Leading by Two

I have frequently written about how leaders go first. For three years I have been researching “paired leadership.” And this morning I offer a wonderful example of both.

Until yesterday, a gay marriage was essentially conceptual to me. But, I only realized that as I sat down for Fred and Jim’s service.

Jim and Fred are not young lovers. Fred declared his love to Jim 32 years ago (he did so with the first of nearly 2,000 love notes he would scribble on sugar packets over those decades).

Gay in 1984 made them leaders. Millions and millions would follow in living their truth as Jim and Fred have. But that wasn’t the most striking dimension of their leadership. They led their state, their country and their church. They never left the Catholic Church, because they felt 100% aligned to Jesus’ and the Church’s core values. And though they could have gone to another state to be wed, they loved Michigan and waited – patiently and persistently – for Michigan to get it right. They did not just wait! They spoke, debated, respectfully stating their loving views.

As my wife said in addressing the attendees, it was a “healing service,” for all of us. Jim and Fred’s integrity (from the Latin, integer, for “whole”) was clear. They were recognized by the officiating judge as united as one couple and whole-with-us, first class Michiganders. They are not yet whole with the Church, or perhaps more accurately, the Church is not whole with them. But they stand upon the deeply shared values of love and faith and respecting ALL of God’s resplendent creation.  I honor them for this way in which they

Lead with their best self.

  • Thanks for your reflections on Fred and Jim. I’m originally from Dearborn and have loved and respected these two marvelous men for years. Their example inspires us all. I’ve watched them both in leadership roles and admire their strength and kindness. I’m now in Clearwater, FL, and the president of the Democratic Women of Pinellas County, and find your weekly column very helpful.

  • A great note, Dan – it makes me proud to be a Michigander these days on this issue. I’d quibble over one thing – it wasn’t that “Gay in 1984..” made them leaders, but being open about it at the time did.

    my best,

    • Margaret,
      I appreciate your quibble and first wish to agree. I was not an early convert to open-mindedness when it came to the right to marry (as I similarly had to be goaded by my wife to embrace her keeping her “maiden” name). I tended to be conservative and cautious in many ways. I am a bit humbled, chastened by my lack of courage as an ally; what I now consider mis-steps keep me on my toes and keep me humble, I hope. I try not to, but I find myself, as I sense you might, judging those who now claim they were great “gay leaders” when they were silent — whether from inside or outside the closet. I recently heard someone talking about being a “gay leader,” as though they were always open, when as far as I knew, no one publicly knew for decades that they were gay. Nor should their sexual orientation have mattered one whit, in my view. If they played it safe, I sure as heck can’t blame them; I have confessed my own lack of moral courage! But now acting as if they were at the front of the revolutionary parade does seem a tad disingenuous.
      Now, however, I must quibble back with your suggestion that those who chose to embrace their gay-ness in 1984 were not leaders. To be “out” in 1984 was, surely courageous, but I also think there was great courage then in simply “being” who one was, especially when societal norms cast enormous doubt — and potentially great difficulties — on that choice.
      Leadership continually comes back to asking: Who AM I? If we don’t align with our innermost truths, we can neither fully “talk” nor “walk” our values. I think the men and women who chose to “be” themselves in their sexuality took a bold step. So, I don’t quibble with anyone who was cautious about the degree to which they asked the rest of the world to accept their uniqueness, the degree to which they made themselves publicly vulnerable to judgment and consequences. It may not have been the MOST courageous act of leadership, to “be” gay without “announcing” you were gay, but I still see it as an act of integrity and courage.
      Further thoughts? Am I missing something that you are seeing?

  • Thanks Dan for the thoughtful and touching commentary. We are so glad you and Jennifer could be there to help us celebrate. It has been amazing at the affirmation we are receiving from all quarters. The world has come a long way in 32 years! Thanks for YOUR leadership.

    • Fred,
      I felt humbled to witness your wedding and undeserving of your compliment here. But I accept it as a gift and it means a lot to me!

  • Thanks Dan, upon reading this week’s blog, I felt as though I was there … We are all proud of Michigan and happy for Jim and Fred.

  • Thank you for this post. I too married my partner of 28 years. We married in our home, as home was and still is our sanctuary. We are happy, but unfortunately I lost both of my grown children over it. Say a prayer that their eyes will open and they will accept our union, as I am not young any more and do not know how much time will be wasted waiting for them to accept our decision to be legally married.

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