Yesterday, the State of Montana overturned the ban on same sex marriages. It happened a lot quicker than many thought it would, and not soon enough for others. I had been interested in the outcome not only because it would have a profound effect on my business, but more importantly, because it directly affected someone I love.
As soon as I read the news, I posted the announcement on my niece’s Facebook wall – I thought for certain she had already heard, but as I found out later, I was the one to let her know. She responded with, “I could cry.” I was so excited for her! For years, she has been hoping for this day.
I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness (as was my niece) and we were taught that homosexuality is a sin. Not hard for me to believe as it just didn’t seem right and I didn’t have any exposure to it. However, as my niece became more familiar with feelings she wasn’t sure how to sort out, she realized she was attracted to females. I can’t imagine being in her shoes coming to that realization with all the negative attention homosexuality received even as far back as when she was young. Not only from the public, but from the people closest to her, her own family.
My niece is, and always has been, one of my favorite people. She was an adorable baby and toddler with big doe eyes that were the only indication she had been hurt. She rarely made a sound, but if something was wrong, we could tell because her eyes would be half filled with tears, ready to splash over. As she grew older, her humor became quick and perfectly executed. We would turn down the volume to the Planet of the Ape movies and make up our own dialogue. She was a blast to be around.
When she became best friends with another girl, I thought nothing of it. I had a best friend when I was in Junior High and early High School and that friend happened to be a girl. When I heard the notion that my niece and her best friend might be more than friends, I had a hard time processing it. Everything I had been taught in my past reared up to threaten the relationship with my niece, but my experience as her Aunt and friend suited up and showed up and began fighting back.
I didn’t know how to respond to the news. I wanted to be able to pretend it didn’t bother me, but I couldn’t be dishonest. I wanted to be like those progressive, freedom fighting, equal rights for everyone characters I saw, but my mind was stuck in what I had been taught for years. Had it been anyone else besides a close family member, I could have distanced myself and pretended it didn’t matter. But I was unwilling to sacrifice my relationship with my niece just because of the gender of a person she loved so I was going to have to work it out.
I had always thought of the scripture in the Old Testament when it came to homosexuality; the scripture in Leviticus which states: “Man shall not lie with man . . .” That was good enough for me – until it wasn’t.
I’m going to get a little religious here, but it is important to my point. I was raised to believe Jesus came to make a new covenant between God and mankind. We no longer had to concentrate so much on every little detail and every single commandment, because Jesus came and paid the ransom. His command was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12 : 30, 31.
These two commandments cover a multitude of sins. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will not murder, you will not commit adultery, you will not steal, etc. If you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, you will not create idols, you will not take God’s name in vain, etc.
Basically, what I took from that is Jesus commanded me to Love.
I was not commanded to only love those who believe the same things I do. I was not commanded to only love those who follow the rules I believe apply. I was not commanded to spew scriptures at those I have judged unworthy of God’s love.
I WAS COMMANDED TO LOVE.
My niece has always brought up the point, why would she choose to be homosexual? Why would she choose to live and lead a life that much of society considers dirty and sinful? Why would she choose a lifestyle that people feel such raging hatred against? She didn’t choose to be attracted to women, but she has accepted it about herself – especially because she has fallen in love with someone pretty spectacular. They already live like a married couple, they were just not allowed to have the benefits of a married couple.
Yesterday, when the decision was released, I was so happy for her, I didn’t even think about all the people who would be angry and spiteful. I didn’t feel like it had been a fight against people as much as a fight against an idea. However, when the news station posted a picture of the first gay couple getting their marriage license, the comments reminded me that just because same sex marriage is now legal, it doesn’t mean it is going to always be accepted.
Last night my niece explained to me that after she learned she had the right to marry, for just a brief moment, she felt like everyone else. After a lifetime of fighting a feeling of “different,” I’d say it truly is a victory – just to feel normal!
I understand that by writing this, I may have lost some friends, followers, etc.
But if my niece can be strong enough to stand up for the person she loves, the least I can do is the same.
I WAS COMMANDED TO LOVE.