Editor’s note: Bojangles Blanchard is an ordained Baptist minister, a longtime advocate for marriage equality, and a plaintiff in one of the cases which led to last week’s Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. We asked him to share his reaction to the court’s historic decision.
It was a crisp morning on June 26, 2015, as Dominique and I along with some of my family prepared to take a raft trip down the Snake River in the shadows of majestic Grand Teton Mountains. I was looking at my watch as it inched closer and closer to 8 a.m. Mountain Time. It would be 10 a.m. back home and in D.C., where the U.S. Supreme Court might, just might, rule on what had become a very personal battle for us — marriage equality.
As we made our way down a narrow dirt trail leading to the river, my phone buzzed. A surge of adrenaline shot up my spine as I pulled it out and quickly looked at the screen. There was the news alert: “United States Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality.” I turned to Dominique and yelled, “God did it! Love wins!” We hugged each other and the flood of emotions was more than I can describe. Along the banks of a picturesque river in the back country of Wyoming, the two men who were arrested after applying for a marriage license in 2013 were now legally equal to any other couple. It was truly a magical moment.
In the days following this historic ruling, I’ve had time to reflect on the journey that brought us here. From my earliest memories, I’ve felt God’s guidance and love as I’ve grown and experienced the ups and downs of life. I never believed that loving God meant I would be spared the pain and struggles that are part of being human and I’ve certainly had my share. For me, God is not a Santa Claus that rewards good boys and good girls but rather a God who will walk with us through the darkest of times.
It was actually when I realized that I was a gay man in a homophobic world, that I discovered the true essence of God in my life. Instead of simply absorbing all of the judgement, condemnation, and spiritual abuse I’d suffered at the hands of faith leaders growing up, I had the spiritual audacity to believe God created me just as God intended me. I was gay because that is something God blessed me with. I needed no one’s approval for this understanding of my relationship with God because no one can speak to that. I was made in God’s image and am therefore inherently equal to any other person.
Having this deep sense of God’s love for us, both Dominique and I were led to stand up for our rights and those of other LGBT folk by nonviolently holding a pray-in following our denial of a marriage license in 2013. We were arrested and amidst the hell of entering jail, we felt the Holy Spirit pass in with us. They charged us with trespassing and tried us before a jury but God never left our side. When we filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Kentucky for our civil right to marriage, it was God who gave us the courage to stand against the numerous death threats. In the midst of the disappointing ruling from the 6th Federal District Court of Appeals, we were reminded by God that losing a battle to inequality doesn’t mean love will not win in the end.
When the Supreme Court of the United States took up our case for marriage equality along with others in January of this year we praised God for the opportunity to go before the highest court in our nation. Then two months after the SCOTUS hearing, along a lonely stretch of river in Wyoming, Dominique and I heard the news that love had won. God had led us along the entire journey to equality, justice and freedom making what for millennia seemed impossible possible.
This afternoon we went to the same county clerk’s office where we were arrested two years ago and received our marriage license. It’s hard to describe in words how incredible it felt because it’s still sinking in, to be honest. When you’re treated as a second-class citizen for so long, it takes time to realize that your newfound equality isn’t a dream, that it won’t be gone when you wake up in the morning. Yet, what I know as truth today more than ever is that all of God’s children are sacred and holy. Instead of seeking to exclude others from church, from faith, and from the legal protections of our society, we ministers must do some serious catching up in terms of loving our brothers and sisters like God has loved us. Some Christians are so busy trying to be right, so busy trying to earn God’s love by following what they think are the rules that they’ve wounded their LGBT brothers and sisters deeply.
As Baptists, we have a unique opportunity to seek healing and reconciliation for this terrible abuse. That is my greatest prayer for our shared future.