When I first saw the news on Friday, I knew heads were going to explode. Figuratively speaking. The Technicolor glitter wars that ensued in social media from then and through most of the past 60 some odd hours have been entirely predictable.
Battle lines are drawn between those celebrating this cultural shift, and those decrying it as the saddest day in American history. Between those changing their profile pictures to a rainbow infused portrait and those engaging in Levitical pearl clutching, there were a few consolatory posts trying to reconcile the differences. These were the Christian equivalent of Switzerland refusing to pick a side and hoping to portray reason and temperance through neutrality.
While the Skittles crowd indulged in a victory for gay rights, the conservative (and mostly Christian) critics have been acting in ways that are disheartening even if expected. When I read through these antagonistic opinions, I noticed a common theme. The reasoning behind the opposition to the Supreme Court's decision has a predominantly emotional or religious basis. Legal arguments against gay marriage have been rare.
So much is based in Old Testament scripture describing homosexuality as detestable or an idealization of what God intended. The oft referenced "traditional marriage" (which is rife with logical fallacies) is the standard these conservative voices are trying to protect.
Through this tension, I find myself in step with the Switzerland personalities. I see and understand the evangelical views, but I recognize and value the experiences of my gay friends. However, if you insist I pick a side, then I want to know your perspective. Do you see marriage as a religious institution or a legal institution?
If you believe that marriage is a religious practice, then the government needs to get out of the process. Let the churches decide who can and cannot get married. If a church chooses to officiate a gay wedding, then let that be between them and God. If you don't agree with that church, you are free to attend elsewhere. But if we took this route, those who cling to the notion of traditional marriage would have to forfeit the privileges they have enjoyed in their state sanctioned union: tax deductions, next of kin access, hospital visitation rights, insurance beneficiaries, combined incomes for home loans, and release of medical information. In the event a couple chooses to divorce, it would have to be approved by the church instead of the courts. Once the government is no longer involved with the issuing marriage licenses and recognition of marriage certificates, then they will no longer involve themselves in the dissolution of marriages. That means the church would be the authority in the division of property and custody issues would be frustratingly more complicated.
But if marriage is a legal issue, the arguments about what God wants or intends has no bearing. If we legislate civil matters on religious convictions, we push ourselves closer to a theocracy in violation of the separation of church and state. If marriage is allowed as a matter of legality between a man and a woman, then denying that right to homosexual couples is nothing more than government sponsored discrimination. At this point, we are not defining God's law; we are modifying man's law. This is where we confirm the American ideal that all men and women are created equal and deserve equal rights.
Now let me be clear, I am good with either option. If you want marriage to be strictly religious, fine. Let's do it. But if you want the privileges and protections of a legally recognized marriage, then those rights must be afforded to the gay community. You cannot have it both ways.
For now, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that homosexual marriages are legal in all 50 states. The court's decision will not erase homophobia, much the same way that electing a black president did not eradicate racism. Public opinion is clearly divided and practically irreconcilable.
It is too late to stem the tide of reactionary tweets and facebook rants. If time machines existed in this magical world of ours, I would use it to go back and urge everyone I know to tone down the angry rhetoric. Unfortunately, we can’t undo – or even redo what has all ready been done. People got pissed off, hurtful things were said, and now we are left to figure out where we go from here.
I cannot tell you what to think or feel or even believe. Just the way you cannot impose your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs upon me. I know that opinions are set on gay rights and are as likely to change as hardened concrete. So I do not wish to force anyone to accept or even approve of the actions of the Supreme Court. Instead I only hope to mold how we react going forward. In order to do so, I am going to get biblical. But I will do that tomorrow.