Share our joy! How Julie Rodgers recalls last year’s marriage ruling

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Julie Rodgers. Photo provided by the author. It is not available for republication.

Julie Rodgers. Photo provided by the author. It is not available for republication.

Julie Rodgers is both a passionate Christian and part of the LGBT community. Her guest column is part of a series on the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision that requires states to license marriages between same-sex couples. 

by Julie Rodgers

I was recently chatting with a new acquaintance when she casually referenced the checklists we all had when we were children—the ones that outlined the qualities we hoped for in our future spouses. As I smiled and nodded, eager to hear about her list, she suddenly stopped: “Wait. You had a checklist, right?” I hadn’t. She turned to the other gay person in the room and asked, “Did you?” Neither of us had made future spouse checklists when we were kids.

The conversation then turned to how we gay people had grown up with an inability to imagine a future family with someone else, or as Jonathan Rauch put it, we could never imagine a home for our love. Most straight people grow up with the assumption that they’ll live into the script their parents did—the one almost every adult they know lives into—in which they date, have an awkward first kiss, and usually find someone with whom they create a shared history that spans decades.

For most of my life, I couldn’t imagine creating a shared history with anyone, where we could eventually look back and recount the ways that place, or those people, or that near-death experience had shaped us into the people we were today, because those places and people and near-death experiences were things I arrived at alone and left alone. Since there was no script for LGBT people—no potential home for our love—I felt like I had to choose between clubs and hookups or a life of suppressed longing for a family. A passionate Christian with no interest in promiscuity, with no imagination for a home and shared history, I chose suppression.

Then came June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that marriage was an option for those of us who are not straight. Then came Justice Kennedy’s remark:

“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.”

As I read that—equal dignity under the eyes of the law—I burst into tears. Having heard Christians describe the movement as a “war on marriage” for so long, I finally felt seen and celebrated by people who had the power to bring change. After a lifetime of hearing my community of Christians refer to the way I’m wired to love as broken, disordered, deviant, and cannibalistic, after seeing my friends dismissed from communities they cherished, after hearing we couldn’t be around the kids if we “chose” to be gay, we heard we were worthy of dignity and love.

What quickly followed was the crushing realization that although I was elated and the community of Christians who had been my family was dismayed. My excitement turned to sorrow as my newsfeed filled with posts from friends and family who decried the decision. They saw it as the beginning of the end of their idea of a Christian nation. Our dignity was their defeat.

By that point, I was accustomed to feeling torn between the gays and the Christians whenever there was an explosion in the culture war. Prop 8, Chick-fil-A, and World Vision all triggered feelings of alienation and confusion because two communities that I loved tore into each other and I didn’t know where I belonged. But on the day marriage equality became the law of the land, it was clear to me where I belonged: I belonged with the people who said I was an occasion for celebration, not for lament.

As I look back on the day, those who moved me the most were the ones who could stand firmly with me in both communities. Many of my Christian friends had been moved to support the LGBT community by then, and rather than dismissing us as problems, they delighted in our presence. These Christian friends empathized with me as I grieved the alienation I felt from loved ones who were outraged, and they celebrated that my LGBT friends and I had been invited into a world where we could finally imagine a home for our love.

They didn’t force me to choose between my orientation and my love for Jesus because they saw the beauty in both. These Christian brothers and sisters will never know how healing it was, on that day in particular, for my joy to finally be their joy, too.

Read more of Julie Rodgers’ columns at julie-rodgers.com. Julie works for restoration within communities that hope to learn from those on the margins. She has served as an advisor to sexual minorities at Christian colleges during a time of tremendous cultural transition, and she’s been transformed by the youth she’s served in low-income communities. 

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