|« Chicago group reveals the truth in government accounting||No Tea Bags Here: Responsible Budget Rally VIDEO »|
GLBT Wed Jun 24 2009
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.
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.