Talking to the Neighbor

I realize that I pay too much attention to the crack-pot opposition to gay marriage and less on the average American’s opposition.  This is a detriment to my ability to advocate on the issue’s behalf.  I should probably forget about those who feel that “gays should pay higher health insurance because they create AIDS” and instead consider what drives my next door neighbor, who is a perfectly respectable fellow, from voting to take away my ability to marry someone I love.

One of the factors I’ve heard much from these respectable folks is that they feel that their religion is being discriminated against, or, as it is usually phrased, “gay marriage supporters do not respect my opinion.”  That specific argument was made in this interesting conversation on a call-in radio show, from the ladies of The View this week, and by many of my friends and family who are leery of gay marriage.

My answer to that position is clear:  I do respect your opinion and religion.  I respect your ability to believe that I am a deviant sinner who will spend eternity with Lucifer.  I respect your option to teach your children that gays are immoral, unclean, mean, dirty, and to be avoided at all costs.  I respect your church’s choice to deny anyone any of the services they offer if they deem it against the beliefs of the institution.  I respect your view that marriage is between a man and a woman.  No one will ever be able to make you change any of these opinions.  I do not know what else can be done to “respect” these opinions.

But what these individuals are asking for is much more than respect for their opinions.  They are asking for a government endorsement of their opinions.  That I cannot respect.  The government should not endorse their view and deny my right to marry, no more than the government should endorse my opinion that adulterers should be forever banned from the institution.  

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5 comments

  1. Ah! You’ve (of course more articulately) argued exactly the point I tried to make while talking to my parents about this. They personally are not against gay marriage, but they understand where and how people can use ( I say hide behind) religion. My Dad doesn’t understand why they just can’t call a gay “marriage” something else- insert the plethora of lipstick on a pig and a rose by any other name cliches here. It makes me cringe. To me, calling a gay marriage by another name is full of as much bullshit as something like “separate but equal”.

    But alas, that’s not really the issue you were discussing, but I feel like I had to get that off my chest.

    And Thank you, once again, for being smarter me.

  2. Very interesting. I’d love to hear where exactly your parents are coming from, because no matter what, I bet their view is shared by millions.

    Your separate but equal analogy is just as I view it. Here’s how I analyze it…let me know if I’m missing something:

    If the rights between the two couples are exactly the same, then what possible good can come from naming it two different things?

    I can only think of one real reason why it should be labeled differently: to enshrine the stigma that gay unions are less real, less substantial, less important, and less pure than other relationships.

    As the Supreme Court stated in the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case: “Separate is inherently unequal.”

    The name matters. That is why opponents are fighting over it, and that is why supporters are fighting for it. Naming them differently is the last line of defense to use the government to make clear that gay unions are not quite as good as straight ones.

    If you believe that gay unions are every bit as real as straight ones, then you think they should have the same name.

  3. What I understand to be my parents’ line of thinking is that religion (for us, it’s Catholicism) defines marriage as the union between a man and woman and that’s why a gay union cannot be a marriage (because some how if you redefine marriage to include everyone, then obviously everything else the Bible teaches us is wrong, turning our world upside down and that’s just too much to handle. Side note: I wonder if God appreciates sarcasm?).

    And I think someone has a right to have the traditional definition of marriage, but like you mentioned before the government cannot endorse a view based on religion alone.

    Parts of this discussion remind me of a scene from The West Wing(if you are interested, check it out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1-ip47WYWc).

    Also, I just wanted to clarify that my parents aren’t opposed to calling a gay union a marriage- they just understand where other people can have a problem with it.

  4. I just talked to my parents again on this issue, reading both your post and your response to my first one.

    Both feel that the only way to get the law to pass right now is the call the marriage something else like a union. They don’t feel this is right and agree with us that is a form of “separate but equal” but from their insight to their peers and to their generation they think that calling a gay marriage a union is a form of compromise that is all we can expect or hope to accomplish… for now at least.

  5. JK- A gazillion thanks for sharing these thoughts and interactions.

    It all does makes sense, of course. Undoubtedly, that compromise is the path that will be taken in the months and year ahead on this issue. We very well may have civil unions in Illinois after next year- not marriage.

    I’m certainly not one to frown on political compromise. A moderate til the end. 🙂 But, of course, basic rights of equality are not things that can ever be truly compromised. We can compromise on the exact level of taxation for a certain income bracket or the complexities of a health-care bill. But we cannot settle for anything less than equality when it comes to how Americans are treated by their government.

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