This has been another eventful month regarding the national conversation surrounding same-sex marriage (SSM). Last week, Ohio senator Rob Portman had a “change of heart,” coming out in support of SSM as a result of his son’s recent confession of being gay.
This week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and famed, former mega-pastor Rob Bell both came out in support of gay marriage. Clinton, preparing for a presidential run in 2016, justified her position by saying that “gay rights are human rights” and adding “I believe America is at its best when we champion the freedom and dignity of every human being.” For her, this includes marriage.
Bell, who is in the midst of his book tour said on Sunday at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral: “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”
And let’s not forget the Justice Department’s amicus curia brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down Proposition 8, California’s ban on SSM.
Though I don’t support SSM, I think that SSM advocates will see the legal affirmation of the gay lifestyle, and marriage will be redefined. I believe this because the case against SSM hasn’t been made consistently enough to turn the tide.
In all the back and forth on the topic, there are several issues that seem to be purposely overlooked and not discussed when the topic is raised.
At the outset, most agree that the topic of SSM is an emotional one. It’s emotional for those who happen to be gay and who desire to be married. It’s emotional for those who have friends or loved ones who are gay and want them to be “accepted”- part of that acceptance is having the opportunity to be married. It’s also emotional for those who, though they may have friends and loved ones who are gay, still hold to the understanding that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Further still, it’s emotional for those who struggle to remain faithful to their religious worldview that impacts their understanding of marriage.
It’s precisely because of emotionalism that reason hasn’t prevailed.
The one issue that’s repeatedly raised when discussing SSM is the notion of “rights.” Advocates of SSM argue that marriage is a basic “right” that is denied to gays and, as such, is illegal. Therefore, in the interest of fairness, marriage (by law) should be extended to gays in the same way that it is extended to non-gays.
This sounds convincing. To deny a basic right to one group of people while extending it to another group of people is wrong and discriminatory. And if that’s what the law does, it should be rescinded.
But that isn’t what the law does. First, marriage isn’t a “right.” It’s a civil institution that all societies in history have used and have recognized as the best way to legitimize, protect, and raise children as well as to solidify familial and political connections.
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