More and more, this period in the struggle for marriage equality begins to resemble the historical period in the 1830s-1850s when the nation became deeply divided over slavery.
Last week Hawaii’s legislature approved civil unions for same-gender couples–and the Governor has said he will sign the bill. At the same time, the Indiana House of Representatives passed legislation for the voters to approve a constitutional amendment to ban same-gender marriage. Other states–New York, Rhode Island, and others–are engaged in public debate. And everywhere advocates on both sides vie for public favor.
The trend lines in public opinion clearly favor the advocates of same-gender marriage. But opponents are digging in, using every tactic they can to stall what is inevitable.
For a student of American history, this period feels a lot like the heated, even deadly, struggle over Kansas and Nebraska–will slavery be extended into new states or not, that was the most burning national issue in the 1850s. People actually moved to those states to fight it out (even resorting to murder).
Ultimately, it took a bloody internal war to settle the matter, and to amend the federal constitution to bar slavery forever. I do not foresee that happening now, but it is clear the rupture in the body politic is already severe.
I continue to pursue the cause of marriage equality with vigor and determination, and with profound confidence in the ultimate outcome. However, I ask God to help us, as we persevere, to do so in ways that help those against equality to maintain their dignity and ultimately make their own internal peace with justice.
We must never relent in the cause of justice, but we must pursue it with love and mercy in our hearts. And that’s not always easy!
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.