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GLBT Wed Jun 24 2009

Gay Marriage and Why Evangelicals Shouldn't Care

Protests, yelling, legislation for, legislation against, Perez Hilton forcing us to hear the opinions of a Beauty Queen, that Beauty Queen thinking we actually care... This gay marriage situation has gotten out of hand. Whatever you think about the issue, I think that we can all agree that when Sean Penn starts acting like the gay community's MLK, something needs to be done. The last thing we need is Sean Penn thinking he has anything substantive to contribute to the conversation.

What we need here is clarity, and I aim to provide just that. We should begin, though, with something that has thus far been lacking: an understanding of the core issues with which each party is concerned. So, I will provide a summary of each side to the best of my ability, and then I will postulate a solution that I believe satisfies both parties.

The Pro-Gay Marriage Perspective:
Proponents of gay marriage see it as an issue of equal rights. These are Americans who want to enter into a contracted marriage relationship allowing for the legal rights allotted to such a relationship: inheritance, insurance benefits, medical decisions, joint tax filing, divorce, in-laws and children that don't respect you. They see the opposition as bigoted, prejudiced and hateful. Many compare the fight for gay marriage to the civil rights movements in the '60s. Although such a comparison is somewhat of a superlative, legally and constitutionally there isn't really a solid argument against gay marriage. The only argument against is religious, which brings us to the other perspective.

The Anti-Gay Marriage Perspective:
Be it Christianity, Mormonism, Orthodox Judaism or Islam, the practice of homosexual behavior is prohibited within most major religions. Whether people like it or not, it is a facet of each of these religions. Homosexual activity is deemed a sin. Marriage, thus, is believed to be only appropriate between a man and a woman. The people that oppose gay marriage do so, I believe, because they feel as though their religious beliefs are being threatened by society. They fear that legalization would encroach on their religion; they see themselves as the victims of a society whose morals are in direct conflict with those which their religion commands. They see a legalization of gay marriage as a "moral decline" in society. And although each of these religions has within its tenets a prohibition of homosexual activity, the loudest voice of all of them is the Evangelical Protestant. That being said, I will refer to the anti-gay marriage perspective as "Evangelical" from now on, but it should be understood that the aforementioned religions are also included.

The Solution:
Allow me to frame my perspective for you: I am a conservative Evangelical from Texas. I minored in Bible and Theology at Wheaton College, which is Billy Graham's alma mater (and also Wes Craven's, interestingly enough). I know the Evangelical perspective very well, including all the arguments for and against, as well as the Biblical basis upon which those arguments are constructed. The conclusion that I have reached regarding the legalization of gay marriage is, without a doubt, that Evangelicals should not care.

Now allow me to clarify: this does not mean that they should alter their religious beliefs or abandon them all together. I personally hold quite firmly to an Orthodox Biblical view of Christianity. I see no reason, however, why Evangelicals should try to legally fight the issue. As this isn't a theological article I won't delve into that part of the issue, instead I will focus on simple, plain logic.

I have heard many Evangelicals (the Bush Administration included) say that they favor "civil unions" for gays, just not marriages. After all, they should have the same legal rights, shouldn't they? I've heard gays reject that, saying they want the right to be married. Anyone catching on to the issue here? It's not really a disagreement about principles, but rather it centers on the word marriage. We must ask ourselves a question: why is the government in the business of marriage anyway? Isn't a marriage ceremony a religious tradition? Getting "married" at the courthouse is really essentially a civil union, whether you're gay or straight. So why is everyone freaking out about this? Millions of dollars and billions of curse words are being wasted just because of semantics. I truly believe that the problem is in the way that we are communicating with each other. Everyone is yelling, protesting and crying at the Oscars, and no one is really seeking a productive solution.

To the Evangelicals I ask: Why does it matter whether or not the legal definition of marriage has no gender specificity? Gay people are being gay anyway. They're living with each other and loving each other. Married or not, they're still gay. The battle against gay marriage is pointless from a moral standpoint. We should not be trying to force people who don't profess to be a part of our religion to submit to our moral standards. It's nonsensical, and it only serves to damage our public image. America has no national religion and we need to stop pretending that it did, does or ever will.

Evangelicals spout a lot of rhetoric about how they'll teach gayness in schools and gay up their children's minds. First of all, if you're outsourcing your parenting to the public school system you already have a pretty significant problem that has nothing to do with homosexuality. Second of all, they already teach that sex before marriage is OK in public schools, why aren't you seeking legislation to change that? I'm sure they teach that divorce is OK, why aren't you protesting that? Your children will learn their morals at home, no matter what kind of things they hear at school.

To those who are for gay marriage I will say: you must learn to respect that this is a religious issue. Sure, some people are hateful bigots, but what happened to the benefit of the doubt? I've interacted with many Evangelicals and I will tell you that most of them aren't hateful people. If you want respect to be given to your perspective, then you must give it yourself. No more of Perez Hilton calling people names just because they subscribe to a different set of morals. That only pushes us further away from reaching an agreement.

We must also avoid the mistake that many public school systems are making by overstepping their bounds by not giving parents the "opt out" choice when it comes to controversial moral issues. Each side needs to be willing to give, and if homosexuals want Evangelicals to not feel threatened by their desire to be married, we can't have school districts like the one in Alameda, California forcing students to accept their moral standards. This is a religious issue, and the government should stay out of it as much as the religious should stay out of the lives of the non-religious.

To that end, I'd like to praise the Governor of New Hampshire for waiting to sign into law a bill legalizing gay marriage until the bill clearly stated "that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services." This is the exact kind of compromise that I believe each state should be reaching. I am surprised that Illinois hasn't yet made a similar decision, but I guess we've been a little distracted, what with "Hot Rod" Blago and all. Ideally I think the government should only perform "civil unions" in the court house for all kinds of marriages, but I'm not sure that those in the pro-gay marriage camp are willing to sacrifice the title for the rights.

We must also recognize that one of the next logical steps in the argument for gay marriage is the legalization of polygamy. After all, can you see a legal reason against it? That's right, Chicago. I want 17 wives and you'd better let me have them.

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Religion_Hurts / June 24, 2009 11:40 AM

Religion is a story. It has been brain-washed into the minds of young people before they could think. It is never chosen - it is inherited.

I had hope you were opening your mind to the truth: religion is the only thing in t eh world that makes gay wrong. This FACT can be proven. Religion and ALL of its beliefs cannot. That is the dispute - not the word "marriage."

The fight against religion is a fight against lazy ignorance. When people wake up and think - religion will go the way of dinosaurs. the sooner the better.

imthedj / June 24, 2009 12:29 PM

This was a wonderful article. I believe religion_hurts is wrong - as a gay man, I think faith can be a wonderful thing, but I do know that it has turned some people "mean." I believe it destroyed my grandmother - But this is exactly the kind of thing I love to see. I don't want to destroy your faith! I don't want you to compromise your values! I just don't want to be told I am essentially "not worthy" of marrying the person I love because popular opinion demands it.

I was also happy to see "that churches and religious groups would not be forced to officiate at gay marriages or provide other services." Although it's a bit repetitive, since the 1st Amendment already protects that - I mean, if you are divorced, the Catholic church does not have to recognize your marriage to your 2nd spouse, as well they can close their doors to preforming your ceremony. Someone could say that is "discrimination based on Marital Status," which IS protected by federal law, but doesn't affect churches.

I believe that at some point here, we can all find our common ground and just love each other, not in spite of, but BECAUSE of our differences.

Posterwolf / June 24, 2009 12:47 PM

I agree that civil unions for all is the probably the best solution. But I wouldn't be so quick to assume that the pro-gay marriage folks would be the ones opposed to that idea. I am gay and support the notion, as do many of my friends. Of course, that's simply anecdotal, but I think the key concept is equal treatment. Most of us are unhappy with civil unions since they treat us differently, and more importantly do not cover all of the same benefits as federally recognized marriage. But a true single option civil union for all with the same benefits for all would solve these issues.

I had always assumed the anti-gay marriage folks would find civil unions for all unacceptable. They'd likely see it as confirmation that the gays have now truly "destroyed" marriage by turning their own marriages into mere civil unions. But who knows?

Strategically, though, civil unions for all is going to be tough to implement. It's logistically easier to just allow gender-neutral marriage. Nothing needs to change other than two words on a license application.

Bonesmagoo / June 24, 2009 1:07 PM

I'm glad to see an Evangelical found a way to circumvent ignorance, but there's a shortcut. This is not a theocracy. The first amendment is intended to protect citizens FROM religion as much as it is to protect religious beliefs. Your god is omnipotent right? If he thinks it's so wrong then let him deal with it. No one other than god and his "sheep" seem to care.

If you can find 17 women pathetic enough to share you, you can have them.

michaelcsol / June 24, 2009 1:59 PM

I am a liberal straight man from south Texas. Here in the Southern most part of Texas most of the people are liberal. However, the concept of gay marrige is something that few, even in such a liberal area, can come to terms with. The reason for which is purely religious influence.

Catholicism is certainly the most wide spread religious denomination in South Texas and it has a strong hold on the beliefs of its people. Not to mention that Catholicism in South Texas is strongly similar to that in parts of Mexico and Central and South America for the reason that a big part of the Roman Catholic faith in these regions is superstition. I know, it is sort of a contradiction but it is true.

Early on in my childhood I was being raised in a strict Roman Catholic home. My father was driven to pound religion into us (my brothers and I) solely by his mothers influence. I remember my mother and father and grandmother always stressed out due to the religious expectations they had of them selves and each other. It was a loud home and there was a lot of fighting. My parents, as a result of the fusion of "religious superstition", thought that contact of any sort with other types of people (those not accepted by the church) would result in the absorption of their sinful ways. I wasn't allowed to speak to or be friends with blacks, homosexuals, Jews, protestants, or any non catholic believer.

Then one day everyone opened their mind. Something had happened. Some huge life changing event occurred that prompted my parents to "chill the hell out". My grandmother died. Sad, I know, but it actually took the loss of a persons life for my mother and father to realize that all the stress and fighting and bigotry was wrong. Religion had blinded my family for years and distracted them from the one all important aspect of religion. LOVE.

I personally am not a religious man. Now in my mid twenties I feel I have a strong grip on my beliefs. However there is one bit of religious doctrine that i hold dearly and higher than all things. That is the love of all things. I love my bigot red-neck neighbor from Dallas and I love the two homosexual men that live across the street from me. And as a result of my love for these people, I believer they should be happy. If that means that the bigot should be allowed to spit hate speech on a college campus then so be it. If that means that the two gay men should be allowed to be married then I'll buy them their cake.

-Michael Solis-
McAllen, TX

Religion_Hurts / June 24, 2009 3:27 PM

Beautiful post Michael. it is great to see someone wake up and realize that love is much more important than religion.

If I Marry my bf, can I get a cake, too?

Religion_Hurts / June 24, 2009 3:39 PM


Faith is "the ability to believe something you cannot prove." Faith is used by religion, politicians and con-men all for the same reason.

Maybe the use of faith is a good thing, but I simply have no evidence of that. as we evolve and learn/grow it becomes clear that understanding is much better than faith. Faith and religion were born during a time when they were necessary. They no longer are. As humans we can now understand whatever we want. Google it. We don't have to agree with ancient, silly stories, that if introduced today would put the storyteller in a mental institution.

The other comment I take exception to is this idea that "gays can't have marriage, but you can have these civil union things." That sounds an awful lot like "sit in the back of the bus." No than-you. Equal is equal.

Religion has made gay wrong. It is the cause for the hatred and bigotry directed at homosexuals. Religion must re-define itself or it will disappear soon. The smarter people get, the less chance religion survives. Religion mostly appeals to ignorance and fear.

Mal / June 24, 2009 6:08 PM

The whole issue of gay marriage in the US has been terribly confrontational and has left both sides very embittered.

Here in the UK the approach has been much more about compromise. The solution has been 'civil partnership'. It is considered as 'gay-marriage in all but name', but at the same time respects religious sensiblities. In fact the only real difference between civil partnership and straight marriage is over the issue of consumation.

Civil partnership (CP) is not the same as civil union in that with civil partnership because, in the eye of the law CP and straight marriage are regarded as equivalent, every future legislation concerning marriage also applies to CP.

In the UK civil partnership has been embraced by the gay community and has been deemed a great success while at the same time has met with relatively little disaproval from religious quarters.

One reason why the gay movement in the US has rejected civil unions is the fear that it constantly runs the risk of being 'watered down'. However with Prop 8 in California and DOMA bills in other states the US gay movement should look to the highly successful British model of Civil Partnership.

Michelle / June 24, 2009 6:27 PM

To any arguments against gay marriage this is what I say:

Atheists get married every day.

Chris M. / June 25, 2009 1:56 AM

I understand that in the minds of some, it's a religious issue. I do not, however, "respect" that it's a religious issue. Because it's not. It's a political issue. The entire debate is about legal, secular rights. People who are caught up on the religious aspect of this need to get over themselves and realize that (A) no one and nothing is threatening their right to believe and live as they wish, and conversely (B) they have no business dictating how other people get to think and live.

If they don't figure this out sooner, they'll have to later, because they're on the wrong side of history here... just as they have been on racial issues, on women's rights, on any number of scientific disputes, and countless other things over the years. They can believe as they wish, but no one else is obliged to "respect" them for it. Simple as that.

Vince / July 3, 2009 1:42 AM

Conor - your thoughts are positive and its refreshing to see a write who poses a solution to the issue rather than just agree with one side or the other. The issue is a political one. You are correct when you wrote "Gay people are being gay anyway. They're living with each other and loving each other. Married or not, they're still gay" that's correct. I agree that its about respect and both pro and con should give in a bit.. but your statement that Christians from you side of the fence are not hateful is hard for on this side to get that. As for the current movement of gay activists in the late 00's - its a downhill road. The Christians may feel the queer power is in full effect - but its not. The NY Times recently pointed out the movement had died - Gay youth is in low gear this century . Its sad times.. yet the other side of the fence still views the queer quarter loud and still threatening their youth. I do have to defend Penn and his views for the gay community. Watching the man work first hand - I saw him put his heart and soul into Harvey and spend hours with the film crew and extras still addressing the crowds as Harvey post 00's it was amazing experience to see him channel Harvey even when the cam wasn't rolling. His support or any main stream icon support is needed to bring this or any topic to the front lines.

I know its easy to compare this issue with the past - But women's right to vote - seems silly how at one time the law (based on Religion) kept the vote from women. I foresee when the writer (Conor) is in his 50's, he will look back and say - how silly that there was a time gays could not legally marry.

Great post - I wish more writers offered solutions to the many issues people toss about. Vince

Marriage Counselor / July 4, 2009 5:46 AM

I liked the content of your blog and the points you have mentioned are also perfect. There are some more reasons behind why a marriage collapse, because of broken trust, boredom, infidelity, poor communication, lack of appreciation, addictive behavior, emotional abuse, absence of sex and no affection.

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