Besides the vote for president on Tuesday, we have a number of local races and quite a few referenda. Most are bond questions, and frankly, i don't like the way most are worded. They are all for different capital improvements throughout our state, but they're glommed together. One is asking if it's all right if we have a 30 million dollar bond for, and here it provides a laundry list of items with attached dollar amounts. Some of the items seem worthy of consideration but some do not. In some cases, i like the items but think the wrong amount of money is being apportioned. However we can vote either for or against. So i am mulling over which i think may be worthy enough of a yes or which i feel are most pressing for a yes.
Question 1 is the referendum that's getting most of the press, with blue signs telling all who can read to vote NO and orange sides telling all who can read to vote YES. It's a referendum that appeared on the ballot before and was narrowly voted down. It pertains to gay marriage, and a yes vote says you are in favour of allowing persons of the same sex who consider themselves a couple the option of becoming married and having the same rights and obligations of those couples where one's a male and one's a female. Voting no means you are not in favour.
At the last local election or maybe the one before that, after i was done voting, a woman asked if i'd sign a petition for this question to appear on the ballot for this election. There are a certain number of signatures which must be collected before an item can appear on the ballot. She went onto explain that it was narrowly defeated the last time it was put to the vote, and i asked when that was. It was after we had bought the house here, but were still residents at the last location, so we hadn't voted in any of the elections here. I asked her if it was the same one they had on the ballot before, and that they thought perhaps public opinion may have changed?
She replied no, the wording had changed somewhat. Unlike the earlier time, this one gives clergy the right of refusing to marry gay couples--the first one did not. I told her i could see why it hadn't passed the first time, then. I could think of one church i attended where they'd NEVER consent to something like that, and i attended another church where they'd rush to be the FIRST ones to have gay weddings.
Like it or not, marriage is a civil union in this country, which may or may not have a religious ceremony. For those not wishing any religious trappings, they can simply go to a local office, get a licence and have a justice of the peace do the honours. Takes about 10 minutes. You need the licence in order to have the marriage "count." You needn't see any clergy, and even if you went through a wedding ceremony in the largest house of worship possible, it doesn't count without the licence.
I think Question 1 will pass this time around. One of my former bosses is gay, is madly in love with her partner and would love to get married. They live in a state that doesn't allow gay marriage. Fortunately, both of their families understand the depth of this couple's commitments and feelings, so if one is deathly ill, the other will have the first sayso about what needs to be done, and not like those horrific stories one reads about where estranged family members show up and completely cut out the partner from any of the decisions. As if they simply didn't exist, the love wasn't real, not looking, not looking, not looking.
About 1990, i was attending a church that had a Lenten study group that met, not surprisingly, during Lent, where we discussed all sorts of topics. One of topics was on gay people in the church,. How did we feel about that? I said that i only cared about someone's sexual orientation if i were interested in sleeping with them--or rather lying awake with them--and otherwise couldn't be bothered. I didn't agree with people who grouped homosexuals and perverts together. Pervs could be homosexual or heterosexual.
A few people cleared their throats, and the rector then asked me about gays in ecclesiastical roles--would i mind having a gay priest lead the service. No, i wouldn't mind, i told him. I didn't say anything else but immediately recalled a wonderful gay, Catholic priest i had met in college. He gave heartfelt sermons, and his services were always packed with students from all over the college campus. Many of us weren't Catholic, but we liked him. He didn't care we weren't Catholic, he wanted to help us to know God.
The rector then asked if there were people who wouldn't mind if someone were gay, but who wouldn't want to know because it would make them uncomfortable in some way. I clearly saw some people look shocked as they realized they fell into that camp. He went on saying that as we are all doing our best to serve God, shouldn't we allow those who feel called by God to serve? Why should we say no to someone, based on sexual orientation.
"You mean the way women were told 'no' for centuries because they didn't have the proper plumbing? And how, in many places, it still matters?" i asked.
The rector nodded, and then as our usual practice, we had to divide up into small groups and discuss the matter. Several people purposely stayed away from me, and the rector did not assign me to their group. An older woman i knew from church was in my group. She was clearly agitated by the topic. "Why should it matter and do we as a parish have to know? Is this some sort of question that the search committee would put forth to a potential priest in our parish? Or to a person just visiting our church and perhaps wanting to be a member?"
I was struck with the urgency in her voice, and as she spoke, i realized her voice was tinged with fear. Why? i asked silently to myself, and i looked at her as she was speaking. Then it dawned on me. She's gay. And closeted. And content to stay that way. Well, she'd have to be, wouldn't she? She was a teacher for years. And prevailing attitudes lumping together gays and perverts....
It made me angry. Here was a lovely, kind person, who always exhibited wonderful patience with learners of all ages, skills, races, and creeds. And i wondered how many other gay people might feel threatened as she did, if they were outed. I wanted to try and turn the conversation more towards supporting those people who wanted to let the world know, rather than force those who'd rather stay quiet to speak up. I just don't do subtle well, and when she was done speaking i found myself saying, "I don't think the rector meant that every person would have to broadcast his or her sexual orientation. I think he wanted us to talk more about what about those who DID want others to know about themselves. Would we be so uncomfortable with that that we'd not want these people in the same building or worship service with us, or would we say they can pray with us in church but not lead us in service. I don't think i have anything else to add to what i said initially when we were still in the large group. The only time it matters to me is if i want to have sex with someone, and since i'm married, that'd be a different situation, eh?"
There were smiles in our group, and the discussion did return more to the scenario the rector had described. The older woman mostly listened after that and looked a bit shaken. I felt bad for her because i knew the matter was close to her heart, and yet she didn't want to give herself away. As we were wrapping things up, she said that she didn't think people ought to be forced to tell, and here she looked directly at me. "I'm only going to ask if i'm trolling for sex, and then i have to hope that it doesn't get back to Himself."
I lost touch with that older woman after i stopped attending that church, and i don't even know if she's still living. I have thought about her from time to time, and wonder if she'd think she'd be more accepted now, or would she be more comfortable now letting people know she was gay. Would she be glad to know i now live in a place that wants to put to vote the opportunity for a gay couple to have the same legal rights as a heterosexual couple? Would a friend of ours, who is also closeted?
I doubt either would tell me, although i'm sure both know that my feelings for them wouldn't change. If either had a great love in their lives, i'd be glad to meet them. And if they wanted to have that piece of paper making their partnership legally binding, i'd love to celebrate that with them.