From my perspective as a human being, as a Christian, and as a former minister for 31 years in the Catholic community, I’m convinced that passing Referendum 74 (allowing same-sex marriage) is singularly important.
Let me tell you how I came to this view, one contrary to the position of most of the leadership of my church. Some years ago two women came each week to the evening Mass in our parish. Each week I’d say “Hello,” and they’d “hello” me back. After several months they asked to speak with me. They told me they wanted to be honest. They were a gay couple, both military, who had been together for more than 20 years. Recently one had left the military to stay with her partner at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord. They wanted to know if it was all right with me if they kept coming to our church. I remember vividly asking, “What kind of church would we be if I said No?”
I do not want to be part of a community that says “No” — no to love, no to commitment, no to fidelity, no to the effort to live out lives in honesty and hope. Some leadership in the Catholic church worries that referendum 74 undermines marriage. I stoutly believe it strengthens it, by encouraging people to help each other to love and live faithfully.
I have believed all my adult life in a Jesus who reached out beyond borders, cared especially for those who did not fit the “norm,” the blind, lame, scared, poor, the leper, the “fallen woman.” While I do not believe that my gay friends are more wounded than I, the very fact that we are voting on R-74 says their lives are challenged in ways mine is not.
The universal is discovered in the particular. My wife, Dee, and I have two couples in particular that we see socially and for whom this law is critical. One couple includes a man who runs a large local service agency; he has spent his life making mobility more manageable for poor and elderly. His partner is a creative genius helping provide clothes for some of Seattle’s elite. In the second couple, one runs an agency that serves the most fragile and needy young people in our county. Her partner is a teacher and an author. Together they have loved and raised a boy and girl who would otherwise never had a home.
Both couples have been together more than 20 years. I want both these couples, and others like them, to have every protection, every privilege, every encouragement possible to support their love and commitment.
I urge everyone, perhaps especially those who profess a belief in the gospel of Jesus, to also support them and the thousands like them who will benefit from the right to marry civilly! I am troubled that Catholic bishops are attempting to force their own perspective on our society at large by waging this battle. The energy and financial resources of the Church could be better spent on other authentic gospel priorities rather than attempting to force a narrow Catholic position on all citizens, especially in a state where Catholics make up less than 12 percent of the population and many Catholics (up to 70 percent) disagree with their authoritarian position.