25 May 2009

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof

Tomorrow, Tuesday 26 May will be a monumental day in the history of California. The State Supreme Court announce its decision regarding Proposition 8, same gender marriage.

But of more importance, by its decision, the Court will tell us if it is the "right" of the the small religious majority to enforce their will over the rest of the population of California. Make no mistake, the objection to same-gender marriage is solely a religious argument.

Will the Court allow deliberate discrimination to be enshrined in the California Constitution? We can only wait. The time for praying for the justices' decision was over some time ago. We do, however, need to keep them in our prayers.

Regardless of what the decision is, the issue will not be settled. Same gender rights will continue to appear on the ballots for years to come. The religious right will never accept equality - it is counter to their fundamental theology.

This will not be the first time the issue of discrimination has been addressed by the legislature and courts system in California, nor will it be the first time gross marriage discrimination has been enshrined in the California constitution.

At the turn of the 20th Century, California was caught in the grips of "Yellow Peril" - the anti Asian hysteria that was ubiquitous in California and the Western Coast of America. That discrimination was based on irrational arguments and religious fundamentalist theology.

The anti-Asian marriage laws passed directly affected the Diocese of California and my own parish.

John Abbott Emery, the brightest start in the history of the Episcopal Church in California, saw his ecclesiastical career ended because of the marriage law. His daughter, Helen fell in love with a young Japanese nobleman studying for the priesthood at CDSP. They were married and the bigotry that was unleashed ruined several families.

The following is from a paper I wrote for a sociology class I needed for my degree. The story of Emery was incorporated into my parish's history (which I also wrote).
    In 1922 Archdeacon Emery’s career ended in one of the most notorious scandals of the history of the Diocese of California—indeed, in the history of the State of California. Emery was forced to resign his position “for the good of the diocese.” The scandal, which resulted in the end of a brilliant career, concerned the 1904 extension of the antimiscegenation statutes of California and Oregon.
    The Aokis, who had moved to Lake View Colony, Washington, were the target of appalling harassment, culminating with the passage of the Cable Act in 1922 which deprived Gladys of her U.S. citizenship. She was forced to emigrate to Japan with Aoki. While waiting on the dock to board the ship, complete strangers physically assaulted her. Helen did not regain her American citizenship until Gunjiro’s death 23 years later.

    Bishop Nichols was willing to “expend political capital” to protect Emery. However, upon the passage of the Cable Act, the loss of Helen’s citizenship and subsequent immigration to Japan, the stress proved too much for the archdeacon’s wife, and the Emerys divorced. Although Bishop Nichols could protect Emory from the interracial ramifications, it was virtually impossible to protect Emery from both the racial and divorce scandals.
    Emery’s love for Nichols was so great that he would not risk being a source of further injury to the bishop by waiting to be dismissed. Instead, Emery resigned his position in 1922. He traveled extensively in Europe where he died in London and is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

    Emery’s sister, Julia, was also forced to resign her position as national secretary of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions of the Episcopal Church and her position as first president of The UTO.

    It is almost beyond comprehension to those living in 2006 that such venomous hate of those different than ourselves could have caused the ruination and disintegration of two families.*

    There are three direct connections to the Emery/Aoki scandal and Saint James’ Church. The first is the archdeacon himself. The second connection regards the women of the church. When Saint James’ Church learned that Helen was engaged, The Guild of St. James’ Church showed their progressiveness and not only sent a William IV silver tea set to the engaged couple but also went on record supporting the impending interracial nuptials. St. James’ Church was the only Episcopal Church in the Diocese of California to support the marriage. The support was not popular in the community but the women were resolute in their support. The Guild went farther and reached out to the small number of Asians living in the North County and offered any assistance necessary to combat any repercussions they might experience.

    The third connection is the most astounding: the priest who married the couple, H. W. McGowan, would be sent to serve as vicar of Saint James’ Church six years after officiating at the wedding.
Helen said of the crowd who jeered her,
“The people who so indulged themselves were, I believe, a fair sample of that class of citizens which pry into private affairs with which they have no legitimate concern. Probably not one person in the crowd at the station could have given an intelligent reason for their hooting.
The same may be said of those who are so violently against same-gender marriage today. The only "intelligent reason" they could give is a religious reason based on faulty theology.

If the court's decision enshrines the right to legally discriminate against those one does not like, it will be a repeat of a century ago when irrational arguments were allowed to ruin the lives of tens of thousands of people.

This blog and its owner stand with Jesus against discrimination of any form. We stand for the rights of all people to marry. Just as the religious right will never accept equal rights for same-attracted people, We shall not accept discrimination at their hands. Injustice for any is injustice for all.

If the decision is against justice, we will "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25.10 - inscribed on the "liberty bell.")

Pray brothers and sisters, that calm heads prevail regardless of the announcement.
Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream
Amos 5.24

*Unfortunately, it is not inconceivable. We see the same hate directed toward those of same-gender attraction.