I remember standing on the grounds of the Canadian Parliament buildings in 2005 as bus load after bus load of people arrived, thousands upon thousands of people to form a clearly multicultural, multi-religious crowd, all there to support the traditional definition of marriage and to say no to same-sex marriage. I had arrived late, alone, and was standing near the back, listening to the speeches and watching curiously as the event unfolded. People carried signs saying "one man one woman," and "I need a father and mother." I stood there with my arms crossed. I had read or heard what seemed to me to be a few too many anti-Christian comments and I was angry. To my left not far behind me was, relatively speaking, a tiny rag tag group of people stood in a circle. One young man had a sticker on his knapsack that said "Lord, save us from your followers." Another held a drum, they stood there and then began to chant in unison with their drum, repeating over and over, "stop the hate." I turned to look at them, shocked at what they were saying, "What?!" I'm sure I must have mouthed the question and stared at them with disbelief. Is that what they thought?
The next day the papers showed a handful of counter-protestors, and ignored the mass of people. Some time later same sex marriage became legal in Canada. The definition of marriage was also changed to accommodate same sex unions. My memory is that it was put through right before Canada Day which left me in a very un-celebratory mood. More than that, it left me feeling very angry at the society that I found myself living in. For several years I wrestled with this intense deep seething rage and I did not know why. Why did I feel this way? I did not want to feel this way, and yet I did. Did I secretly hate homosexuals and not realize it? No, why would I do that, I asked myself. So why did I feel so much anger?
I grew up in a small town in northern Nova Scotia, the youngest of four children born into a working class family. In short, my upbringing was a mess, my mother came and went more times than I can remember, and when she was there she made my life a living hell. By the time I was seven, I would dream that maybe someday my parents would get divorced. I had heard that this happened sometimes and things got better. They finally did get divorced when I was in university, to make a long story short, but nothing was ever settled and my mother continued to come and go. My father died when I was 21 and my mother came back the day after his funeral, told myself and my sister that my father was dead, that it was my fault but that I could do things her way now or I could get out. I remember seeing involuntary thoughts flash in my mind, what I would do if I had a gun. I wouldn't know what to do with a gun. I called my best friend and she came and got me.
I tried for ten years after that to make peace with my family and came to the conclusion that I had to think of my own well being. I came to this realization after having my first children, preemie colicky refluxy twins that needed and deserved all of my energy. I knew then that I would have to have my head screwed on straight to take care of them, and so I have been estranged from most of my surviving immediate family since that decision. A short time before this, when the same-sex issue was heating up in Canada, I was newly married, had achieved a bit of personal happiness after a very long difficult road and I was angry because I felt like society was again pointing it's long finger at me, you're bad, just as I had been told every day of my life. I realized that was why this issue was so personal for me, and why it had brought up so much emotion. Yes I believed in the traditional family, but not as someone who wanted to build a picket fence around myself, but as someone who knew what it was like to struggle against not having a family, not having support. And that is why I also identified with that little rag tag group of people, outside that mass of people, and that set me up for a heck of a personal conflict.
This many years later, I'm still trying to sort all this out, but can I tell you, that those people carrying signs that day do not hate homosexuals. They believe in the traditional family. Can anyone see the difference? It's not who they are against, it's what they are for, and the perceptual differences on this issue continue to divide, with both groups failing to understand where the other is coming from.
I was asking myself today if same sex marriage were put to a vote today, how would I vote? I think if it were laid out as a civil matter, allowing religious institutions the right to decline, I'd be okay with it. I say that while thinking of my neighbors, past and present, gay couples who are raising children, and I think, why wouldn't I support them? I don't know, maybe I'm wrong, I struggle with those thoughts too.
May I just end by saying, I remember a number of years back I was with a couple of friends and we were discussing music. One friend commented to the other friend about what in his opinion was the greatest rock and roll album ever! The other friend responded, oh, oh that, -it was out of tune. I remember watching the first friend's body language after hearing that comment, that the greatest rock and roll album ever was out of tune, as he motioned and his facial expressions indicated that he was ready to hit the second friend. Friends, when someone attacks something that is near and dear to our heart our instinct is to lash out. That is not a religious quality, a Christian quality, a secular quality, that is a human quality. I just ask that we try to remember that when we hear angry comments from the other side of the political fence. A professional counselor one told me that anger is just the tip of the iceberg, it's everything else underneath the water that tells a story.