Last week, I invited the pope to join my family for dinner. It was largely a symbolic gesture, although, I had a house cleaning action plan and menu picked out should he have accepted.
It was not that I wanted him to meet my family specifically, but to actually sit face to face with a family like mine. My two sons were adopted out of foster care and situations that were life threatening and dire. Our family in the world of LGBT parents is not unique. A great number have tale after tale of kids who have gone from lives of potential abuse and neglect to homes where their parents love and honor them, and that their welfare is a priority. A Cambridge study showed, as a matter of fact, that the only family structured parenting unit that picked foster care aid as its top means of creating a family are families headed by two dads.
My point to the pope was— before you judge us, before you pontificate on how our families should not be legally or morally recognized, you can at least sit with us, face to face and see what we are about.
The pope did a lot during his visit to America. The thing he did not do was meet with LGBT families. To his credit, while he was here, he did not do any overt bashing of us either.
That is, until he was on his way out.
Like a little kid who has been an absolute angel for an afternoon, and then pranks out at then end, the pope shot a spit wad as his parting gift.
He secretly met with Kim Davis and put his seal of approval on her behavior.
My letter of regret:
Dear Pope Francis,
We sat staring at the open chair at our dinner table that we had hoped would be filled by you. True, the chance that you would accept our invitation was a long shot. We were hoping that the dignity you could afford families like mine might be a possibility.
It turns out, that hope was even a longer shot.
While in America, you gave several moving speeches. You talked of the family and how you wished young people would be inspired to start one. You talked of love and bonds, and principles with which I not only agree, I live.
As you were leaving, we all could have walked away with the feeling that some common ground had been built. Instead you gave us a sense of disappointment and betrayal.
The issue is not just that you met with Kim Davis. It is that you embraced her behavior and encouraged it. You stated, following your “secret” meeting: “Conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right…
Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. Otherwise, we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying, ‘This right, that has merit; this one does not.”
What you neglected in your pronouncement is that while one may have a right to object due to one’s conscientious beliefs, one cannot expect to do so without consequence. As with the right to free speech, one may have the right to speak freely without fear of imprisonment or jail, but it does not preclude others from both speaking back or reacting to what has been said.
A person who believes the Bible legitimizes racism and/or slavery may state their conscientious objection to anti-discrimination protections, but it does not give them the right to discriminate. A firefighter who believes flames are “the will of God” does not have the right to let houses burn down when he has agreed to hold the hose that could douse the fire and prevent catastrophe. Your right to object does not give you the right to demean others.
The most honorable objections are done with willing sacrifices.
Kim Davis reports that you thanked her for her “courage.” It makes me sad to think of defining what Kim Davis did in humiliating loving families as being “courageous.”
If you want to understand conscientious objection and bravery, I would ask you to look instead to LGBT activist Corporal Evelyn Thomas: “I served in the Army National Guard and The U.S. Marine Corps prior to the enactment of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; during a time when “homosexuality was prohibited” under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). I survived my military career with damages. I survived a corrective rape. I was raped by four Marines; in which a pregnancy was the result. I carried the child of my rapists. I reported the crimes. Although it was traumatic and terrifying time, I survived the physical, mental, and emotional abuse… Too many innocent lives have been lost in this war against inequality and injustice… Many people have viewed the iconic photo. It feels strange to think of that moment in the LGBT Movement. My comrades and I stood along the White House fence with our hands handcuffed to the metal bars, as a drastic and imperative plea for President Barrack Obama to end the oppressive, barbaric, and archaic practices of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This is our Civil Rights Movement. Each time I look at that photo, I see 6 heroes-humans that risked their professional careers and some cases personal relationships to perform a brave act. We did not perform this act for fame or money. We did it so that the women and men serving in our military know and understand they are of value, and “their lives do matter.” We will not allow any man, woman, or government determine our worth.”
Evelyn Thomas and her comrades were brave. They made a statement for their beliefs and they understood the consequences. They did not seek to be made comfortable. They sought to be heard.
Kim Davis is not an Evelyn Thomas. She is asking for the world around her to be forced to conform to her own narrow view. The fact that you might share her worldview does not make it any more worthy or legitimate to impose on others who do not.
The afterglow of your trip is gone. Bernie Sander’s tears over your forward thinking principles have dried. It was not that you snubbed LGBT families and fell silent in speaking on our rights, it is whom you chose to see and support instead. Salt, meet wound.
We look at your empty chair at our dinner table and realize it is small compared to the emptiness you ultimately left in our hearts, and in our hopes for you. When you were told that you had been a “star” on this trip, you replied “how many stars have we seen go out and fall?”