One year ago today I sat in my office at my former job and, to my memory, didn’t get any work done.
I was gay, in the closet, and on staff at a church that remains opposed to LGBTQ people living true to their sexual identities. My church and the denomination of which it is a part will still not officiate, celebrate, or recognize the marriages of same-sex couples.
For much longer and to a much a greater degree than it ever should have, the stance of my religious community and many others like it influenced the stance of government on matters related to marriage.
And that morning, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that no state within its borders has the ability to withhold legal marriage from its citizens because of gender:
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.
Thankfully, I had no meetings that day that decision was announced, and no matter of such pressing urgency that it would have prevented me from remaining glued to the video coverage, scrolling incessantly through some of the most colorful photos I had ever seen, and celebrating very, very quietly. I was ecstatic, and I had to hide it.
So I just sat in front of my computer and checked Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram compulsively throughout the entire day. And I remember just one tweet in particular. It was from a young woman whose name I can’t remember, and it simply acknowledged that amidst the rainbow flags, lights, and streamers, and the smiles and tears of those celebrating outwardly, there were so many of us who couldn’t share in that celebration and express the relief and jubilation that we secretly felt.
I didn’t even “favorite” this tweet so that I (and most importantly, anyone else who looked at my profile) could go back and find it, and I most definitely didn’t retweet it. I didn’t even reply to this woman and say “thank you” for remembering us out of concern for what people would think of me–scared that I would be outed before I was ready.
Indeed, at this time, I wasn’t even out of the closet much less ready to even think about getting married. But why I could not keep my mind on anything but this decision was about much more than the fact that now anyone regardless of gender could be married anywhere in the United States, as wonderful as it was. It was mostly a sign of how far we had come, closer–or perhaps beginning–a new era of human equality. And it was an assuring boost of confidence as a new era was just beginning to unfold in my own life.
After holding the conservative Christian view on marriage handed to me by my culture, family, and my church for my entire life, I had in the year prior to the close of Obergefell v. Hodges realized that there was nothing in Christianity or common sense that conflicted with being gay. And a few months after that honest realization, I actually accepted myself as a homosexual after years of intense, confusing psychological denial. And at the time the Supreme Court announced this decision, I had only come out to a few close friends. I didn’t have any idea of what was next for me. I still didn’t know when I would tell family, or even if I would ever tell them.
It is now one year later after the Supreme Court of the United States upheld and further enacted the finest and most meaningful of its constitutive principles about the dignity of human beings.
It is one year later after our nation’s highest court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges, two of which are a couple from Tennessee, where, in my ignorance, naiveté, and twisted self-denial, I had taken one of my first turns as a voter a decade ago to help my home state deny me a right that I later would have done everything I could do to fight for.
Now, I don’t have to fight to overturn a law passed by own vote cast out of an unwillingness to see myself and allow others what is rightfully theirs. My vote for inequality and my grounds for hiding are now obsolete.
The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest.
Now, today, one year since I sat in my office not getting any work done, I have left that desk for good and have resigned my position at my church. I’m also approaching three months worth of an immensely happy relationship with an old friend from high school who contacted me when he saw my video, “Being Seen.” And, I never, ever knew that life could be as good as this.
You can be who you are.
You can be who you are.
These words have become a sort of personal liturgy for me, and the discovery of their truth still fuels and fascinates me. (I Instagram flowers SO much more than I ever thought I could.)
And so now, one year later after watching the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States play out across our nation as a timid, closeted Christian filled with uncertainty, I am openly gay.
The outcome of Obergefell v. Hodges, with the way it signaled to the church and our society how we the people would insist on and finally have and uphold equality, helped in a major way to set in motion a (rather miraculous) sequence of events involving things like the Wild Goose Festival, some real-life literary characters I had known from books showing up as angels, and a community of welcome and inclusion just suddenly being dropped into my lap (or discovering that much of it was there all along). It all culminated in my coming out completely three months ago, only nine months after that day I didn’t get any work done. You can read the whole story here.