Gay marriage. How did reading those two words make you feel? If you’re like most Americans, you had a strong emotional reaction, positive or negative.
Gay marriage is an issue that has been grabbing headlines and inciting passions across the country over the last several years. The debate has consumed conversation and even chicken sandwiches. In 2012, it reached a fever pitch in North Carolina as voters took their passion to the polls on Amendment One. The passage of the Amendment notwithstanding, national public sentiment on gay marriage has moved from rejection towards acceptance at an unprecedented rate and shows no signs of slowing.
Begin by accepting that there are good, genuine, well-meaning people on both sides. Generally, those in favor of gay marriage are not trying to upend the moral fabric of America nor are those opposed attempting to impose bigoted views on everyone else. Gay marriage is a battle between differing moral codes and worldviews. Therein lies the fundamental problem.
Folks in the gay marriage debate often talk past each other, invoking concepts that, to the other side, ring hollow and may even sound ridiculous. What does a non-Christian care what the Bible says? How is one who sees gay marriage as counter to their religious moral code supposed to understand an analogy to the civil rights movement? Morality versus equality. Religion versus rights. These dichotomies have unsurprisingly proved intractable.
Respect is grossly lacking and must be restored around the gay marriage debate. Proponents have been looked down upon and judged by those preaching love on Sundays, while opponents have been called backwards bigots by the very people demanding tolerance. Religion, morality, love and justice are powerful values deeply held and worthy of respect. If you cannot engage in an impassioned debate without resulting to demagoguery, perhaps you should excuse yourself from the discussion.
Gay marriage will be settled one day. In the mean time, let’s not lose friends and offend our neighbors with a lack of respect and tolerance for differing viewpoints.