The war for same gender marriage has been won. I received the news today. I didn’t read it in the newspaper, didn’t see it on the news crawl at the bottom of the screen on CNN. I heard the announcement from a 17 year-old kid, out in the middle of the rural midwest.
I was standing on the courthouse steps in Metropolis, Illinois, trying to get out of the sun, my black clerical garb making me uncomfortably warm. A couple of other kids were standing next to me, smoking cigarettes.
From behind I heard a woman, also smoking, say to the young man next to me, “Hey, you better put that thing out. It’s almost time for you to see the judge.”
“He can wait. I’m not finished yet,” grumbled the young man to my right.
The woman, his mom, apparently, stubbed out her cigarette and went inside.
Just then a police officer walked out the door of the courthouse, and started down the steps. My young friend said, “Hello, there Mr. Ossifer.” He elbowed his friend after the officer moved out of earshot, and said, “Did you hear that? I said ‘ossifer.’”
His friend snorted, and said, “Yeah, that was good.”
I know my new friend was seventeen because he told me that his dad lives in Princeton, Kentucky (maybe I might know him, because Kentucky, right? Turns out, I don’t know him.) And apparently, his dad owes $50,000 in back child support, and when the young man turns eighteen soon, he told me he’s going to “go kick my dad’s ass, and get back my money.”
The reason I was making friends among the cigarette smoking population of Metropolis, Illinois had to do with the fact that we’d traveled with a lesbian couple, Kristy and Sarah, on a bus from Louisville, Kentucky, so that they could be legally married in a state that recognizes same sex marriage. We’d gone to the county clerk’s office in Louisville in the morning, so that they could apply for a marriage license. When Kristy and Sarah were denied the license, we boarded a bus to Metropolis, Illinois -- just across the Ohio River from Paducah, Kentucky. We wanted to highlight the inequity in a system that recognizes same gender marriage in some states, but not in others -- and we wanted to see the giant Superman statue at the courthouse … because Metropolis.
So, as I and my new buddies on the smoking veranda were standing there, Kristy and Sarah started walking up the steps of the courthouse, a stone’s throw from the city’s huge Superman statue -- situated on Justice Street, between Truth Street and American Way (I am not even kidding) -- and somebody mentioned that the newly married couple was approaching.
My new almost-18-year-old pal took his cigarette out of his mouth, leaned over and asked, “Them two ladies just got gay married?”
“Yep,” I said without benefit of tobacco.
It was then he announced to me in my clergy collar that the war on same gendered marriage had been won: “That’s cool as f%@&!”
“Yeah,” I said, “it is.”
Another cigarette smoking young woman standing with us (this was apparently the place in Metropolis to satisfy nicotine cravings) nodded her head and agreed, “That really is cool.”
My young friend continued,“People ought to be able to love whoever they want. It’s love. Why should anyone care?”
I immediately understood the significance of his declaration. If the spontaneous reaction of a kid in Metropolis, Illinois (a place that is “heavily Republican and conservative,” at least according to the reporter who covered the story for the local NBC affiliate) is a joyous release of profanity, then the war is over. Oh sure, we’re going to be fighting rearguard actions for a while, but the war over marriage equality is over.
The announcement of this victory will come as bad news to some, I imagine. And I’m trying not to sound triumphalistic when I say it, but the inevitability of same gender marriage is now a settled matter. It’s a numbers game at this point. Demographic shift. People on the older end of the age spectrum being replaced by younger people.
In other words, no matter where you’re from or what your religious or political affiliation, the younger you are, the more likely you are to say upon hearing about the marriage of two people of the same gender, “That’s cool as f%@&!”
And guess what? I’ve got it on good authority from the 17 year-old bellwether of a new age: You’re going to be hearing it a lot more.