When I was a child, a young child, my great-grandmother seemed to spend most of her life on the sofa in my grandmother’s living room. Often, when I scamper through the room on some mission of childhood fantasy, she’d stop me and order: “Come over here.” She’d point to a spot on the floor directly in front of her. I’d do as instructed. She’d lift my shirt up with her left hand and proceed to stick the end of her right index finger into my navel. At this point she’d proclaim: “See where the Yankees shot you when you were a baby.”
Whenever I tell that story there’s always one of two reactions. One reaction is, “That’s horrible.” The other reaction is, “That’s funny.” Both reactions are right. It was funny; it was horrible. My great-grandmother spent her childhood in rural Georgia where the land was patrolled by an occupying army. It colored her views.
I couldn’t help but think of this as I reflected on the momentous events of this past week.
I grew up as a child of the South where racism was rampant. Segregation was the way it was. And yet, I remember the discussion in a high school history class when President Eisenhower sent the troops into Little Rock. The discussion centered on our feeling that African-Americans not being able to attend our schools was terrible. There we were, kids who didn’t have a driver’s license yet, more grown up than many of our parents and grandparents.
It’s time to grow up. Take the Confederate battle flag down. My great-grandmother died two generations ago.
This past year, in that same high school classroom, where I and my classmates concluded that segregation was wrong, blacks and whites are studying together, playing together, dating each other. The reason they are is the Supreme Court of the United States said discriminatory laws against races was unconstitutional.
One of the candidates for President of the United States said, in reaction to the Supreme Court decision, “An unjust law is no law at all.” He invoked the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. in citing that quote. And Martin Luther King, Jr was quoting Saint Augustine. He’s right. He just failed to acknowledge that it is the Supreme Court that determines which of our laws are just and unjust. If that wasn’t so there would be no black faces in that classroom where I went to school today.
Saying that “an unjust law is no law at all” is not an indictment of the Supreme Court’s decision that the LBGT community cannot be denied the right of marriage, it’s an indictment of the failure of the one speaking failing to grow up. It’s ridiculous. The Supreme Court long ago said that a law that denies a black person to marry a Caucasian is “no law at all.”
Basically, those who are saying the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision bypasses the process of law apparently never sat in a history classroom like the one I sat in during high school. Civil rights are not a matter of voting. Civil rights don’t need a legislative vote. Civil rights are, help me out here, ah, ah, … civil rights are RIGHTS.
One more point. These arguments that the Supreme Court is going to force me to marry someone is the product of an uninformed brain. I am an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church. No one can force me to marry anyone. It’s based one of the principles the people against gay marriage keep pushing, the separation of church and state (unless the Court rules in favor of their desires). I once spent more than a few sessions with a couple, both white and both straight, in pre-marital counseling. There came a point when I told them I wouldn’t agree to perform the marriage service. They were upset, to say the least. They went to another pastor a few blocks down the street. He married them. They divorced six months later.
I’m not a lawyer, but my interpretation of the decision is does not interfere with my duties as a pastor. Instead, it is a decision that says the Clerk of the Probate Court has to issue the license. Truth is, I might refuse to marry them, but the decision will not be based on whether or not they are gay.
I find it amazing that certain people who have a record of demanding the Supreme Court enforce their own theological views stomp their feet and shake their fists and whine when the nation is screaming, “Grow up.”