Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Parsing the Rhetoric of Hot-Button Issues

Do you think there's a middle ground in the gay rights debate? It seems to me much like the issue of abortion in that there are only really extreme positions. The rhetoric goes like this: if you support gay marriage, you support a sinful act against God, and a perversion of nature. Or conversely, if you don't support gay marriage, you are against gay rights and prejudiced to the level of hating a group of people simply for existing.

I'm not in the habit of buying into rhetoric, but it's an interesting thought. I can't really take a person seriously who says equal rights for everyone . . . but gay people can't get married. Equally though, it's difficult for me to look at a person who says, "I don't hate them. I don't dislike them. It's just a sin." and buy that this is tantamount to hatred.

Not that the majority makes it right, but asking people to give up an important tenet of their religion for what amounts to a legal issue doesn't quite suit me either. For example, if someone is interviewing for a job, would you (regardless of the fact that it's illegal, just pretend it is legal) not hire someone because it became known that it was a religious person who believed that being gay is a sin?

I'm not saying you would. But I do know people who would. So at what point does an insistence on tolerance get to the level of being intolerant? Or is that really what just needs to be done to get society to evolve to the next level? Is there room in this debate for both sides to get along, or does one or the other group have to acquiesce?

My solution goes like this: let's really and honestly separate Church from State, and remove marriage from the legal domain. No one gets legally married. Marriages only happen in churches or temples or synagogues, or in whatever spiritual context is meaningful to the couple involved. If people want, they can go get a civil union that provides all the benefits of legal marriage, the tax penalties, access to documents and health care, etc.

In this way, any religious entity can marry whomever it wants to. Or whatever spiritual ceremony fits someone less-than-religious. People of other religions and denominations are free to think whatever they want about it, pretend it's not a marriage or whatever . . . doesn't matter. And everyone is equal under the eyes of the law. Religious people can have their convictions and keep them largely to themselves because now it's a moot point. And gay couples get exactly the same set of legal rights, responsibilities, privileges, and headaches as everyone else.

Perhaps it's not a moot point, but it moves from the realm of what's legal to what's Biblically acceptable. Since no one is ever going to agree on that, it's fine with me to just get it out of the public and into the private workings of churches where it doesn't bother me.

Here's what's interesting. When I float this idea past the right-wing ├╝berchist people I know, they hate it. They say that would completely invalidate their marriage, and they won't stand for having the gays take that away from them. Marriage is about a man and a woman, that's the only thing that's morally right, and the law should reflect that.

My response is, well, what about that holy union blessed by God that no man can alter? Does it really matter what the government calls it, so long as you have your religious union sanctified in the eyes of God? The reply: if gays get exactly the same thing we have then marriage is a worthless institution. (I'm paraphrasing a bit, but you get the idea)

So it's not really about a holy union blessed by God. It's really an issue of you want the government to protect your special religious status. Fine. If you want your religion that tied up in our legal system, don't be surprised when the government starts telling you what to believe. Quit your bitching.

But when I run this by gay people and couples I know, they also hate it. They say that it's not really fair. They want to get married just like the straight Christian people. My response: so even though this would make gay and straight couples equal under the law and essentially make the legal system "sexuality-blind," you would not support it? No. they would not. And I say fine. If you want to get into a fight with a bunch of people about how to interpret morality, especially as presented in the Bible, good luck. People have been fighting about that for a long time, and you're probably not going to win with most of them. So stop bitching.

Oddly enough, the popular rhetoric seems to be spot on here.


Denise said...

Completely with you. Technically, my husband and I have a civil union. Our ceremony was performed on the beach by the Mayor of Cape May, NJ. There is/was no religious component. Now, it might have been nice for my husband's family had we gotten married in a Catholic church, but I am not Catholic. So, it would have gone against the policies of most (all?) Catholic churches to perform a ceremony for us. And, no religious institution should have to be pressured to sanctify any marriage of which it does not approve/endorse. But, we had an option other than having a religious ceremony. I think gay people should have the same option...have a ceremony and have a mayor or someone else who is not offended perform it. And hey, if some congregations support the LGBT community, fine, let them perform a religious ceremony, but that should be outside the bounds of legislation.

MacViolinist said...

Well, that makes two of us!

Honestly, I wonder if there is a middle ground for a lot of people. I think that if there is one, my proposal is it.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm curious as to how you think that would play in the greater NYC area. I'm completely honest when I say that people from both sides of the issue staunchly oppose it. I would emphatically not suggest that I've taken a rep sample.

But it implies something about the agendas involved, i.e. that there are, in fact, agendas--at least for some people. And I have to wonder whether or not this is a real instance of equal rights on the one hand, or a lack of equal rights on the other.

I mean, I don't think it's fair for gay people to enforce their idea of Gay-compatible Christianity on people who don't want it.

But I also don't think it's fair for Christians to enforce anti-gay Christianity on those who don't want it.

In any case, I don't think the government ought to have anything to do with it. Christian or not, Marriage or not. Whatever.

I realize there's a lot of straw in the arguments above, but I'm trying to be brief. You get the idea.

This is not directed at you, but if the only thing holding a marriage together is the government saying it's a marriage . . . someone has a problem. It ain't God, and it ain't the Church.