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Love First, Everything Else Later

Courtesy of Edward Byrne

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you already know that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states last Friday. Even though I knew the day would eventually come, the moment I found out still felt surreal. I couldn’t stop laughing with excitement for what had just happened, relieved that every American LGBT citizen could now get hitched. In all seriousness, what a time it was to be alive and to be a part of history.

Of course, whenever something seemingly momentous happens, the social media realm explodes. Except, this time it wasn’t like what we had seen in the last year. There was no anger or sadness over police brutalities, shootings of innocent citizens, natural disasters, or Confederate flags. The feeds were inundated with love. #LoveWins trended worldwide, as celebrities, heads of state, and major companies offered their approval of the Supreme Court decision. President Obama called it a “victory” for the United States. It couldn’t have felt sweeter.

Like any controversial issue, especially one as decisive as same-sex marriage, an unwanted decision for the naysayers brings out the worst in some of them. In my extremely conservative Catholic community, I read some pretty hurtful things from people with whom I had grown up, my neighbors and family friends, and classmates. I am very aware, as a faithful Catholic, of what the Church’s teachings (CCC 2357-2359) regarding homosexuality and same-sex marriage are, so I wasn’t phased when I saw that people I know were upset, and still are, with the decision. What upset me was the anger I could hear in the voices of every status and post.

Courtesy of FacebookLike some sort of vigilante religious crusaders, so many people from my own church proclaimed that the Supreme Court could never redefine the sacrament of Matrimony (which wasn’t the issue in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that dealt with the legalities concerning marriage, but I digress). They expressed fear for the country, as if God would smite us that day. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called the decision “tragic” in a statement, to which my own bishop agreed and deemed it “unjust.” Worst of all, some of them dared to compare the decision to slavery and the Holocaust saying “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”

As a Christian, I love Jesus Christ. I love my Catholic faith. I love being Catholic. I love the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. I consider my faith to be a crucial part of my identity. However, I do not identify with the “faithful” who believe that they are the victims of injustice after this Supreme Court ruling, as if growing up straight in a heteronormative society and not having to face any backlash for wanting to get married and have a family is such a hardship. I do not identify with the members who claim to be tolerant with some bullshit “love the sinner, hate the sin,” and then turn around and proclaim that gay marriage is ruining the country after one weekend. I can’t identify with Church leaders who would see me falling in love, getting married, and having a family as something “tragic.” Above all, I can’t identify with the friends in the Church who have implied that my sexual orientation is a phase because “college changes us in many ways,” as if I chose to be gay and deal with this nonsense. But am I some sort of masochist for never wanting to leave the Church? By no means, because I know God is love, and these are not words of love.

Courtesy of the Human Rights CampaignLove is a lost language for so many in the Catholic Church. So much of my Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with dissent toward the Supreme Court and gays and lesbians who could now get married. The façade erected in the wake of the decision was one of closed-mindedness and anger, as well as some hate here and there. There was no love to begin any sort of discussion, on either end for that matter, just bitterness. Father James Martin, SJ said it best in a Facebook post on Friday calling for love and respect on both side of the argument. “Love first. Everything else later. In fact, everything else is meaningless without love.” His words were directed at advocates and opponents alike. They communicated that as long as you make a case for something in God’s name, do so with love because He is love.

It would be completely untrue to say that all I could remember from Friday was the hate and anger I saw in the wake of the SCOTUS decision. I know that you can love someone and completely disagree on something, and I have plenty of dear friends who do not support same-sex marriage. However, I will say, I have utmost respect for those of my friends who did personally express their love for me that day even if we disagree. These are the people I’m proud to call my friends, the people in the Church with whom I can identify, even if we will never agree. We all sin differently, so it’s time to look past any differences and offer each other love first and everything else later.

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