The government of the United States has no right to tell two consenting adults whom they can and cannot love. That’s the essence of the argument for marriage equality.
Religions can believe anything they want, but love is none of the government’s business. Let religions fight with each other over this, for there are religious people everywhere disagreeing over who people should or shouldn’t love.
When a society is built on fear and hate, whether religiously or otherwise inspired, those who dare to love whom they want are seen as subversive. They’re the ones willing to fight society’s fear and hate so they can live as people who love another.
Groups that want to limit the definition of love so it fits nicely within their stifling boundaries get scared by love that knows no bounds. They visit their fears of what it would mean if they themselves loved boldly on those who don’t fit what feels safe to them.
It doesn’t matter that real loving never always feels “safe.” It feels vulnerable, fears being unrequited, and fears that it is never more than temporary.
There’s a real basis for those feelings, for the nature of loving is that one will eventually lose what one loves. It’s inevitable - whether that be one’s pet, a friend, or a life partner, death always interferes, even if love itself is intended to last “forever.”
And there are reasons love feels fragile. One is always risking when one loves that now or in the future it will be spurned.
That means, then, that love is not only a risk but an important act of human affirmation. We need every act of love all the more because it is so human to love what can be taken away.
We love because it’s worth the heartbreak. We love because it’s a force for change not only in our personal lives, but in the world.
Love isn’t just between two people who commit to it. Real love can’t keep to itself. It might start with one other, but the loving between two lovers can’t contain itself from becoming a force for good.
That’s why it’s a total misunderstanding for a couple to attempt to huddle away from the world out there to be caught up in each other. That’s fear, - fear of being lonely, being hurt, losing, not being loveable.
Love must change the world out there or it is mere neediness. Love is actually a force for liberation.
To ask same-sex love to hide, keep to itself, not share itself with family and friends, is to ask a couple to feel phony, illegitimate, and lacking.
The concealing of same-sex love by our society keeps love from changing our culture. And no matter how LGBT people want to act as if nothing will change if they have equal marriage rights, the fact is: much will.
And it should.
Every open loving relationship between two men will say to men of all sexual orientations that men do not have to beat, defeat, or kill each other. It will say that this is not inherent in men, but that men can share vulnerabilities, nurture each other, and find comfort in one another.
Men do not have to be in competition. They don’t have to view each other as rivals or enemies. They don’t have to go off to a battlefield far away to kill or be killed by other another man.
And that is so radical because it challenges our whole warrior culture and all the money made by sending men off to battle to destroy other men. Same-sex love is subversive.
Every open loving relationship between two women will say to women of all sexual orientations that women do not have to find their fulfillment in a man. It will say that feeling like half a person without the other sex is not inherent in women. Women are whole and complete themselves.
Women do not have to give up any of their inherent qualities to be subordinate in a marriage. They can take care of themselves, love themselves, and protect themselves.
And that is so radical because it challenges all the sexism in our culture and all the money being made by convincing women they must do everything to attract men. Same-sex love is subversive.
It’s so subversive that many don’t want to see it. They prefer to think that it must be only sex; and in a society so sick with self-imposed ignorance about all sexuality, that confuses what love means all the more.
Love is subversive enough to be costly. But it’s worth the price because it changes ourselves and society.
Love’s costliness makes it easy to get distracted with less dangerous relationships that fit nicely in the patterns dictated by our consumer-oriented society. Patterned relationships called “love” are peddled all around us.
And same-sex love, whether that be deep friendships or romantic partnerships, costs even more. LGBT people have learned that it can be a great price as prejudice, law, religion, national boundaries, and cultural norms must be fought in order to love.
In fact, LGBT people provide a real model of the sacrificial love that ought to be a religious parable. If love is the goal of religion and love is costly – costly enough in Christian beliefs to say that it brought a crucial death on a cross – then there remains no group that has taken up the cause of such love more sacrificially.
Throughout history LGBT people have been tortured and killed for their love, have been fired for their love, have been rejected by their families and friends for their love, have been ridiculed and humiliated for their love. And their loving itself has been defamed, desecrated, and denied.
Truly they are models of the importance of love. And so, in the middle of this Gay and Lesbian History month, we remember the history of sacrificial love.
While in this fear-based society, we must champion all attempts at love, no matter how inelegant. They should be celebrated.
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction; Scared Straight: Why It’s So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It’s So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.FairnessProject.org
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