ringsA sister hopes to change her brother’s mind by putting a face on the gay marriage phenomenon.

My partner and I decided to tie the knot last fall after New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage. All of our friends and extended family members overwhelmingly expressed their joy at participating in a celebration of our big gay love, with one notable exception — my only sibling and evangelical Christian older brother.

I cautiously opened myself to the emotional uncertainty of his response by expressing my desire to have him present, hoping he would open his own heart a tiny bit and meet my vulnerability with a softening of his religious beliefs.

He didn’t respond to my email explaining how much it would mean to me to have him and his boys, a 13- and a 15-year-old, come to my first and only wedding. His passive rejection was clear, and I chose not to let it bother me.

In the meantime, we received numerous positive replies to our 100-plus invitations, which sported a bicycle built for two. My 71-year-old uncle Joe, the only living sibling of my recently deceased, very conservative dad, and my 88-year-old aunt Sadie, my mom’s Hispanic, Republican, oxygen tank-wearing oldest sister, expressed how excited they were to attend.

It was only several months after receiving the emailed invitation that my brother officially declined the invitation, claiming he had a work trip that conflicted with the planned wedding date.

I know the megachurch he’s involved with fought for the state of Montana’s equivalent of the Defense of Marriage Act and is extreme enough even to dismiss Catholics as Christian. We were raised Catholic by our mom, but during college, my brother fell in with the pyramid scheme Amway, which pushes a particular religious belief system as part of the road to riches. He latched on to this gateway religion that morphed into his enduring obsession with the mega-church. I abandoned organized religion as a teen, refusing the confirmation teaching and never attending mass again after leaving my parents’ house.

He and I don’t discuss religion— a coping technique we’ve fine-tuned over the 25 years I’ve been an out lesbian, and he’s been brainwashed. We prefer to keep the peace and not upset our mom, who we email jointly weekly. Mostly, this arm’s length relationship has worked for us.

I knew inviting him to my wedding was risky. Because I cared about him and wanted him to be part of this life-changing event, I put my heart on the line and reached out to him. I held some hope that he would choose to participate in my life, if not at least respond compassionately.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that my brother chose not to attend my wedding, but still, it hurt. I should add that he is a good person—several of our mutual school friends were shocked to hear he fell on the side of the haters regarding gay marriage. He and his family have enjoyed getting to know my wife during multiple visits over the past three years at their home and my parents’ home.

The week of the wedding, after seeing multitudes of shared emails between my mom and me discussing the venue, schedule, and guest list, my brother asked my mom what he should gift us. My mom advised my brother to send a check in a card as a typical wedding gift for a couple in their 40s who already own plenty of dish sets and appliances. I received his congratulatory card with the same sentiment he’d expressed when I came out—that I’m his sister and he loves me—with the additional note that his whole family likes my wife, and they sent love to us both.

My hopes soared upon receiving his unexpected card. Did it mean that his feelings about gay marriage had shifted even if he didn’t plan to attend? That his mind had cracked open just a bit since he knew us, he knows me? Had he put a face on the gay marriage phenomenon and realized it looked much like his family?

I emailed him to ask if he’d changed his mind about our lifestyle and that I’d love to discuss it. He replied with a lengthy scripture and finished with his own words: being homosexual is an abomination in the eyes of his god. Therefore, our choice would never be acceptable to him.

I immediately sent his fifty dollars to Human Rights Campaign in his name with his contact information.

This incident with my brother was a minor blemish on my wedding experience—my wife and I felt overwhelming love and support as we made our commitment to lesbian love before our community of friends and family. Our guest list had grown ever longer over the months leading to the event as more people heard about it and wanted to be included.

My big brother’s absence was noted by me and a few others on our special day, but his name was never spoken. I’d allowed him to reject me for the last time.