Gay Marriage debate at sunstone
I thought this blog post about Gay Marriage on The Rains Came Down was quite excellent and reflects what I’ve been feeling about Gay Marriage lately. (Though I think she is a bit more conservative on the issue then I am as I do think that since the Supreme Courts Loving V. Virginia decision that Marriage is considered a fundamental civil right on par with voting for instance.) At one point I was an ardent Gay Marriage supporter and remained so even after I joined the church. This is an issue that I’ve gradually moderated and become more conservative on particularly because of some of the vicious rhetoric by Gay Rights Activists. The viciousness and pettiness of boycotting efforts against individual small contributors to Prop 8 was reprehensible.
I attended a panel at Sunstone entitled SAME-GENDER MARRIAGE & RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: A CALL TO QUIET CONVERSATIONS AND PUBLIC DEBATES by REV. DR. C. WELTON GADDY of the Interfaith Alliance. I found his talk solid for the most part but somewhat flawed. Gaddy argued first of all that we should treat Gay Marriage as if its purely a legal issue and take religion out of it altogether. This is of course a common argument for those favoring Gay Marriage because taking religion out of the issue altogether almost invariably favors Gay Marriage. Yet, when in dialogue with other individuals we can not merely expect them to drop their most deeply held values. Gaddy speaks about the importance of dialogue with those that disagree with him, but also describes the pro-gay marriage side as on the side of the constitution and the right side of history while describing those opposed as backwards and opposed to the constitution. This rhetoric is not inviting to dialogue. A true commitment to dialogue would mean building first on where we can find common ground. Most Americans support Civil Unions with full marriage rights granted to gay couples. Most Americans oppose discrimination and other forms of hatred (though tempered by the rights of religious individuals to preserve their values). In my view these are the things that should be fought for rather than taking a divisive strategy of forcing Gay Marriage onto a population that does not support it and is not ready for it.
Gaddy also advanced the disconcerting argument that that Gay Marriage will have NO impact on religious freedom. Certainly much of the rhetoric in the Prop 8 campaign was inaccurate and even flat out fraudulent. The church will certainly not be required to perform gay temple marriages. Yet, there are significant legal consequences involved. Already in places that allow commitment ceremonies or civil unions, individuals have been sued for trying to exercise their moral values and refuse to take photographs, for instance. Orthodox Jewish School Yeshiva University has been required to opened up its married dorms to gay couples. There are many other similar cases. It may be that we can decide that the rights of gay couples to marry outweigh these harms, or that religious conscience rights can be protected even as we promote Gay Marriage, but it is disingenuous to suggest that there are no relevant rights issues. Gaddy’s Interfaith Alliance is an organization that has stood up for religious freedom in such areas and that is commendable. Yet, making it seem like there are no relevant issues is deceptive at best.
I’ve also recently begun reading the extensive debate between Stanley Kurtz of the Weekly Standard who argues that Gay Marriage and a range of other factors contributed to the death of marriage as we know it in parts of Europe, and Andrew Sullivan who has for a very long time championed the conservative case for Gay Marriage. I find this debate fascinating and not at all resolved or clear in favor of Gay Marriage.
Another key empirical question for me is whether legalized Gay Marriage and increased acceptance for homosexuality merely takes already openly Gay People out of a more promiscuous lifestyle and puts them into monogamous and more stable families, or whether this acceptance will lead more people that are marginally attracted to males (Probably true bisexuals) to choose to enter into gay relationships rather than equally fulfilling heterosexual ones. I think that practically if we are dealing with a fixed population of Gay individuals then marriage is a far more ideal state. However, it does not seem that we have any good way to empirically measure this question. It seems that this is a worthwhile question to be asked.
My personal belief is that for those men not of our church that are attracted to males and can not develop meaningful relationships with those of the opposite sex, that it may be better for them to enter into a loving stable monogamous relationship with a gay partner. Clearly, they can gain many of the benefits of maturity, dedication and perspective that we can in heterosexual relationships. Yet, the questions remains of the impact of that acceptance on the marginal case as well as the impact on the growth of the church and our missionary work. My view on the topic rests and falls on the strength or weakness of the conservative case for gay marriage.
I think this post conveys some of my uncertainty over the topic. I am uncomfortable with the labeling of people of conscience as bigots and homophobes. I am sick of the lack of effort to build consensus on common ground and to efforts to punish and smear those that disagree. I think there are valid empirical question that could sway my view towards either side but I’ve not seen convincing evidence. I think Gay Marriage is likely inevitable but I don’t think states that oppose it should be forced into it. Instead, the change must come gradually as states adopt Gay Marriage and we watch the impact over time.