I expected ample flora and fauna photo ops on our road trip to Alaska – and lots of knock-your-socks-off mountain scenery, to boot.
I didn’t figure on photographing a marriage proposal.
I was loaded for bear – caribou, moose, buffalo, and mountain goat, too, when we took a hike in Denali National Park and Preserve. I had fitted my trusty Nikon with a zoom lens.
We met a twenty-something couple at the Nenana River. We commiserated about the mosquitoes. “Alaska’s state bird,” I joked.
We saw them again at Horseshoe Lake. Evidently figuring I was fairly competent with a camera, one of them handed me an iPhone. “Do you mind taking our picture?”
“These are great,” they chorused. “Can you take some more?”
My wife, Melinda, handed me her fancier iPhone for round two.
The couple more than mugged for the camera. They faced each other, smiling and holding hands. They kissed.
One took a knee and unpocketed a little black box.
Out came an engagement ring, followed by an accepted proposal.
Hugs and kisses.
Wedded for 43 years, Melinda and I teared up. Who wouldn’t have? Sadly, a lot of our fellow Kentuckians.
At best, they’d have frowned, harrumphed and stormed off. At worst, they’d have berated the couple – maybe even told them that they were hell-bound.
That’s because the newly betrothed were two women – Sarah Smith (proposer) and Desireé Gilbert (proposal accepter). They’re high school teachers from the Indianapolis area.
“When we heard your accents, we weren’t sure you’d be okay with this,” Smith said with a smile. “Stereotyping old white people because they sound like they might be from Kentucky, huh?” I said with a chuckle. Melinda and the happy Hoosiers laughed, too.
We and our new friends parted company with hugs and email exchanges.
Melinda and I have often thought about them since, but especially following the Dobbs decision in which the Supreme Court’s far-right-wing majority overturned Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 had established abortion as a constitutionally-protected right.
In his ominous concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the current court “should consider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”
In Griswold, the Supreme Court ruled that states can’t prevent married couples from using contraception; in Lawrence, it legalized same-sex sexual relations nationwide, and in Obergefell, a majority of justices established the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Because my wife and I support same-sex unions and are pro-choice, the Religious Right and its reactionary Republican allies scorn us as enemies of Christian “family values.” (We’re Presbyterians. Smith and Gilbert are Christians, too.)
It’s not just the blatant — dare I say un-Christian? — bigotry of the Religious Right and its GOP enablers that sticks in our craws. It’s also their claims that they are heeding Christ in damning homosexuality as a mortal sin punishable by perpetual perdition.
I’m not a theologian, far from it. But I was pretty sure Jesus says nothing about homosexuality in the Good Book. Melinda’s Louisville-born Baltimore cousin is a theologian. He confirmed that mum’s the word from the Prince of Peace.
Religious Rightists take the Bible literally. So if Jesus didn’t declare homosexuality a sin, how can they say so in His name?
Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus preaches love over hate, peace over war, charity over greed, and brotherhood and sisterhood over bigotry and exclusion.
In addition, Jesus admonishes, “Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you.” That doesn’t square with condemning LGBTQ folks to eternal fire and brimstone in the hereafter.
In the Bible, Jesus also makes it plain that we’re all God’s children. There’s no “except my LGBTQ offspring” caveat.
Smith and Gilbert haven’t set a wedding date. We’re invited when they do.
But two young women asking a senior citizen stranger to record for posterity the “official” start of their life’s journey together was way cool.