Friday, May 11, 2012

Is it 'bigoted' to oppose gay marriage?

Ben and I debate gay marriage in this week's column for Scripps. Rather than give you my take in this space, I want to offer Ben's—because I find it somewhat troubling:
At a certain point -- long before the president concluded that the political benefits of supporting gay marriage this election cycle outweighed the disadvantages -- millions of Americans concluded that it's important affirm that marriage is exclusively a union between one man and one woman. 
Those people are called bigots, and worse. 
Be wary of those national polls showing a majority now supporting a redefinition of marriage. People who don't like being called bigots might just lie to pollsters. Pre-election polls in North Carolina predicted the vote on that state's constitutional amendment would be closer than the 20-point blowout it turned out to be. 
For the partisans of gay marriage, North Carolina's vote was an expression of bigotry and hatred, plain and simple. No other explanation could possibly suffice. 
Only bigotry -- and nothing else -- could explain similar votes in 29 other states. 
Only bigotry -- and nothing else -- could explain how six in 10 black voters in California voted in favor of Proposition 8, the 2008 constitutional amendment reaffirming the traditional definition of marriage, and cast their ballot for Obama at the same time. 
Maybe "bigotry" isn't the sole property of one side of this argument.
What Ben's argument does this week is replace any debate about the merits of gay marriage with familiar-if-tired conservative martyrdom-making. "They're calling us bigots!" doesn't really tell us why heterosexuals should get to exclude homosexuals from the legal right to civil marriage. (To be fair: This kind of martyrdom isn't usually Ben's rhetorical style, and he has made more substantive arguments about this in our previous debates on the issue.)

I myself think opposition to same-sex marriage comes from too many sources to reduce simply to "bigotry"—though that certainly is the motivation of some opponents. But I do think that many opponents of same-sex marriage have justified their religious opposition to a civil right by creating a counter-narrative of victimology.

Rights aren't a zero-sum affair: I myself would be content to live in a country where my gay friends could get married and my Christian friends express their disapproval. And contra Ben's statistics, the ability to get millions of people to vote against rights doesn't really tell us much about the legitimacy of those rights.


namefromthepast said...

Has anyone seriously asked WHY the government recognizes marriage at all? Marriage is a religious institution is it not?

By allowing government to sanction or ban marriage-of any kind-we're subjecting religious freedom to government review and I'm not ok with that.

Since our country is founded on a tolerance of all religions, sanctioning or banning is fundamentally flawed from the very beginning.

Anonymous said...

Marriage predates Christianity. There is no religious requirement for marriage in the USA and there are many current and past marriages in our country that did not occur in or with the approval of a religious institution. Religion holds no monopoly on marriage, much as it may proclaim itself to.

Governments the world over recognize marriage (though not all with the same rules, of course). The prevalence of marriage across countries and cultures suggest it is a human phenomenon; something many of us feel driven to for some reason. Seeking love and stability is just what many (most?) of us do.

Nobody likes to be called a bigot, its true. But if you read the dictionary definition of the word, its hard to argue that it doesn't fit.

As to our country being founded on tolerance of all religions - this is not really true. Those coming here for religious freedom were seeking to get away from countries that imposed a certain religion via law. Some groups when they came here were quite content to do their own forcing of religion, just not wanting others to do the same to them.

We've got a long history in the US of being very hypocritical.This current battle is nothing new. You won't hear anti-gay marriage folks arguing to bring back the rest of the laws of the Old Testament with its virginity requirements and condemnation of oysters, pork, and divorce. If they would like to prove themselves to be "not a bigot" lets bring on the fight against baby back ribs and get to work stoning "fornicators" - we've got a loooooong list to work on.

namefromthepast said...


Marriage obviously is mentioned biblically in the Old Testament so prior to Christianity true.

However, marriage is defined biblically at or near the dawn of time, therefore predating ours or any other human phenomenon. There is no way to untangle God from marriage from a Christian perspective.

If a Christian feels moved to oppose gay marriage on truely biblical grounds then possibly God is a bigot according to Webster. Let them fight that one out.

If the US government is to remain true to the first ammendment for everyone how can it recognize one marriage and not another? It can't. So why recognize any of them?

WHY does ANY marriage-religious in ceremony or not-need to be "approved" by the federal government?

Congress didn't feel the need to approve of oysters or pork why marriage?