U.S. Court of Appeals and help us have a vigil—all night—at the court (1100 East Main Street). Make a commitment to spend a couple of hours with me and others, holding signs for equality and using our presence, our bodies, to make a strong statement: Equality Now!
And, by 8 am (preferably before), be at the court with me and hundreds of others folks who support marriage equality. Be there when the couples—all four couples, our heroes—go in, be there when the attorneys arguing for justice go in, be there when Attorney General Mark Herring goes in.
What difference does it make, you say? Try this.
- Stake a claim on your own destiny. Show up and own it.
- Support others who have stuck their necks out for all of us. Show the couples, and their families, that we love their courage.
- Make some noise, so that those who oppose equality don’t get all the attention. Stand up against narrowness, stand up for openness and love.
I was in Norfolk in February the day the case was argued there. There were hundreds of opponents, and only a couple of dozen supporters. It was not pretty. We endured a lot of taunting and name-calling and prayers that felt like sentencing from a hanging judge.
I don’t encourage name-calling, or being nasty, or even engaging in arguments. We can be better than that, we can be good neighbors. The people on the other side are people, too, even if they seem to have a hard time recognizing the humanity of LGBT people.
So, here’s the deal: show up, stand strong for justice and love and equality, and stand with dignity and determination against injustice and exclusion.
That’s our power. Let’s use it.
Don’t regret, as I have, not showing up.
Rev. Dr. Robin H. Gorsline is President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, an interfaith organization of gay and straight clergy and lay people working for equality for LGBT Virginians. Read more of his thoughts on faith and spirituality on his personal blog.
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