It’s easy to think that all Duke students would be happy to march in the annual Gay Pride Parade that passes by East Campus. The student body’s social liberalism means that we wait in line for hours to attend the Me Too Monologues and eagerly pick up our “Love=Love” t-shirts on Coming Out Day. My campus Christian group, for example, is having a fellowship outing this week—to the Fab Friday party at the renamed Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. A Chronicle survey in 2011 found that 85 percent of Duke undergraduates want gay marriage legalized. But what about that 15 percent?
Today, I want to share what I heard from two people in that 15 percent. Two kind, smart Duke students who think homosexuality is sinful.
Both of these students oppose homosexuality based on their understanding of Christianity. One, who I’ll call Jeff, sees homosexuality as a “sexual sin just like fornication and adultery” that Paul condemns in the New Testament. (In Romans 1, for example, Paul talks about idolaters who rejected God and says that, “God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.” Also refer to 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1.) He thinks same-sex attraction “can be a completely natural tendency” but feels that it should be resisted, just like a married man must remain loyal to his wife despite temptations. He refers to Ephesians 5 as the basis for his belief that marriage “is symbolic of the union of Christ and the Church—man as Christ and woman as the Church.”
Jeff’s conservative views on sexuality cover other topics, too; homosexuality is far from the only sexual practice he considers sinful. He thinks sex “should wait until marriage [since] it’s something God created for marriage.” He rejects absolutist views and favors pragmatic solutions when it comes to sex education, though. He volunteered this summer in Central America and was asked to help with sex education classes. He demonstrated proper condom use for students, while encouraging them to stay faithful to their partners in sexual relationships. Even though he prefers the wait-till-marriage approach, he thinks “sexual education should be comprehensive [because] we know that abstinence-only education does not work.”
Samantha (also a pseudonym) offered a similar rationale. She thinks, “Homosexuality is not natural and is sinful behavior.” When she heard that Jeff called it a natural tendency, she disagreed and emphasized that she believes homosexuality is unnatural. She opposes legalizing gay marriage because she considers marriage a “sacred union that was first mentioned in the Bible.” Samantha was quick to note that she treats gay people equally; for example, “If a homosexual person needed a blood donation, and I had the same blood type as [them], I would totally donate my blood.”
As a social liberal on a socially liberal campus, I was curious about one other thing: What does it feel like to hold an unpopular opinion on campus? Jeff talked about one class where the professor wanted to survey his students’ ideological diversity. The professor asked students to raise their hands if they opposed gay marriage. Jeff was the only person in the room to raise a hand. He “wanted to be honest” rather than let his classmates assume that silence meant agreement. He said the situation “was intimidating because the entire class could have passed judgment” and “branded” him. The next class, another student sparked a discussion about homosexuality and religion. Jeff articulately explained his views, and the class seemed to listen openly without attacking him. But there were definitely some pointed questions directed at the student who first raised the issue.
Samantha made a similar statement, which I’ll quote in full so she can speak for herself: “It is difficult to be a minority on campus when it comes to homosexuality. I feel that people immediately judge me as homophobic or as someone [who] detests homosexual people, and that is a wrong perception of who I am. Whenever people want to discuss why I think the way I do about homosexuality, and I tell them it’s because of my Christian and Latino background, people immediately dismiss my reasoning because they see it as backwards and close-minded. But to me, their dismissal seems just the same.”
For those of us who support gay marriage, it can be hard to remember that there are people who don’t agree with us. And it can be much, much harder to remember that these people are usually intelligent and caring individuals like Jeff and Samantha.
We also need to remember that there are many other intelligent, caring Americans out there who share their views. 42 percent of Americans oppose gay marriage, according to a May 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center. And North Carolinians passed Amendment One this spring by a 22-point margin, amending the state constitution so that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” Jeff and Samantha are in the minority on this campus, but we can’t simply dismiss their views—at Duke or in the nation.
Andrew Kragie is a Trinity junior. His column runs every other Tuesday.