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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What to Say to Your Friends about Same-sex Marriage, Pt. 1

Same-sex marriage is becoming less and less controversial as more states (and nations) are legalizing it, while books and articles on all sides of the issue abound.  It is a topic that has come of age.  Likely, you have been involved in discussions about this.  If you are unclear about how to think about same-sex marriage, or about how best to frame your responses, these suggestions may help.

"Marriage has always been between one man and one woman."
This is almost too easy to refute.  I am puzzled how anyone can hold this view.  The cynical side of me thinks that no educated person really believes this.  So, remind people that Abraham, King David, Solomon, and a host of Old Testament patriarchs had many wives as was approved under the Law of Moses.  In the New Testament, Paul advises that an Elder (congregational leader) should have only one wife, suggesting that polygamy was still in use among some Christians.

And to make matters worse for those who would make marriage between one man and one woman the ideal, both Paul and Jesus forswear marriage for Christians if at all possible.  The ideal is a celibate life; marriage is considered an encumbrance to spreading the gospel.

"Since the Bible condemns homosexuality, giving it the cover of marriage does not change the fact that it is a sin."
In the first place, America is not a theocracy.  Our Constitution governs us, not the Bible. So the mere fact that the Bible condemns anything is irrelevant.  Do we make gluttony or pride unlawful just because the Bible says they are sins?  Of course not.

"If we allow gay marriage, what's next? Polygamy? Child brides? Where will it end, marrying our pets?" 
This is commonly known as the "slippery slope" argument.  The fact that any supposed next step may be undesirable is irrelevant.  What is at issue is the worthwhileness of same-sex marriage.  It should stand or fall on its own merits, not on what may or may not ensue.  Opponents of the ban on assault weapons in 1994 claimed that the next step would be the banning of all rifles and eventually the confiscation of all guns.  The next step was actually the repeal of the ban on assault weapons.  The government's argument for sending troops to Vietnam was called the "domino effect."  If we let Vietnam fall, then it's neighbors will fall and we will loose the entire of South East Asia to the communists.  Vietnam fell to the communists.  No other nations fell. Today, we have normalized relations and Vietnam is a member of the UN, the World Trade Organization and a threat to no one.

The slippery slope argument is resorted to when no good arguments are any longer available. By using this, opponents of same-sex marriage are admitting they have nothing left of value to say.

"Marriage is only for the purpose of procreation.  LGBTs can't procreate, so they aren't eligible for marriage."
This is another of those arguments that stretch credibility.  This argument is made by the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups, but even they don't honor it, for they will marry people well beyond the age to procreate, and those who are young but can't conceive.

Only the most dogged literalists would insist on limiting the definition of procreation to "sperm meets egg."  Procreation, that is, creating a family, is not only possible among LGBTs but happening every day.  Adoption   is one of the most urgent needs today.  Gay families have proven themselves to be appropriate options for raising a family.  Same-sex marriage would aid in making this possible.

"Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm traditional marriages."
The easiest way to defuse this objection is to ask a simple question: Tell me just how your marriage will be harmed?  In asking this countless times, I have yet to get any answer at all.  Not just a poor answer, but no answer.

To broaden the issue just a bit, if it is suggested that legalizing same-sex marriage will impact traditional families, they are correct.  Their children will be obliged to recognize that some of their playmates have two mommies or daddies.  This will certainly raise questions for their moms and dads. Schools will likely have to deal with same-sex relations in health classes.  However, this situation already exists.  Not legalizing same-sex marriage will not change this.  Recognizing it will mean that we will have open discussions and fact based research, such as the realization that gayness is not an airborne disease that we catch by being in the same room with it.  The children of opposite-sex parents will not more easily become gay by association; their parents have nothing to fear.  If their children turn out to be gay, it is for other reasons, altogether.

"Okay, smart-aleck, you tell me why same-sex marriage is a good thing!"
Same-sex couples face the same challenges and problems that opposite-sex couples who are married face, yet are without the same resources to meet these challenges.  There are 1009 federal benefits presently withheld from them as well as many state benefits.  America is all about equal rights.  LGBTs unable to marry are being discriminated against, and this should stop.  As Byrne Fone of Harvard said, "Homosexuality is the last respectable bigotry in America."  It's time we ended it.

Here's Bishop Gene Robinson's take on why separation of church and state works for the good of both the church and state:


TOMORROW: A Closer Look at the Bible and Same-sex Marriage

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