- by Rev. Drew Cottle -
•Changes the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.
•Provides that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
Wednesday will bring a decision about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that, according to PBS, “(is) designed to give states the right to refuse recognition of a same-sex marriage approved by another state. It also defines marriage as a union between a man and woman for the purposes of federal law.”
It is a joyful thought to me that both of these decisions may be overturned. I am strongly in favor of inclusion of all Americans in the benefits of American law.
I understand that this might be a surprise to some people. I actually feel a little ashamed for that. There was a time that I was an outspoken advocate of gay and lesbian inclusion in society. I worked at this through inclusion in the United Methodist denomination. I have described my "bona fides" in an earlier blog post about that time. I was, I think “the gay issues” guy. I might have even been known as “the gay guy” by some, who knows.
It was never completely stated openly that it was because I advocated against the majority culture of the United Methodist Church, and the primary culture of the North Texas Conference, that I was not ordained there. When presented with the facts that I was told I was not a company man, and that during the process, my class of candidates were asked to sign a document affirming that we were not “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”, when neither the class before nor the class after were asked to sign such a document, however, one can only come to certain conclusions.
It was not an undue hardship to move, as by then my wife and I had had a son, and we were contemplating moving closer to our families in Delaware, anyway. The tone from the Annual Conference, however, was the push that accompanied the pull of family.
I consider my support of gay and lesbian inclusion in the United Methodist church to be a primary reason why I could not be ordained in the North Texas Conference.
I was ordained in the Wyoming Conference (which no longer exists, but once included the areas around Oneonta and Binghamton, NY, and Scranton and Wilkes Barre, PA) in 2006. While in North Texas, I had already begun toning down my rhetoric. Perhaps it would be considered self-censoring, but, in light of needing to provide for my family and finally finish and accomplish something in my life, it seemed prudent in that climate. That drift away from GLBT advocacy continued, even after I moved. I was plainly sympathetic to GLBT parishioners and students in Texas and Pennsylvania, and was open about my opposition to the church’s stances on ordination, marriage, and inclusion in the life of the local parish, but I also was thankful that no significant issues caused me to pick sides in any squabbles in any of the parishes I served. I was no longer an advocate connected to the national debates and issues. I was fearful, now. I had caused upheaval in my family because of my outspokenness, and I did not want to cause more. Even when I joined PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), I signed both my wife and I up together. I did not stand up and speak when there were debates on the floor of Annual Conference. So it should have been no shock to find a few years ago that I was not on the rolls of Reconciling United Methodists as kept by the RMN. But it was a shock. I felt as if I had betrayed my convictions.
Now, even as I feel joy in the possibility of the Supreme Court striking down these laws, and apprehension that they will uphold them, I feel as if I have separated myself from any right to a feeling of victory. I feel a little bit like I imagine the officials of the Vichy government felt when the Allies marched through Paris.
I read of the United Methodist pastors in North Carolina who have, en masse, declared their refusal to perform any marriages at all until they can perform marriages between any two people who love each other. I am proud of them, but I also envy them, because I did not have enough strength to put any skin into the fight. I feel like I picked the side of expedience, and not the side of right. It may have been wiser to have taken the path I chose, but I feel compromised, now.
I know how I want the Supreme Court to decide on both of these issues. I believe, as an American, that gays and lesbians are unfairly barred from full inclusion in the American legal system of rights. The Supreme Court needs to make a clear statement that all Americans are due equal rights.
I know how I want the United Methodist Church to change. I want any language that bars GLBT Children of God from full participation in the life of local parishes, District, Annual Conference and General Board organs to be edited out, because there is no exemption to those whom Christ died for, and there is no recanting of baptism.
What once I used to say because of righteousness, I now say as an act of repentance. I was not strong enough then. I repent of the sins of omission I perceive I have committed. This is my witness.