How should you react?
First a quick disclaimer, this post is not going to be typical of me, as it is written for a few different specific people all at the same time. This means I may switch tactics mid-stream and the overall post may seem a bit disjointed. The reason for this, is I am writing today post primarily as an open letter to a wonderful friend’s parents, as well as partially to that friend, and I suppose it’s also just a way to combine all of the many arguments on this topic in to one place.
So let’s start off with the reasons why somebody may be against gay marriage.
- Because god and/or a “holy” book said so
- Gay sex is gross
- Homosexuality is “unnatural”
- Homosexuality is a choice
- Gay sex leads to unintended consequences, such as diseases like AIDS
- Allowing gay marriage leads to a slippery slope (pedophilia, bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc)
- Gay marriage is destroying the institution of marriage and/or America
- Marriage is about family, and homosexual couples can not have children
Obviously not everybody against gay marriage uses (or believes) all of these reasons, but these do cover the primary arguments used by it’s opponents. Perhaps you have some other argument I did not include here, and I’d be happy to go over those arguments in the comments if you’d like…
Now before we go too far here, I’d like to “speak” directly to the two very specific people who are the inspiration for this post. Some of what I am going to say is going to come across as snarky, or downright rude. I say these things not because I want to offend you, but because I care about your daughter, and I hate to see her mistreated by you. But before I get to the snarky parts, I would like to say a few things directly to you in advance.
I know the two of you to be fantastic people. You are unbelievably kind and generous. By taking in an adopted child all those years ago, you did something which I find so amazing, and commendable (and not just because I also am adopted). You raised your daughter to be a great woman, and you have shown her such love that you are in any possible sense her true mom and dad. I have known you to be among the kindest people I’ve ever met. And I do understand that your faith / religion is important to you and that it influences your views on many topics (including homosexuality and gay marriage).
But most importantly I know without any doubt, that you want what you believe is best for your daughter, and you say and do what you honestly believe is in her best interests.
You have a contemptible way of showing it, but you do mean well…
While I disagree with religious reasons for anything, for now I will at least just discuss what your religion says, and not the invalidity or contradictions within those teachings. From what I know about you, your primary objection to gay marriage is a religious one, specifically coming from Leviticus 18:22 (quick aside, all biblical quotes are from 21st Century King James Version): “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination“. Well let’s take a look at Leviticus. In Leviticus 18, god talks to moses: “I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do My judgments and keep Mine ordinances to walk therein; I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” and then proceeds to give moses a number of laws the Israelites must follow, most of which are dealing with various sexual taboos, including the prohibition on homosexuality.
Leviticus 19 continues the laws, including: “4Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God“. Take a look at your church, is there a status of Mary, or a cross anywhere? These are both idols by Old Testament laws.
“And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will. It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow; and if aught remain until the third day, it shall be burned in the fire“. When was the last time you killed an animal as a sacrifice to god? It’s probably been a while.
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD“. Telling your daughter that you believe she should not be allowed to have something in her life, which you have enjoyed for these last 60 years seems to violate this law.
“neither shall a garment mingled with linen and wool come upon thee“. Keep in mind this comes from the chapter directly following the prohibition on homosexuality. You can’t wear mixed fabrics, yet I’d bet that other than Quakers, not one group of christians in the United States could go through their closet and not find a dozen violations of this verse.
A bit earlier in Leviticus gos lays out the laws for what can and can not be eaten, including: “and the swine, though he divide the hoof and is cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud, he is unclean to you“. So I guess that ham dinner is out for easter and christmas, no BLT’s are allowed during the summer, and you certainly can’t have a side of bacon on a lazy Sunday morning.
Not to mention the prohibition on shellfish, “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you“, so shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, and mussels are out. Notice that both homosexuality and shellfish are described as being an “abomination“. Based on the treatment you have shown to your own daughter over her sexuality, I take it that you are equally abrasive and rude when you see somebody order lobster at a restaurant. And do you also believe that Maine lobsters are destroying America in the same way that you have claimed that gay marriage is ruining this country? Do you tell your friends who enjoy going to Baltimore for crabs that they are tearing down the moral fiber of the United States? Or is it only your daughter that gets this type of treatment from you?
All in all, there are 613 laws in the Old Testament; and I’ve only selected a few random ones from Leviticus, since this is where the condemnation of homosexuality comes from. Perhaps the examples I listed don’t apply to you, but have you read and do you strictly follow all 613 laws of moses? Why pick this one as the line to draw in the sand, and not the multitudes of others?
But that is Old Testament… And with you both being devout christians, let’s see what jesus says on the subject of homosexuality.
Nope, not in Matthew.
Not in Mark either.
Not a thing in Luke.
Odd, John is silent on the subject as well.
Hmm, well, this is just strange. It appears that jesus never speaks about homosexuality even once. While paul speaks of the Old Testament laws (including the one against homosexuality) in some of the letters, he never claims that jesus, himself, said anything, and the gospels are mysteriously silent on the subject. If homosexuality is such a vast evil, doesn’t it seem odd that when jesus had a chance to tell humanity in person?
But why should you listen to what I have to say about the bible? After all, I am an atheist, so what would I know about the bible and christianty? Well the Pew Forum on Religious Religion and Public Life released a survey on religious knowledge showing that Atheists and Agnostics scored higher on it than anyone else, closely followed by Jews and Mormons, all Christians, Protestants and Catholics, were far behind. And I personally spent many years studying religion, and have spent the last 3 years doing more studying, and much writing on the topic.
But still, I am an atheist, so there is a very realistic possibility that nothing I say could sway you. With that in mind, it seems only reasonable to see what other christians say on the subject. Well the christian post reports that a recent poll revealed that support for same-sex marriage is growing among Americans. Even conservative christians are coming out in support for gay marriage, stating: “the question of whether to allow civil same-sex marriage is a civil liberties question, and maintaining a respect for people’s civil liberties in this country is always to the church’s advantage. In fact, it is absolutely essential for the survival of our religious freedom in a pluralistic society“. Others make the case that: “Rather than judging negatively against gay marriage, an alternative and still very Christian stand is support of the institution of marriage as it impacts positively on the exclusiveness and the duration of relationships, whether homosexual or heterosexual“. There are many more christians making the case not just to be tolerant, but to actually be in favor of gay marriage than you might expect.
Or we can look at this issue from another angle. Perhaps you will not take the words of other christians over those of your church. Will you take the word of jesus from the gospels? You have complained about prayer being taken out of schools and out of public life. Well as a christian, shouldn’t you follow the words of jesus, in Matthew 6:6 which tells you’: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly“.Do you honestly believe that trying to push YOUR religious beliefs on to others is what jesus was saying here? Or we can look at Mark 12:31 which states “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these“. Do you believe that cutting your daughter out of your life is showing her love in the sense the jesus was promoting? And when Matthew 7 states: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye“. Have you now taken it upon yourself to be god, since only god should judge others? Your own bible says that makes you a hypocrite. Keep in mind, this is not me calling you out, this is jesus telling you that only god can judge, and those who attempt to judge others are hypocrites.
But, you may still want to say that the idea of gay marriage is unbiblical. So what does the bible say about marriage specifically? Well this video may come across as a bit offensive, but please keep in mind that everything it says is actually 100% biblically accurate.
So incest, polygamy, rape, slavery, pedophilia, adultery, and prostitution are all okay, in various circumstances, according to your “holy” book. But your daughter finding happiness with an amazing person she truly loves is going to destroy the world?
And none of this even touches on the fact (and yes, it is a FACT) that we live in a country that has a Separation of Church and State, by design. This is a concept that Thomas Jefferson, among many of the other “founders” of this country, felt very strongly about, and made sure to incorporate into the Bill Of Rights. The evidence for this concept is really something for it’s own post, but for now I’ll just say that you should look into the Treaty Of Tripoli which states ” As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion“.
And when you look in to the history of the First Amendment one of the interesting things you find is that it was religious people who fought so hard to have the strong wording. And the two people most responsible for the founding documents, Jefferson and Madison, in a letter Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, that there should be “a wall of separation between church and state.” And Madison himself often wrote of “perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters” (1822 letter to Livingston), “line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority… entire abstinence of the government” (1832 letter Rev. Adams), and “practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States” (1811 letter to Baptist Churches).
The next objection that many people have to gay marriage is that gay sex is gross or unnatural. Well the grossness of gay sex is subjective. I find mayo gross. A good friend of mine hates cheese. You might not be a fan of beets. Should these things be outlawed for everybody, just because of the subjective views of some group of people?
A 1999 review by researcher Bruce Bagemihl shows that homosexual behavior has been observed in close to 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, and is well documented for 500 of them. A 2009 review of existing research showed that same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species. How can something be “unnatural” if it is “nearly universal”? By definition if something is that common, it is clearly “natural”. As a believer, you, even more than I, should see this as natural, since you have the belief that god created all of the animals and created mankind in “his” own image.
But none of these facts hold much weight if somebody is truly homophobic. They will pull out the tired old cliche that “homosexuality is a choice”.
For just a moment, let’s assume that this is true. Well, your religion is a choice. So is every other religion on the planet that is not yours. Should those choices be outlawed?
And at what age do you believe your daughter “chose” to be gay? Was it when she was 15 and came out? Was it when she was a child and fought her brother over the “boy’s” toys and ignored the dolls?
Well what if we don’t assume that homosexuality is a choice. How would we know if it is or not? The American Psychological Association states: “Research suggests that the homosexual orientation is in place very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth. It is found in about ten percent of the population, a figure which is surprisingly constant across cultures, irrespective of the different moral values and standards of a particular culture“. No simple, single cause for sexual orientation has been conclusively demonstrated, but research suggests that it is by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences, with biological factors involving a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. As well, a number of twin studies have attempted to isolate biological factors in sexual orientation. As Bearman and Bruckner (2002) describe it, early studies concentrated on small, select samples, which showed very high genetic influences. Well that certainly does not sound like a choice, so much as it leans towards the conclusion that at least in large part it is an innate part of us since birth. There have since been many other studies confirming many of the same conclusions. If you’d like I can provide you with details of the further specific studies.
The next potential issue brought up by opponents of gay marriage, typically when they are trying to avoid a religious argument, is that gay sex leads to more unintended consequences, such as diseases like AIDS, than does heterosexual sex.
Well, for a moment, let’s assume this is true. Drinking leads to cirrhosis of the liver. Smoking leads to lung cancer. Driving leads to fatal accidents. Hell, heterosexual sex leads to diseases Swimming leads to drowning. Eating unhealthy foods can lead to obesity. Hell, heterosexual often sex leads to diseases as well. Should these things also be banned? You are both politically conservative; and this group typically expresses the idea of limited government. Do you really want the government becoming a nanny state and telling you what you can and can not do in the privacy of your own home?
But let’s take a look at this idea that gay sex is the causation of more disease. While it is true that unprotected anal sex does carry a higher likelihood of infection than unprotected vaginal sex due to the lining of the anus vs that of the vagina, this really has no bearing on your daughter, as the risk of spreading disease from woman to woman is actually lower than from man to woman. And once you take in to account the use of condom use, homosexual sex carries no more risk than heterosexual sex.
Another thing to keep in mind, and unfortunately as far as I am aware no studies have been done on this, is that when most heterosexual children are brought up in our society, they know there is a “normal” set of plans for their life; they will date, marry, and have children. When homosexual children are brought up, they are told they are bad, that they do not deserve the same rights as the rest of us, are (very unfairly) compared to pedophiles, rapists, and other “sexual deviants”, and that the “normal” set of plans for an adult life do not apply to them. Is it any wonder that statistically they are more promiscuous than heterosexuals? Does it seems reasonable that perhaps if they were not constantly ridiculed and shamed and they had the opportunities that you had in your life, they would be more likely to have the same type of life that you’ve had?
So let’s take a look at the “slippery slope” arguments against gay marriage. You know the ones I mean, that if we allow gays to marry, then the next thing you know we’ll have to allow pedophilia, bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc.
As recently as 1967 a number of states in the US had laws on the books that prohibited interracial marriage, that was until the Supreme Court rules in Loving v. Virginia, ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States (I’d highly recommend reading the link about this court case, it’s absolutely appalling what this couple went through, including the police invading their home and being sentenced to jail because they married each other). The trial judge in the case ruled that: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.“
Most rational people today look at this with a mixture of horror, disgust, and anger. But this was acceptable and as is plainly obvious from the quote, was based at least in part on religious views at the time. This is not to put all of the blame on religion, in fact: “In 1966, the Presbyterian Church took a strong stand stating that they do not condemn or prohibit interracial marriages. The church found “no theological grounds for condemning or prohibiting marriage between consenting adults merely because of racial origin”. In that same year, the Unitarian Universalist Association declared that “laws which prohibit, inhibit or hamper marriage or cohabitation between persons because of different races, religions, or national origins should be nullified or repealed.” Months before the Supreme Court ruling on Loving v. Virginia the Roman Catholic Church joined the movement, supporting interracial couples in their struggle for recognition of their right to marriage.“
In it’s decision on this case, the court ruled: “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.“
Now, just in case it slipped by you, this ruling included the line: “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival“. A basic civil right. That is what you want to deny your daughter. You are old enough to remember women and minorities being mistreated for decades. You’ve seen the growth in our nation over the decades. You’ve witnesses civil rights violations and the fight of minorities to be accepted as equal. And yet with your own daughter, you actively promote the same type of hatred and bigotry that people have fought against since the founding of this country that you claim to care for. It is not your daughter that is hurting this country, it is the narrow-minded hate that you espouse.
When people fought against interracial marriage they used the same slippery slope argument. If you allow blacks and whites to marry, then the next thing you know other forms of biblically condoned marriages are going to be deemed acceptable. It was asinine then, and it’s equally asinine now. Any time you want to limit the rights of some group (whether it is by pushing to outlaw gay marriage or whatever), imagine if the tables were turned, and instead of what you’re fighting for, instead it was outlawing something for a group you are a member of. Would you still support the same position if just one word was changed? Instead of gay, if “white” marriages were outlawed, could you see the unfairness then?
This actually leads in to the idea of “Tyranny of the Majority“. While I can argue over the merits of allowing gay couples to marry all day long, this really does go beyond that. This goes to the very foundations of who controls civil rights. To who controls the basic freedoms that we enjoy in the country. Do we want to live in a society when groups can be openly discriminated against in regards to basic rights, just because they happen to be part of a minority group? Didn’t we already go through this over the rights of minority religions? Over the rights of women? Over the rights of minority races?
We are not talking about granting a group special rights because of their minority status, we are talking about giving them equal rights under the law. One of the very foundations of this country is that ALL people are created equal. Not all white people. Not all straight people. But ALL people.
Whichever side of this particular issue you are on, think about the day when you, or your children or their children are in a minority group. Should you be discriminated against just because you’re in a minority group? Of course not. When it comes ot matters of civil rights, the Tyranny of the Majority is the wrong way to go, even if it is technically “democratic”. This is why all people, including those currently in the majority, should ALWAYS fight for the rights of all people.
And while we’re on the subject of a “slippery slope”, you know one thing that gay sex does not lead to? Abortion. In all of human history not one gay couple have had an “unwanted” pregnancy. Not one. If, as most christians do, you view abortion as a bad thing, at least you know that with gay couples, the idea of aborting an unwanted pregnancy is off the table.
You have claimed that your daughter, and specifically gay marriage is destroying the institution of marriage and/or America. Well the divorce rate has been around 50% for a number of decades, long before the idea of gay marriage was on the scene. It seems hardly fair to blame “the gays” for any problems with the institution of marriage or divorce rates among straight couples.
As for it “destroying” America, please show me how. Show me one example of a problem with the United States (be it the economy, divorce rate, abortion rate, etc), how me HOW that is a problem, and show me how that is caused by loving couples being allowed to marry. In what way does two men having a committed relationship negatively affect your life? How does two women making a vow to each other hurt the economy? This idea that gays marriage is destroying the country is thrown around all the time, but nobody bothers to explain in what way this happens. Perhaps because it is nothing more than ignorance shrouded in fear-mongering?
And you have specifically accused your daughter of not caring about the country. She has given virtually her entire adult life to serving this country. Having spent years working in law enforcement, she went back to school so that spend essentially the last decade working for homeland security. She has done more to serve than 99% of people, and to claim otherwise is irrational, offensive, and just blatantly false.
The final argument typically used against gay marriage is that marriage as an institution is about creating families, and homosexual couples can not have children. For a moment let’s say this is true.
Should all couples be forced to have children, even if they do not want to? That certainly won’t lead to any abuse of children, now would it?
You know my story, what if my wife and I had been forced to have a child? How would I ever hope to be able to explain to them what their mother did?
Would you argue that infertile couples should not be allowed to marry? You yourselves adopted children for a reason. If you were to use this argument against your daughter, it only stands to reason that your own marriage is just at detrimental to the institution of marriage and to our society as hers is.
Or you could make the argument that marriage is (or at least should primarily be) about love. Yes many couples marry because they want to have children. Many others marry for the legal benefits. Many marry because they think it’s what society wants them to do. But the best marriages, the ones that last through the years (like your own), are primarily about love. And that is what your daughter has found. It’s a shame that you as her parents would try to stand in the way of that. One of the greatest moments of my life was when I got married. And I was lucky enough to have your daughter there to celebrate that day with me. And I was especially honored to have been given the chance to share in that same experience for her. I went to celebrate the love and commitment of two amazing people. And if they are extremely lucky, they will have as wonderful a life together as the two of you have had.
Finally, I would like to end this with Special Comment on Gay Marriage by Keith Olbermann following California banning gay marriage via Proposition 8 November 4,2008
Olbermann makes a number of the same points that I have made before, but being a video, he can better express the emotion that is lacking in the text I have written…