Although I have always been fascinated with the Supreme Court and have always enjoyed Nina Totenberg’s reports on NPR more than an ice cream Sunday, I’ve never been as glued to the Court and its decisions as I have these last two weeks. Scotusblog has me hooked. I’ve watched line by line as the news of the decisions is announced. I’ve skimmed through most of the controversial opinions and dissents as they’ve become available. I’ve tried to figure out what all of this means—for me, for our country, and for our church.
When the dust settles—and it may take a while for that to happen—I suspect that I will discover that I am right where I started. I live in Alabama, where same-sex marriage is just as illegal today as it was last week. I am an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Alabama, where the blessing of same-sex relationships is not permitted. I am the rector of a church in a midsized, antebellum, southern town, where lots of people applaud the Court’s decisions and lots of people vilify them. But, while everything around me is staying pretty much the same, things are changing rapidly in other places. Although things here at home aren’t any different today than they were yesterday, pretty soon the changes happening in those other places will reach us here.
I have already had an e-mail exchange with a friend and parishioner about yesterday’s decisions. In that “conversation,” we touched on the fact that none of this really comes as a surprise. The only question that hadn’t really been answered until yesterday was to what degree things would change overnight. The answer for most of us, it seems, is not all that much. Eventually, however, marriage equality will become a reality—even in places like Alabama. Now, we’re just waiting to see how long that will take (or how long we have until that happens, depending on your perspective).
That e-mail exchange also pointed me to another question, the answer to which is more difficult to anticipate. When things do change—even here in Alabama—what will happen to those who resist or oppose such change? Will they be invited to participate in the life of the civic community? Will their ministry be valued in our church? I don’t know what things are like in other parts of the country, but over here in this part we are still trying to figure those things out. Many of us feel that marriage equality is a “no-brainer.” Just as many of us feel deeply threatened by it. When the ripples of change come—when our diocese permits the blessing of same-sex relationships and when our state recognizes the marriage of two men or two women—what will the conversation within the church be like? Will we be shouting at each other from inside our foxholes, or will we be sitting at a table together engaging in a family discussion?
Yesterday’s Supreme Court decisions remind me that how things look depends on where you live. Today is a bright new day for marriage equality in California, and those of us here in Alabama are watching and waiting and wondering what will happen here. I hope and pray that the experience of other states and dioceses and parishes will be shared openly and non-confrontationally so that, when things do change here at home, we aren’t threatened by it.