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Love Wins: An Unexpected Reality Check following SCOTUS Decisions

July 2, 2013

On Wednesday, June 27 I was fortunate enough to be outside of the Supreme Court when crowds began to cheer after a major section of DOMA was ruled unconstitutional. I watched in awe as people of all colors, genders, and orientations hugged in gracious relief that our country continued to stand for equality for all citizens.  Flags waved, voices sang and the air was static with energy and joy. As a witness to this true victory for human rights, I had never been more proud of my country.

As a part of my internship with the Eisenhower Institute I am allowed the opportunity to attend lectures around Washington; events range from the status of nuclear weapons in North Korea to the challenges of Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt. After experiencing such a historic day in Washington, I chose to attend an event titled “Review of the Supreme Court 2012 Term” the following day on Thursday, June 28.

As I entered the enormous halls of the Family Research Council I was looking forward to an in-depth dissection of the most recent SCOTUS decisions. As soon as Ken Klukowski, Director of Religious Liberty at FRC, began to speak I soon discovered that I was in for a morning of unexpected realities.

The Family Research Council is the largest conservative Christian lobbying group in Washington. In reference to the Supreme Court decision for marriage equality FRC President Tony Perkins claimed that “the moral and spiritual blindness of our nation’s top political leaders and judges is clearly stunning.” As I sat in the audience of Klukowski’s lecture and absorbed his legal justifications of bigotry, I can say that I was “clearly stunned” that corporations exist that use religious values to justify hatred of other human beings.

As I rushed to exit the halls of the Family Research Council, my mind spun in disarray attempting to deconstruct the animosity that I had just experienced. After experiencing such moments of love and compassion outside of the Supreme Court the day before, how could it be possible that the very next day messages of hate were being so easily spread throughout Washington?

As I walked to the closest metro station, I saw a simple rainbow colored sign hanging behind a glass wall. The message on the sign was simple: LOVE WINS.

In an instant my rapid heartbeat began to steady. I opened the glass doors that adored this rainbow message of hope and entered the First Congregational United Church of Christ.  The United Church of Christ, my own religious denomination, is a sect of Protestantism that was founded in 1957 with the simple message that “everyone is welcome.” In 1972 the UCC was the first church to openly ordain a gay minister. In 2005 the UCC declared its churches “open and affirming to marriage equality.”  The UCC has since been extremely active in all LGBT and equality issues.

An immediate sense of calm entered my body as I asked if the pastor was available. Rev. Sid Fowler opened the doors to his office and immediately invited me to sit across from him. Fowler is an openly gay and married pastor who has served at the First Congregation Church since 2011. Upon telling him that I had just left a discussion at the Family Research Council, Fowler asked with a smile, “What were you doing there!?”

I began to frankly explain to Rev. Fowler about the words of hatred I had just overheard. I couldn’t understand how an educated man, who supposedly stood for Christianity, a religion founded on the basis of love, could call the triumph of human rights in the DOMA decision “a bad day for democracy.”

Rev. Fowler allowed me to ramble through my confusion before gently encouraging me to “take a breath” and remember the message that brought me through the doors in the first place, “Love wins,” he said with ease.

“You cannot do anything to change opinions but you can stand up and walk forward,” he continued, “I just imagine myself walking forward with the whole community pushing me from behind.”  Fowler’s wisdom reminded me of one of my favorite Martin Luther King quotes as I exited his office, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

In the joyous aftermath of the SCOTUS rulings last week, we must  remember that there is still work to be done. There are many battles to be held on the state and federal level within the coming months and years. There are still foundations, lawyers and executives that believe that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed.” As the fight for equality deepens and continues, advocates for justice must remain strong in the simple belief that through all tribulations, “LOVE WINS.”

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