Since creating this blog, I have quietly shown my support for gay marriage by displaying a badge from WhiteKnot.org to embrace marriage equality.
But now, I've decided to join the ranks and speak out about this issue. I come from the first state to legalize gay marriage. I have an aunt who is a lesbian. I was raised to believe that all humans are created equal, and discrimination against others is simply intolerable. But that being said, I do not want to make this an argument based on emotion. Just because I was raised in this environment does not mean I have not considered alternative perspectives, or failed to analyze my own beliefs. I have spent a great deal of time pondering, debating, studying, researching, and educating others on this topic. I truly strive to understand the beliefs of both sides. And I am against either side engaging in immature name calling.
I think at the heart of this issue there is a failure on both sides to understand the other, because in America there appears to be a movement towards what I would describe as belief equaling fact. When one side is arguing based on fact and the other on personal beliefs, neither side is going to understand each other, because it's like trying to compare apples and oranges, so to speak.
To elucidate this trend, on the liberal/pro-marriage equality/Democrat (pick one) side you have individuals who cite the fact that the Constitution guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law, and that the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. According to this argument, homosexuals are being unfairly discriminated against by being denied the right to marry, since the fact is that they are guaranteed equal protection under the law.
The Left's Stance on Gay Marriage in a Nutshell
However, the conservative/Christian/Republican stance tends to gravitate towards the belief that homosexuality is immoral and wrong. The problem here is not necessarily the Right's belief that homosexuality is wrong (everyone is entitled to their beliefs, even if we vehemently disagree with them). The issue is that the Right is taking their beliefs and attempting to morph them into facts. By that, I mean that they are stating that because they believe marriage between same sex couples is immoral, they then (usually) claim it is a fact that marriage is an institution between to unite one man and one woman. I also often hear the argument that homosexual marriages will threaten the quality and validity of heterosexual marriage. The Family Research Council, a Christian organization, claims:
"Homosexual marriage is an empty pretense that lacks the fundamental sexual complementariness of male and female. And like all counterfeits, it cheapens and degrades the real thing. The destructive effects may not be immediately apparent, but the cumulative damage is inescapable. The eminent Harvard sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin, analyzed cultures spanning several thousand years on several continents, and found that virtually no society has ceased to regulate sexuality within marriage as defined as the union of a man and a woman, and survived."
The problem here is that again, the FRC is taking historical observation and trying to pass it off as valid research, or fact. Basically they are saying that societies that stopped defining marriage (which ones, btw?) as between a man and a woman did not survive, so if we allow gay marriage our society will also end. They are calling this research and trying to pretend it is fact. But as all researchers know, correlation does not equal causation. That means that just because there is a correlation between societies ending and liberal sexual attitudes (assuming this is even a valid correlation) does NOT mean that liberal sexual attitudes caused the destruction of these societies. There could be numerous other explanations, such as war, for the demise of these societies. There are also a myriad of other reasons that people oppose same-sex marriage that I am not going to debate here. I just wanted to make the point with a couple of examples that this side does not view their beliefs as mere opinion, they have elevated them to facts, and fail to see the important distinction between the two.
In more extreme cases, and I am certainly not saying this is the belief held by all anti-equality individuals, religious conservatives make statements that the other side would view as hate or bigotry as though they are facts. But again, these "facts" cannot be proven through science, and they are really just opinions. Please refer to the image below for a good example of a man who has tried to pass his personal belief off as a fact. In this case the man believes that homosexuals are possessed by demons. However his poster makes it appear that this is a fact, when indeed it clearly is not (though I know he and some others would disagree with me).
To summarize, the issue between those who support same-sex marriage and those who do not is that one side is arguing on the basis of fact, while the other is arguing on the basis of belief. The key is that individuals who oppose marriage equality do not believe they are arguing on the basis of belief; they feel that the Bible and its teachings are facts, which to them are just as valid as legitimate research studies or tangible evidence. We cannot dispute this belief, because we cannot and will not prove to them they are wrong, just as they cannot prove to us that the Bible is actually fact. To do so would be like trying to convince people that grass is really purple, when they have viewed it as green throughout their lives. It's just not going to happen. Thus, neither side is ever going to compromise or really understand the other side.
However, history has shown that when we discriminate against groups on the basis of belief, in violation of the Constitution, that eventually, the majority of this country will come to the consensus that there does need to be a separation between personal beliefs and facts. And that we have to run the country on the basis of facts (the laws outlined in the Constitution), because to do otherwise is unfair, since all humans deserve to be treated equally. This has certainly been the case for women and African Americans.
I remember asking my parents when I was younger what it was like to grow up with Jim Crow laws or be apart of the feminist movement, and why discrimination was so tolerated in society. They said that really, there was no good answer for why society tolerated such bigotry, and that fortunately, these groups succeeded in attaining their Constitutional rights to freedom and equality. Someday, I know I will be able to tell my children the same answer when they ask me why when I was growing up homosexuals did not have the right to marry. I have faith that that day will come.