Same-Sex Marriage: Beginning the dialogue

I feel unprepared to write this post. To be honest, I am more uncomfortable than unprepared. Uncomfortable, because my view or opinion about whether or not same-sex marriage should be legal is not fully developed. I can say I am against same sex marriage from a religious standpoint. However, I do not think Proposition 8 should have been passed. It removed the right for gay couples to be married when that right had already been accorded to them. What will happen to all those couples who were married before the Prop 8 passed?  Blacks and Latinos were overwhelming supporters of the proposition, baffling gays and lesbians who thought that these historically oppressed groups would be natural allies.

For the most part, blacks are social conservatives, a fact that is lost on most people. That blacks supported this measure is not surprising to me. Homosexuality is usually shrouded in silence in most black churches. In my experience, those people rumored to be gay in the churches I attended were accepted as long as they were not open with their orientation. Homosexuality was only mentioned from the pulpit as immoral and sinful. The  phrase, “Hate the sin, Love the sinner”, was a common antidote I heard and, frankly, accepted. It was not until my time in seminary that I had an epiphany after conversations with my peers. Previously, I saw homosexuality as a sin, something that could be forgiven. I saw homosexuality as a lifestyle that could be chosen, an act that could be stopped. My epiphany was this. Homosexuality is more than a lifestyle it is one of the defining parts of someone’s being. I could no more separate a person’s orientation from their essence as I could separate my race or gender from who I am. So that common mantra, “Hate the sin, Love the sinner” was impossible and highly offensive. I stopped at this epiphany and never became outspoken about it.

Any intelligent, reasoned conversation about homosexuality cannot start where most Christians want to begin, a discussion of the act as sin. We will constantly be at loggerheads. We must start from a place of love and acceptance of the total person. This is frightening for many. Homophobia asks, if I love my homosexual brothers and sisters, accepting every part of them, then does that call my own sexual orientation into question? This is always the first fear, I think, for most people. Heterosexual men, especially, have a deep problem with this fear. I would go further and say that black heterosexual men have an even deeper quandary especially given the ways they have been portrayed as sexually deviant. In light of the cultural legacy of slavery, manhood is a really complex issue in the black community, the likes of which would need its own forum to unpack.

Also, how can someone’s religious views justify withholding civil rights? I think this is what happened in California, Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona. Many conservatives see same-sex marriage as a violation of the sanctity of marriage and a threat to families. In reality, I think this stance really asserts that homosexuals’ very existence and their right to equal civil rights somehow threatens heterosexuals. This sounds a lot like the logic used to justify oppression against non-whites. I read somewhere that Mormons funneled a lot of money into passing Prop 8. This is somewhat surprising given their historical legacy of plural marriage, not quite one man, one woman, eh?

This discussion is uncomfortable for me because I have friends and family on both sides of the issue. I think I have been a chameleon, adopting my rhetoric to suit the company I was keeping at the time.  I do not want to do this anymore. I want to enter into more dialogue about this. I am not seeking to offend, only to understand. God help us all. I boldy welcome your comments.

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4 thoughts on “Same-Sex Marriage: Beginning the dialogue

  1. I am glad for your courage to broach a subject you feel less than full clarity about; I think it is one of the hardest things to do, and am helped by how well you have done it here.

    I appreciate that you discern the crux of the difficulty in how the nature of same sex relationality is characterized by a quality of desire and practice of intimacy that is pathologized as sin.

    The suggestion that love heals sin is generally taken as meaning that forgiveness allows us to overlook the offensive. It is rare that the phrase is taken as suggesting that non-acceptance is the sin. But indeed, your implicit suggestion that understanding love fundamentally as acceptance — in essence, an act of hospitality towards the Other — has a beautiful self-reflexive quality that challenges the offended one to recognize their own shadowed presence within – whether manifest as fear of Other or doubt of Self — and accept the need for self-healing in order to know the empowering relational freedom that is love.

    Of course. All this is so much easier said than lived.

  2. You have a true gift for words. I had been confused about the reasoning for the Black vote supporting Proposition 8 but your insight helps immensely.

    Thank you for starting this heartfelt dialog.

  3. M. took the first words out of my mouth: congratulations for having the courage to speak on a hard issue you’re not entirely comfortable about. I know that’s not an easy thing.

    My feelings on homosexuality and gay marriage are pretty strong and clear, but I’m not going to use your space to try to be persuasive about what’s right or what’s wrong. (FYI, I’m bisexual; that’s never been mentioned at work, but I’m not really trying to hide it either.) The only point I’d make here, and it’s more of a social one than a moral one, is that the outspoken critics who perceive other people’s marriages or relationships as a threat to the sanctity of their own should look closely at the rigor of that argument. What, exactly, is the threat?

    Marriage as an “institution” is an abstract concept, and doesn’t exist outside of what people do. We have power over what we do. If there’s a threat, it must connect back to our own actions and choices somehow. My feeling is that if my marriage, my intimate ties with others, or my beliefs can be weakened by what other people are doing who aren’t connected to me, I ought to look inward to find out what in my own life isn’t strong enough to survive the actions of others. I’ve occasionally had to do that. It’s scary, but it’s usually resulted in my changing and coming out stronger.

    Again, good for you for taking the time to challenge yourself and others.

  4. Dear Myesha:

    I echo what other folks have said here. As you know, we have been having a similar, and very helpful discussion on Facebook. But, I want to throw another idea out here. Along with the need for continuing dialogue regarding both heterosexism and racism in the GLBT, black, and latino communities, perhaps we should also take some of the focus off of our identities and onto what the institution of marriage really is.

    To my knowledge, marriage was originally a legal institution of the Roman Empire, and was then adopted as ritual/sacrament by the early church. Despite its origins as a “secular” institution, it has become a “religious” institution for many. Given in the US that we generally support some separations between religion and state, maybe we need to question why there is any sort of legislative authority over marriage to begin with. In other words, maybe “marriage” is the wrong thing to legislate. This is not a new thought, but maybe one that deserves more attention.

    What if, from the governments perspective, civil unions were available for all couple arrangements: thereby securing the legal and economic benefits and maintaining equality in the eyes of the law. Marriage, then, could remain a “religious” institution and authority over it could be delegated to religious communities. There are already religious communities that do perform same sex union ceremonies and others that do not. Why should the government be involved in what is between two-people and their faith community?

    It seems to me that this would be a consistent way to deal with the issue, but I am not sure whether or not a majority of heterosexual couples that are already married would be willing to legally see themselves as in a “civil union” and married in the eyes of their religion alone.

    Just a thought…..

    W

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