The American Thing to Do

3

November 5, 2012 by Julia

The fact that so many Americans oppose gay marriage surprises and angers me. I almost said “disheartens” instead of “angers,” but then I realized I am not disheartened. I know gay marriage will be legalized eventually, because I do still have faith in America. I still feel the need to write about this until 2:30 a.m., though, because election day is coming up, and to paraphrase Stephen Colbert, we need to talk, America.

Our country was founded on (literally) revolutionary ideals that helped to shape modern civilization in the world. It is this side of American culture that I love. The brave pioneers, the land of the free, the right to speak, to have faith in whomever we choose, to fairly elect our leaders, and to make ourselves whoever we want to be through hard work, regardless of birthright or class.

But on the issue of gay marriage, we are hardly revolutionary. We are regressive.

We are regressive because this is a civil rights issue that should already be covered under the Civil Rights Amendment of 1964. It was passed only 48 years ago, and yet when we look at Jim Crow and segregation it seems outlandish that these practices were legal during such a recent time that my parents were in grade school. Our government’s failure to protect basic human rights allowed for all kinds of brutality and unabashed racism and sexism. I believe in twenty years the history books will look back and see us, here in 2012, in a similar way. Because marriage is a gift and a right, just as much as the right to vote, or the right to free speech or equal pay. And the fact that our government has yet to deliver this right to gay adults implies that homophobia is not a big deal, even as the terrible hate crimes continue.

We are regressive because we have so clearly allowed a religious belief to determine our laws. Separation of church and state, people of America. I am no history expert, but I know (as do most elementary-school children) that the main reason the Puritans escaped to the shores of America was so that they could practice their religion without fear of persecution. If that isn’t a founding principle of our country, I don’t know what is. And yet, our laws are being dictated by passages in the Bible that have been interpreted by the majority of the Christian community to mean that marriage should be between a man and a woman, only. That alone I have several arguments with, but those points are irrelevant anyway, if we are talking about separation of church and state.

So, is there a non faith-based reason that gay marriage should be illegal? Let’s consider the parameters of our law.

Would there be any victims if gay marriage were legal?

  • I’ve heard it argued that children raised by gay couples could be disadvantaged, because they wouldn’t have both male and female role models in their home. This is a complicated argument, I think, that actually falls apart because it is such a sweeping generalization. Who is to say what each child needs from their family? I am sure there are many well-adjusted children who are thrilled to have two daddies or mommies. But if a child feels that they are lacking a mother or a father, specifically, I submit that all children lack things or people as they grow up, depending on their situation. This is part of life. As parents, if we feel that what they lack is a gaping hole in their life, we can try to fill it in the best way we know how. Single moms might feel it’s important to ensure that their sons have strong male role models in their lives. Parents of an only child may want them to get plenty of play time with their peers. And same-sex couples can invite a person of the opposite sex to play a vital role in their child’s life, if they believe that is a need of their child’s. Good parents of any sexual orientation want to do right by their children.
  • I suppose some straight couples consider themselves victims within the scenario of legalizing gay marriage. (I’m going to try not to sound like Bill Maher when I say this, and speak to those couples with respect. But MAN, is it hard. Ahem. Okay. Here goes.) Your marriage is not about other marriages. If what happens between consenting adults in another marriage offends you, that is on you. Choose not to dwell on it, if you feel that gay marriage somehow demeans your own union. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that no one in the gay community will try to marry you against your will. Therefore you won’t be a victim of gay marriage.
  • Some faith-based communities also feel that they are under attack on the issue of gay marriage. I don’t understand where this belief is coming from. Isn’t it fairly common knowledge that no private religious group would ever be required to perform a same-sex union, or admit gay members, or issue an approval of the “gay lifestyle”? Giving someone else a civil right to get married will not take away your civil rights to practice your religious beliefs.

 

Okay, so the next question, as far as American law goes: Would gay marriage be destructive to society?

We’re talking about allowing two people to commit to each other in love and make their own family, whether that includes children or not. Protecting and supporting families is an important part of society. By not allowing two gay adults who want to build a life together to legally do so, we are saying that their desire to commit and build and love is not as important as a straight person’s desire to do so. How does it support our society to not allow someone to make a family? I venture that there are many relational commitments, straight or gay, that have ended because they didn’t have the extra motivation of “But we got married. We promised, in front of our loved ones.” To some couples, that means a lot. It could mean enough to make them search for a deeper understanding of each other. Let’s support that, as a society.

I am a Christian woman, married to man, with two kids. I was raised within the church. Maybe that’s partly why this issue hits so close to home for me – I have seen both sides. And I say to the Christian communities that continue to believe homosexuality is a sin, and that gay marriage should be outlawed:

Please get to know a gay person. If you need to take a “love the sinner, but not the sin” approach to get started, that’s fine (for a while. Baby steps.) When you truly know someone and love them, your instincts will make things clear. I believe God endowed us with some ability to tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong, and that ability goes deeper than what our environment has trained us to believe. In college I witnessed real love between a dear friend of mine and his boyfriend, up close, and I could no longer believe that what they shared was wrong. During that same period of revelation in college, I spoke for hours on the subject with a longtime friend of mine, who had recently told me she was gay. I came to realize that being gay is part of her identity, not a behavior that should be corrected. When she suggested that perhaps being gay is not a sin at all, I knew instinctively that she was right, and I was filled with a sense of relief. I’d known, deep down, that the things I’d been told were nothing in the face of committed love between two men, or the face of my best friend.

Ideas about what is right and wrong are all well and good; I dare you to try those ideas out on actual people and see where you end up.

Anyway, again, that is sort of beside the point. You may never know a gay person personally, or come to believe that God respects gay love.

But you should still vote to legalize gay marriage because it is the American thing to do, the right thing to do, the thing to do if you believe in civil rights and freedom of religion and supporting families. Whether you believe that inner voice telling you so is God, or not.

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3 thoughts on “The American Thing to Do

  1. Vike Thurston says:

    This is great, Ju! I am so proud of you!

    Love,
    Dad

  2. […] love of all kinds, and not in some disapproving “Yes, but…” way. Well, you know I could go on about that forever – the point is, I need room for God in my life, which means I must also leave room for […]

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