Yesterday I wrote of a meeting with Maryland State Senator Ed Reilly lobbying in support of Marriage Equality. In the interest of time (the legislature is scheduled to vote on the bill today) I kept the article simple and matter of fact. However, I found Mr. Reilly’s rationale for not supporting marriage equality troubling.
When I spoke to him in favor of gay marriage, I mentioned that I’ve wondered if 30 years from now we will look back on this time in American history and ask how it is we could have been so bigoted. This statement bothered Mr. Reilly. He interrupted me, waving off the idea that not supporting marriage equality could be interpreted as bigotry. I felt bad in that moment as I knew I had offended him, without knowing it, not because I had made him feel any particular way, but because I knew I had just lost the argument with him and, if he had had an open mind about the issue prior to our meeting – it was certainly closed now.
Bigotry seems to be a red word with opponents of gay marriage. I read a Newsweek article last November with a feature story on Brian Brown, the President of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). His argument, if marriage equality is passed is:
“then the state is essentially saying that my views on marriage, and the majority of Americans’ views on marriage, are equivalent to discrimination…It profoundly affects me if my children are taught in the schools that my views on marriage are bigoted. It profoundly affects me if the church that I’m part of is treated in the law as bigoted. And, ultimately, same-sex marriage is not true.”
Maybe my understanding of bigotry is flawed – I proceeded to look up the word just to make sure I was using it in the correct context.
bigotry –noun, plural -ries.
1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own. 2. the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot. —Synonyms 1. narrow-mindedness, bias, discrimination.
Well, it appears that I’m using the word correctly.
As best I can discern, Brian Brown’s fundamental reasoning for opposing gay marriage is that his beliefs and values do not support the idea of same-sex marriage. Rather than being accused of bigotry, he wants to ensure that his belief system remains in the majority because if it were to become the minority view, that view would be seen as bigoted.
When I saw Mr. Reilly bristle at the mention of the word, I immediately got the sense that he too feels the same way as Mr. Brown. If Mr. Reilly’s beliefs and values on this subject were to fall into minority status, he is de facto, a bigot – a title he is obviously uncomfortable with.
NOM includes “talking points” for people not quite sure how to articulate a defense for traditional marriage:
“How will my same-sex marriage hurt your marriage?” Same-sex marriage advocates want to force everyone to dramatically and permanently alter our definition of marriage and family. The great, historic, cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of husband and wife will be called bigotry in the public square. The law will teach your children and grandchildren that there is nothing special about mothers and fathers raising children together, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a bigot.”
Amazingly, there are prominent opponents of gay marriage that see the issue as a “gateway” issue to even larger, “immoral” acts: Pat Robertson, founder and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, opined:
“How can we rule that polygamy is illegal when you say that homosexual marriage is legal. What is it about polygamy that’s different? Well, polygamy was outlawed because it was considered immoral according to biblical standards. But if we take biblical standards away in homosexuality, what about the other? And what about bestiality and ultimately what about child molestation and pedophilia? How can we criminalize these things and at the same time have constitutional amendments allowing same-sex marriage among homosexuals. You mark my words, this is just the beginning in a long downward slide in relation to all the things that we consider to be abhorrent.” Link
I can’t make this stuff up.
Mr. Robertson hits the nail on the head when he talks about biblical standards, which by and large shape our beliefs, but not necessarily our values. If our values held true to biblical standards we would still execute people for violating the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14) or killing those who don’t believe in the “right” God (Deuteronomy 13: 6-9). What was the penalty for adultery? Oh yeah, death.
So somehow, as a society, we’ve been able to evolve our thinking about some biblical standards which we have come to ignore. The same chapter of Leviticus that declares homosexuality a mortal sin, punishable by death, also tells the faithful to kill witches and fortune tellers and amazingly lets the handicapped among us know they cannot approach the altar of the Lord.
My point here is that if cafeteria Christians*, those that can pick the “right” values to follow out of the bible while ignoring allegorical stories or recognizing that these things may have suited the people of a particular time or era, can, rightfully ignore certain aspects of the bible, then they can adapt their values on this issue as well. It worked for slavery – which was also biblically-condoned – it can work for this as well.
* I’m actually thankful that the vast majority of Christians are “Cafeteria Christians” and not literal adherents to the bible – even those that believe in a literal interpretation of the book. I do not mean this in a derogatory way, simply to illustrate that we take that which we believe to be good out of the bible and forget, or ignore, those portions of the bible that do not fit into our times and civilization. The problem with this, in my opinion, is who decides what to keep and what to leave behind?