Same-sex marriage is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, Canada and the US state of Massachusetts. Civil unions are legal in most European Union countries and in the states of Vermont, Connecticut and as of February New Jersey in the U.S. Many other places have domestic partnernship laws of one kind or another.
Progress has been slow, painful, and at great cost. But progress has been made. More and more people are willing to consider the humanity of gay and lesbian persons. More and more people are attempting to catch up with the science that says same-gender attraction is a healthy and normal part of the diversity of human sexuality. More and more people are seeing the futility of criminalizing consensual adult behavior. One person at a time, one place at a time, the world is inching toward enlightenment.
I celebrate the progress. I pray that it continues. I applaud those who have worked so tirelessly to make progress possible. But not everyone shares my view of progressive, forward movement that fully includes same-gender loving people in the human family.
Pope Benedict has once again expressed concern for gay friendly legislation. He seems to be terrified that Italy, his own front yard, will join the growing list of countries that are making the moral decision to provide legal protections to same-gender couples.
The pontiff says that supporters of gay rights are embracing "dismal theories" and are disregarding gender roles (excuse me, didn't someone write in the first century that in Christ there is neither male nor female???). And he urged his clergy to vehemently oppose civil union and gay marriage legislation.
Now, I've known many Catholic priests in my life. A few of them have been straight. Fewer of them have been celibate (regardless of their orientation). So, are people who are sworn to celibacy, many of whom break that vow with regularity, really the ones to make statements about the complex and diverse issues of human sexuality? Are people who wear dresses (OK, we call them vestments) for a living really the experts on gender roles? Has the church leadership become so insulated and self-absorbed that they can't see how ridiculous their protestations are and how little credibility they possess on this issue?
I have news for the pope and all other guardians of homophobia: The days of disguising bigotry as religous values are numbered. The days of controlling people by controlling their sexuality are numbered. The days of potentates in drag making sweeping declarations that then limit the freedoms of others are numbered. The genie is out of the bottle (or the closet, as the case may be) and there is no putting her back in, thank God!
The Anglicans can split. The Virginia Episcopalians can align with the most violently homophobic Bishop in Christendom. The fundies can out, purge, demote, fire, counsel, and hide the gay pastors of their megachurches. States can even temporarily ban gay marriage (until the glorious day when all such bans are ruled contrary to the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. constitution). But these desperate attempts to control, shame, limit, and dehumanize others will not prevail. The Reign of Terror against same-gender loving people will one day end, and that end may already be in sight. We can at least see the beginning of the end, and when the homophobic world comes to an end it will be replaced with a "new heaven and a new earth," that is, a new reality where equality and justice and liberty truly are for all, without exception. Lord haste the day!