What”s the Big Deal About Same-Sex Marriage?

When my daughter Virginia was younger, she and I had a conversation concerning girls’ names, during which time she commented that Virginia is a very common name. I said, “No, it isn’t honey,” to which she replied, “Yes it is, I hear it all the time.”

Obviously our viewpoint, on matters of greater or lesser signifance, is shaped by our personal perspective and the information that is available to us. When it comes to homosexuality, we find ourselves frequently surrounded by propaganda, societal pressures, and misinformation. We”re being pushed to lighten up on a weighty matter, to tolerate the intolerable, to accept the unacceptable. We naturally want to push back, but how we do so matters greatly. [more]

Over a half-century ago Alfred Kinsey estimated that 10% of the population is homosexual. That percentage has long since been discredited. The actual percentage is closer to 2%, and maybe much less than that in our own experience if we’re not part of the “gay subculture.”

This presents a real challenge for us to avoid “us” and “them” stereotypes, as it”s easy to stereotype people who are far removed from our own experience. I remember discussing homosexuality on the Internet a couple months ago, and a gay activist kept saying “you people,” lumping me in with a wide range of people who opposed his viewpoint, including some people with whom I personally disagree. I found that expression very off-putting, and I can’t help but think that that expression–and even more the attitude that underlies the expression–is at least as off-putting when the shoe is on the other foot.

Truth and charity form opposite sides of the same coin, and so it’s crucial to be ever mindful of the individual person, even as we discuss homosexuality on a broad, societal level. Empathy skills tend to get us farther than biting rhetoric.

At the same time, we cannot afford to abandon the playing field out of a false compassion, indifference, or even fear.  Let’s be clear: Same-sex marriage poses a serious threat to the very fabric of our society. For example, writing for Out Magazine, a leading voice in the gay community, Michaelangelo Signorile comments:

“The trick is, gay leaders and pundits must stop watering the issue down–’this is simply about equality for gay couples’–and offer same-sex marriage for what it is: an opportunity to reconstruct a traditionally homophobic institution by bringing it to our more equitable queer value system, . . . a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture. . . . Our gay leaders must acknowledge that gay marriage is just as radical and transformative as the religious Right contends it is.”

Similarly, Paul Ettelbrick, professor of law at NYU and Columbia, writes:

“Being queer is more than setting up house, sleeping with a person of the same gender, and seeking state approval for doing so. . . . Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, and in the process transforming the very fabric of society.”

So same-sex marriage is a big deal. We need to bring our “A game”–intellectually, pastorally, and spiritually–if we’re serious about defending traditional marriage.

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