Dr. John Young 9-7-08
Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville
Fairness for All Families
Perhaps the most quoted line about families is by Leo Tolstoi at the beginning of his great novel Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” We humans have so much more in common than our differences. Yet, too often our differences make us unhappy. Many have trouble facing and dealing with their own differences, even more have trouble accepting and living with how other people are different from them.
My wife and I grew up in what was the 1940s and 1950s typical American family. Our fathers worked hard at steady jobs; our mothers stayed at home with their four children and took care of the family. Our parents had married young, and their marriages lasted their entire lives, although not without difficulties or heartaches. We grew up in safe, small town Midwest neighborhoods without wealth or privilege, but we received good public educations, had lots of friends, and big, close loving families.
Others, like our present Presidential candidates grew up in very different circumstances. John McCain was the wealthy grandson and son of admirals. He came back from being a prisoner of war to abandon the wife that had waited for him but who had been in a disfiguring accident. He married a younger woman with a great fortune, and now he does not know how many residences they have, and she does not feel safe if he is driving their vehicles. Barack Obama grew up with a single mom, hardly knew his father and was raised significantly by his grandparents. Families change, and family values have changed.
Now, most children’s parents will have many jobs, and both parents will work, because that is the only way that most people can raise a family or keep from drowning in debt in our free economy. They will live several different places. About half of the parents will get divorced, and most will get remarried. So, rather than blended families being an exception, they have become the norm. Millions of children grow up without a father. Now, an adult virgin, a high school mother, or having more than two children is considered a little scandalous.
The reactionaries in our society parent many of those teenage mothers and their children actually have most of America’s abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. Why? Because such parents have acted as though teenagers would not be sexual and to keep them from becoming informed about appropriate birth control and protect from disease. In the 21st century, they still act as though women were not educated and should not be empowered to play equal roles in their churches or their politics. I celebrate the Republicans almost unknown Vice Presidential candidate, but as I remember the Democrats had such a candidate a generation ago. Tokenism is not the change needed.
For more than a generation, our Unitarian Universalist denomination has been at the forefront of our society in recognizing, celebrating and supporting responsible relationships in love among gay and lesbian people. Just as we are not a Black church or a women’s only church, although we have supported African-American and women’s equality since the mid-1800s, we are not a gay or lesbian church, but we believe what Jesus taught that all people are children of God, that we are all spiritually equal, and that the full rainbow of humanity has the right to love and live affirming their genuine differences. We think that everyone should be responsible. So, we have welcomed GBLT individuals into our membership, ministry and leadership for more than a generation. It is not a stand we have just discovered as a marketing strategy or a focus-group political gesture. It is what we believe Jesus meant when he asked us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Florida is still caught in heterosexual bigotry because it already only recognizes a marriage between one man and one woman. I disagree with this stand and consider it to be bigotry that should be overturned. I do ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples, and I consider them to be married as much as heterosexual couples. Many gay and lesbian marriages are just as happy, last just as long, and are just as good for society as any heterosexual marriage. However, Florida’s institutionalized bigotry is not enough for the most flagrant of the bigots.
So, we will be voting in November for or against Proposition 2 which would add to the Florida Constitution the following words: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
Voting this amendment into the Florida Constitution would not only reinforce institutional bigotry against responsible and loving gay and lesbian families, but it would also put in jeopardy all intimate relationships except legalized heterosexual marriages. In America today, we have millions of people living together outside of the bonds of marriage. Young couples who are going through a discernment process to decide whether or not to get married, and older couples who have had enough of marriage, but want to live together. There are and have been many such couples in this congregation, and I would dare say probably every congregation in America, including the congregations of the bigots rallying their thousands in favor of this institutionalized bigotry, have many such couples among their participants. If you or your loved ones are in such a relationship, you might be prohibited from visiting your lover in the hospital or have their wills overturned or insurance denied. So, make no mistake, this proposed amendment is a not-too-subtle attempt to legislate an outworn and usually not practiced morality.
It is time to stop being controlled by the politics of fear. For too much of the last generation, America has been flimflammed by reactionaries who want to tell you who to love, that you can have a society without taxes, that government is the enemy and does not work but that they should control it, that any military or security expenditure or sacrifice should be accepted without question, and that the outworn prejudices of the past must be legislated to preserve the future. It is time instead to stand up and ask everyone to be responsible for themselves and for the people that they love, and it is time to embrace the responsible rainbow of our differences and to learn how to live together in justice, peace, and sustainable relationships with each other and with the world.