While I often criticize religious groups for opposing gay rights, it's nice to remember that there are those among the religious who value love more than hate and tolerance more than ignorance.
In a gesture of love that has become in Virginia, as elsewhere, a gesture of political protest, about 60 gay and heterosexual couples, some young and others who've been together 25 years or more, reaffirmed their vows of commitment yesterday in a ceremony at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.
For such clergymen as Rev. Richard Nugent, gay rights is a religious issue.
To a large extent, the ceremony in the rectangular, concrete-and-glass church was also about demonstrating a religious ethic that is counter to the more conservative one preached from many pulpits.
"We've been saying for years that hate is not a family value," said Ullius, 58, who reaffirmed her vows to her partner of 25 years, Buckner, 54. "Discrimination is not a family value, and inequality is not a family value."
Ceremonies like these are happening all over the country. The nation may not recognize gay marriage, but gay and lesbian couples are having marriage ceremonies anyway. They wear rings, they refer to husbands or wives, and they join their lives together.
For others who took part, the ceremony was only secondarily a political statement; primarily, it was a rare opportunity to declare their love in a public way and to feel accepted by a community.
"If I had a wedding," said Joyner, 55, of Alexandria, "I don't know how many of my family members would show up."
She is generally shy, she said, and not prone to activism. But when the time came yesterday, she marched outside, joined hands with her partner of five years, Lovelace, and in the cool afternoon said, "I will," in front of a congregation that clapped for them.
In fifty years, our children and grandchildren will look upon those opposing gay marriage as those of our generation now look back upon those who opposed interracial marriage. Will you be able to tell them you were on the side of justice? Or will you stand ashamed and repentent before them?