I am writing this post because of a sad trend I saw on Facebook after the announcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize gay marriage in the United States: anyone who did anything other than celebrate the announcement was immediately targeted as an intolerant bigot who hates all gay people.
The reason this upset me is because it is so untrue of myself and many others I know who do not agree with gay marriage. Obviously there are people on both sides of the debate who are simply rude about the way they express their opinions and beliefs, and people on both sides who are admittedly intolerant of others, whether that be intolerance of sexual preference or intolerance of religious values. This is not the place for them. In this post, I hope to accomplish nothing more than expressing my true feelings about this very sensitive and important issue. If, after this post, you still feel that I am an intolerant gay-hater, then so be it, but please don’t label me those things without understanding my views.
I love LGBT people. I have family members and friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. If you ever asked any of them what their relationship with me has been like, I believe they would say that my actions were always kind and loving. I never have, and never would, willfully exclude a person from any part of my life because of their sexual preference or gender identity. Like all those who support gay marriage, I wish for my gay friends and family members to have equal rights to everyone else, including taxation status for couples, hospital/deathbed visitation rights, employment protection, and every other legal benefit that can come from a marriage.
Just without the word “marriage”.
Why in the world would I be willing to grant a gay couple all the benefits of a legal marriage but have a problem with using the term “marriage”? Most of the reason extends from my religious belief on what marriage is and is not, but I am not writing this post to discus my religious views. Here is why I feel that using the term “marriage” in this context is dangerous:
Most legal decisions come down to an interpretation of what one or two words in a given legislation or lawsuit mean. If the term “marriage” is used interchangeably, a very real danger of Church vs State problems arise, in which Churches are forced to recognize, participate in, or perform marriages for same-sex couples, even if their beliefs are against it, because both the Church and the State utilize the term “marriage” for their ceremonies. In essence, the government would be telling people what they are and are not allowed to believe.
Many officials have already dismissed this concern, ensuring the public that no such event ever would take place. But precursors to this problem can already be seen. Catholic Charities of Boston was told that they either had to allow adoptions to same-sex couples or be shut down (because they received public funding), so they shut their doors. The same thing happened in Illinois and Washington DC. In the UK, a homosexual couple decided to sue the Church of England, stating that they were both lifetime members of the Christian congregation, and that the church refusing to perform their wedding based on their sexual orientation was unlawful discrimination. And, in Jun of 2012, Denmark officially and democratically voted by an overwhelming majority of their parliament that churches would be forced to participate in same-gender marriages, regardless of religious beliefs.
Is it really that hard to see how the unilateral use of the word “marriage” can cause problems in how we divide church and state? Government-mandated compliance to same-sex marriage laws are a very real danger for churches. I do not disagree with the legalization of gay marriage because I hate gays and want them to be miserable, as most of my aggressors seem to believe. Quite the opposite: I want my gay friends and family to be as happy and have as many legal rights as anyone else. I disagree with it because I am fearful of what the implications would be for the future protection of my beliefs.
If another term was used to describe same-sex marriages which included all possible legal benefits of a marriage, I would be in favor of it. Call it a betrothal or a unification or an espousal or something else that someone smarter than myself comes up with. Give that form of relationship all and every legal benefit of a marriage. Make sure it is recognized as the deep and committed form of loving relationship that these partners wish to enter into. In that way, no discrimination would take place against a person for their sexual orientation or against a church for their beliefs, now or in the future.
I would like to say to all of my LGBT friends and family: I am happy for you. I am happy that you are happy. I am happy that you will be able to have the legal protection and rights you have fought for. I am sorry for all of the pain and suffering that you have endured at the hands of those who hate you. I hope you understand that I do not wish to cause you any harm or heartbreak.
If, 50 years from now, we look back and there have been no issues because of this conflict of Church and State, I will be happier than anyone! But until that day, I must remain pro-gay-rights, pro-equality, and pro-love, but anti-gay-marriage.