As I waited for my Lyft driver to arrive to take me to the White House (there’s a phrase I didn’t know I’d ever write), I called my friend Rev. Harry Knox. When he answered, I immediately got teary.
It was nineteen years ago when Harry was working at Freedom to Marry that he called me and asked if I, as Interim National Coordinator of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns (The Coalition), would consider applying for a grant to work on marriage. I went on to be the Faith Work Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force and he the Religion and Faith Director at HRC. Our two organizations didn’t always get along, but he and I were true friends. He often quotes the wisdom that “you can get a lot done together if you don’t worry about who gets the credit.” And, in that spirit, he and I were privileged to work with hundreds of pro-LGBTQ spiritual and religious leaders on justice for LGBTQ communities. Harry wasn’t able to be at the White House for the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, but I carried him with me.
I carried a lot of other folx, too. Like Rev. Jan Griesinger. Jan died last week. She was the first person I ever came out to. Jan and Sam Lolliger were long-time Co-National Coordinators for The Coalition. When I became the interim National Coordinator, years after I’d come out to her, she was very kind and loving (her gruff exterior belied her very tender heart) and offered me sage advice on strategy.
These were the things on my heart and mind as I stood on the South Lawn of the White House, amidst a crowd of beautiful drag queens and Marines, of priests and politicians and parents, of children and interns, of ambassadors and press secretaries: it was generous collective action and genuine friendships; it was kindness and badass strategy; it was love, and love, and love that brought us to this day.
It seems somehow fitting that the Respect for Marriage Act was signed into law during Advent with its themes of waiting, incarnate/Incarnate love, and preparation. Because there’s been a lot of faithful waiting. And there’s been a lot of strategic preparation. And there’s been a lot of incarnate love and Love: just in the people with whom I stood and talked. Incarnate love in Ambassador Michael Guest who was the second out gay ambassador; Karine Jean Pierre, the first Black person and the first openly LGBTQ person to be White House press secretary; Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart, Director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs for the city of Philadelphia; Rev. Neil Thomas, Senior Pastor at Cathedral of Hope UCC; Jon Hoadley, former Michigan State Representative; Fred Davie, Senior Strategic Advisor to the President at Union Theological Seminary; Sunu Chandy, Legal Director at the National Women’s Law Center.
The Respect for Marriage Act is not liberation. There is much work to be done. And there is, yet, much to be celebrated. Love is love is love. And for its incarnation, we return thanks to God!