By Rob Wankel ’14, PolticOle Columnist
As an instrumentalist in a string quartet, I’ve played for close to a dozen different weddings. From this point of view, marriages are quite beautiful, as we play a vital role in creating the beauty of the ceremony, through our music. However, the true beauty of weddings of course lies in the individuals getting married. And as of the beginning of this month, my client base has officially doubled, as same-sex marriage became legal in Minnesota. As couples rushed to tie the knot here in Minnesota, it marked just another notch on the ladder to spiritual equality for all.
As one who’s been told to avoid talking about religion and politics on a daily basis, it’s hard to not talk about them when we look at the summer of 2013. And it is not just in Minnesota that spiritual equality is becoming more and more feasible.
In addition to our great North Star State, Rhode Island followed suit and became the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Likewise, the District of Colombia also legalized the measure. Now, according to the national gay rights group Freedom to Marry, about 30 percent of the U.S. population now lives where gay marriage is legal. All of this was on the heels of a pair of decisions made by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) at the beginning of this summer. In a pair of 5-4 decisions, the SCOTUS invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well was declined to decide on the challenge to Proposition 8, paving the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California.
It’s been quite a remarkable summer for the same-sex marriage supporters, and it does not just end with all the moving and shaking in the United States. In this summer alone, three other prominent nations (France, Brazil, and England/Wales) have legalized same-sex marriage countrywide, and others are shortly following suit. Already there are close to 20 nations in the world with same-sex marriage legalization, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number reached 25 by the time I graduate next spring.
However, perhaps the most shocking movement on the issue of same-sex equality came upon the words of the newly christened Pope Francis I. On a trip to Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis spoke candidly for close to 90 minutes on many issues facing the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, it was his words concerning gays and lesbians that had my jaw hanging on the ground. He stated, “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” This marks a dramatic shift away from former Pope Benedict XVI, who maintained the Catholic status quo that homosexuality is unnatural and a sin against God. This sharp change of view may signal further changes in the near future, and as a practicing Catholic, I have never been more optimistic about the leadership in my church.
In addition to same-sex spiritual equality, there have also been some signs of more action being taken place to give women more spiritual equality. The Church of England is planning to revisit its notion that women can become bishops. This notion has the full support of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and it signals yet another positive step in the right direction. Furthermore, again in that interview in Rio, Pope Francis said that he wants women to have a deeper and more defined role in the faith, and to have more importance to the Church going forward. What that means is hard to tell, but again I am an optimistic Catholic, which before this summer, I never would have guessed I would say.
So just to recap: Minnesota, Rhode Island and DC legalize same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court makes two crucial decisions on this issue, and France, England/Wales, and Brazil all legalize same-sex marriage countrywide. Also the Pope makes a dramatic statement on the issue, while also encouraging stronger female leadership within the church, which is also what England wants as well.
Phew. And all in one summer.
So it has been quite the summer for politically charged religious equality. And while most of this news has been centralized in the camp of same-sex marriage, I cannot help but feel that as a society, we are climbing the ladder to social and spiritual equality for all people. I hope that this conversation continues to move forward, and I know that I cannot wait to have my string quartet play for our first same-sex wedding here in Minnesota!
Rob Wankel ’14 is an English and Political Science double major from New Hope, MN. Rob is a regular PolitcOle Columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.