The Journey’s Never Over

GeorgeandJackWedding
(Photo Courtesy WFAA)

There are few days where you absolutely know that you are a witness to history.

Yesterday was one of those days.

And this morning –almost 24-hours to the minute after our dear friends and church members, George Harris and Jack Evans became Dallas County’s first legally married same sex couple– it still seems completely surreal. But, also, a day of overwhelming joy too.

You may have heard/seen some of the news coverage of the wedding. It’s been on the national and international news. I’m so proud of my spouse, and life-partner, Judge Dennise Garcia, for officiating. As both of us have said for years, George and Jack teach us every day about commitment, fidelity, love, and what it takes to make it over the long haul; not just the short run.

Two important things to say. And I think George and Jack would agree with me on this.

11351278_10207259509910384_3426480352920514291_nAlthough they were the first in Dallas County, they were but a symbol of many yesterday. In fact, one of  the beautiful moments that nobody could have possibly planned was that, witnessing the wedding, in that courtroom with them, were fifty or so younger couples, also waiting for their marriage licenses and their moment of joy.

Those beautiful couples, moments later, would fan out all over the George Allen courthouse, to the twenty-seven state district judges who had verbally agreed to “waive” the 72-hour waiting period, and perform marriage ceremonies.

These couples, poignantly, were the witnesses to George and Jack’s historic moment. There was not a dry eye in the room.

See for yourself…

The second thing to say is that yesterday was also about the many already legally married same sex couples. At Northaven, we have somewhere between 15-20 same sex couples, who have been legally married. (Some, as early as the late 1990s). They too have been waiting for this day…when their marriages would be legal in their home city, county, and state. Yesterday was their day too.

Yes, George really asked the clerk, “Is there a senior discount?”

Yes, when a reporter asked what they would do for a honeymoon, he quipped, “Probably a Martini and a nap…”

Joy. Laughter. Tears.

That was how we can describe their day. And everyone’s in downtown Dallas yesterday.

whitesonlyBut, at the beginning of the morning, as Dennise and I entered the Records Building downtown, I snapped this picture. A short while after this, our county clerk would begin issuing licenses for same sex couples.

But there in the midst of joy over justice was this plaque. And it called to me.

It’s a plaque put up to commemorate the former existence of “Whites Only” fountains in Dallas County public buildings.

Somehow this plaque, a week after the deaths of the nine Charleston martyrs, and on the first day of same sex marriage in Texas, called out:

“The work is never done.”
“The past is never the past.”

That plaque reminds me that Monday, despite the fact that there is no higher law in any state than the Supreme Court, some Texas county clerks and judges will still not issue marriage licenses. Some will says it’s because of computer glitches or legal confusion.  And so the discrimination will be less obvious than a “whites only” fountain. But it will be real.

That plaque reminds me that Monday, too many whites will take too much comfort in the rapidly vanishing Confederate flag. They will mistake the demise of that outward and visible symbol of racism for the inward and spiritual demise of racism in the human heart.

But if racism were that easy to eradicate, twenty-one-year olds would not gun down nine people, decades after the “whites only” signs vanished.

The past is never the past. The struggle to eradicate racism, the struggle for LGBT rights, may well never fully be over.

George and Jack, can tell harrowing tales of how the police would round up homosexuals in harassing raids. But yesterday, they walked into the halls of justice and got them some. That is good and it is beautiful.

My friend, Mark Miller, has a great song he’s written, based on a line in a speech by President Obama:

“From Seneca Falls, from Selma to Stonewall…
We’ve come a long way…
We’ve come a long way…
But the journey isn’t over.”

The journeys are connected. They are intersectional.

So, it was that a “Whites Only” sign reminded  me of all of this, even on this day of extravagant joy and celebration.

Love Is what drives the moral arc of the universe. King was right. It does bend toward justice. Some days, a little more quickly.

But the journey is never over. And even on the most joyous of days, the past is still there to remind us, lest we ever forget.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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