June 1 is the eighth anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois. I’m revisiting the column I wrote for that occasion because it also has wider application:

The new law that went into effect, June 1, 2014, legalizing same-sex marriage was a victory for LGBTQ rights.

But it was also a victory for love.

The law acknowledges that the love between two men or two women is of equal value to the love between a woman and a man.

Too often in our effort to set societal guidelines and expectations — which is what law is all about — we overlook love, which belongs to the realm of the heart, whereas we tend to legislate with our heads. Often we fail to reconcile the two realms, which explains the frequent inadequacy of our efforts.

For too long, we tried to define marriage strictly as a union between one man and one woman. But that is based on a deeper assumption — that love is only legitimate, only possible, between a man and a woman, and that only sex, not love, is possible between two men or two women.

At best, it was considered a “lesser” love, a false love, not the kind that could be sanctified in the eyes of God or justified by God’s believers on Earth.

That’s an almighty big assumption, based largely on one or two passages in the Old Testament of the Bible, written well over 2,000 years ago. Illinois said that’s a bad assumption because it claims to be able to judge the “quality” of the love between two consenting adults.

We cannot make that assumption. We must not make that assumption.

Legislation isn’t the only place where love gets overlooked. The Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception, for instance, is based on the assumption that the primary purpose of sex is procreation. Preventing conception has long been held by the Church hierarchy to be “unnatural” and therefore sinful — though not by most Catholics, who use, and approve of, contraception.

The Church’s obsolete theology in this matter comes from the head and leaves out the heart. The primary purpose of sex is neither procreation nor pleasure — it is, in its highest form, a profound, physical expression of love between two adults. Procreation, if desired, planned for and freely chosen, can be a wonderful consequence of that love. (The same is true if achieved through adoption or in vitro fertilization.)

When we create theology or legislation without love, our laws and doctrine are flawed, and usually invalid.

Nowhere is this more evident than the Catholic creed, of which there are two versions. They list the bedrock beliefs of the faith. Yet the word “love” appears in neither version.

Compare that to the Unitarian/Universalist “Covenant,” recited at the beginning of every service at Unity Temple:

“Love is the doctrine of this congregation …” 

The first word of the first line — and they don’t even identify as Christian. Which is doubly ironic because the very core of Christianity is love.

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

How can a religion based on love not mention “love” in its creed? If Jesus didn’t overlook love, why, so often, do his followers?

Well, Illinois, as of June 1, does not. The vote last November was not just a victory for the LGBTQ community. It was not just a victory for Oak Park as a whole, which has welcomed that community. It was not just a victory for equal treatment under the law. All of which is worth celebrating. 

Most of all, it is a victory for love — and a reminder that love needs to be the doctrine of all our congregations and the center of all our deliberations and legislation.

When some people oppose reproductive health services for millions without offering any viable alternative, they have left love out of the equation. When they support widening economic inequality and deep cuts to programs that aid the poor, they have left love out. When they oppose contraception in their zeal to kill off abortion, their morality issues from the head, not the heart. When they oppose environmental protections aimed at preventing the destruction of our planet, they have eliminated love from their reckoning altogether.

And when they fail to actively support common-sense gun regulation that could prevent massacres of children in our schools, and the massacre of adults elsewhere, they go beyond the sin of omission to the sin of complicity.

Love is at the very center of our progress as a people, raising the quality of life for all, committing ourselves to the common good. If we overlook love, we harm ourselves and others.

On June 1, 2014. We took another step forward. The journey ahead is long, but as an old CTA ad put it, in the long run, the long run is all that matters.

The length of our journey shouldn’t discourage us — not if we keep one notion firmly fixed in our minds and our hearts:

Love conquers all.

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