Monday, May 14, 2012

Letter to a friend

Marriage equalityI recently read a blog entry that disturbed me, and after a brief flameout on Facebook in which I urged anyone who opposed marriage equality to defriend me, this was my more reasoned response. I thought about this all afternoon, and I think it states my feelings fairly well (and without anger). A friend reminded me that we need to keep discussing these things with those who disagree, and he was right. That is how hearts and minds are changed, not by dismissal and angry rhetoric.

Dear [Friend],

I'm sorry it took me a while to get back to you. It's a beautiful day here, so I spent most of the afternoon outside and offline.

I had a very visceral reaction to reading your blog entry about same sex marriage last night. Maybe I was just tired, because it was getting close to my bedtime, but it made me think of the people I love who happen to be gay, and how they so desperately want the same rights afforded to every American citizen.

I am not going to insult your religious beliefs or try to dissuade you from feeling the way you do, but in friendship, I hope you will think about a few things.

1. This is probably the most unkind thing I will say in response to your entry. Your "slippery slope" argument, in which marriage equality could lead to people marrying their dogs (in your example) or their toasters (in other people's examples I have read) is a talking point widely circulated by those who are opposed to equality, and it is simply absurd. For one thing, you (and others) are comparing human beings to animals and inanimate objects. That is cruel and wrong. No one is proposing that anyone be allowed to do any such thing, and no court in the land would uphold such an absurd request...just as they would never uphold the marriage of an adult to a child.

2. As I mentioned in my comment, although many see marriage as a religious concept, that is in addition to the civic aspect; a marriage in a church without a state license is not valid. A marriage in any setting, with a license from the state, IS valid. No one is proposing that churches will be forced to marry same sex couples; in each of the states that have allowed same sex marriage, there are specifications that exempt churches from such an occurrence.

3. You mentioned in your entry that just a few short years ago, you and [your husband] would not have been able to legally marry as a mixed race couple. North Carolina didn't lift their ban on mixed race marriages until 1971. You and [your husband] wouldn't have just been unwelcome in certain states; you would have been in danger of your very lives, and would probably have found a burning cross on your lawn. That may sound harsh, but it is the truth. And why were there laws against mixed race marriages? Because certain lawmakers believed that is what the Bible dictates. This is why we don't make our federal and state laws based on biblical laws. If we did, there would be laws against eating shellfish, wearing clothes of mixed fibers, and planting different crops in the same field. I know I don't need to provide these verses to you.

Obama Rainbow UnicornI recall discussions with a family member who felt that mixed race marriages were wrong. Their initial concern was how it would affect any children resulting from such a union. I know quite a few children from mixed race marriages who are extremely happy, incredibly smart, and very well-adjusted. I know of one who has made it into what is probably the most powerful office in the world. This family member based their opinions on the Bible. I asked if they felt it was wrong for a Caucasian to marry an Asian. They were okay with that. I said, "Really? Because those are two different races. Apparently, the Bible says that is wrong."

It bothers me greatly that you would deny the happiness to your fellow citizens that you would have been denied not so very long ago, for the same reasons that it would have been denied to you.

4. Finally, it's hard to sit there and hear someone you love and respect more than just about anyone on the planet say, "I'm tired of my country telling me that I'm not good enough to have the same rights as other citizens." This person is kind, loving, decent, a productive member of society, and a responsible citizen. You spoke of your work with those afflicted with AIDS, so you know that members of the GLBT community are people, not just a demographic. They bleed, they struggle, they live their lives, just like any of the rest of us...and they LOVE just like the rest of us.

I respect your right to oppose marriage equality based on your religious views. But I hope that you will continue to consider that our laws are not based on the Bible or on any other religious text. That is contrary to our Constitution. You can have a moral objection based on what the Bible says, but when it comes to our laws, your biblically based moral objection, frankly, doesn't matter. I want every person in this country to have the same right to marry that you and [your husband] had, even though there are still some that would object to your union—based on their own interpretation of the Bible.

My initial angry response was wrong, and I'm sorry for that. I consider you a thinking woman who is willing to explore her feelings on such matters. I hope you will continue to do so (even I didn't get to this point overnight!) and I hope we can keep the dialogue open.

All my best, 

Beth

9 comments:

  1. Beth, this is a beautifully written and heartfelt essay, It says so much, and it says what so many of us think as well. AND it says exactly how I feel about three people (one that I have known and thought of as a sister for nearly 30 years) I think of as friends. Their viewpoint hurts me dearly. I try not to be angry with them, but I will say it isn't easy. Thanks Beth, for saying so eloquently what I feel too. Love you!

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  2. I couldn't have said it better myself - and I'm a big ole homersextical...

    Love ya!!

    xoxoxoxo

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  3. How long did it take you to calm down before you wrote that?!
    Beautifully done! I hope it helps!

    (And can I just say how SHOCKED I was to read that this opinion was coming from a member of a mixed-race marriage?!)

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  4. Sorry, the Bible cannot be used to justify opposition to same-sex marriage or homosexuality. Otherwise you would also have to believe fornicators and people who eat shellfish and curse their parents should be put to death; and all soldiers as well for violating "Thou Shalt Not Kill." Opposition to homosexuality is a cultural belief, and it is a load of crap believed by fearful people. You don't owe anybody any respect for these supposed "religious beliefs." They are nothing of the kind. (This is no different than what Islamic men have been doing to justify treating women like shit for centuries--cherry-picking the Koran. None of it is Islamic--it's all tribal culture passed down for centuries.)
    And for this to come for someone in a mixed race marriage is stomach-churning beyond belief. You won't reach her with all your reasoned arguments--she is too afraid to think for herself. I don't know why you bother with such people.
    I'm proud of your anger. It was the right reaction.

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  5. Hi Beth, This is very well-written and it's clear you really took a step back, gave it some thought and put forth a well-reasoned argument. I agree with everything you wrote but that's almost not the point. In order to write this, you obviously took time to consider the opposing view. I've come to think of same sex marriage as a Civil Rights issue, something deeply personal ... and only religious if the two people involved want it to be.

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  6. I am just going to join the chorus... but some things do require a bit of distance before we approach them so as to put our replies in the proper context... I would hope that your dear friend would do the same as they looked at their comment and think that it could have used the same kind of consideration as well...

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  7. Some people,no matter what race they are, cannot abide homosexuality. It's a problem they don't know they have. But two gay people getting married will seem like the earth crumbling under their feet But time wil heal ss it usually does. As Mae West said "People who are easily shocked should be shocked more often."

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  8. Lovely letter. I hope it hits home.
    People need to realize that they can have their religious beliefs, but they cannot legislate them. Just as I would not allow anyone to legislate against religion.
    On the "Man marries dog" or "Woman marries toaster" argument, there is a little line that says "two consenting adults" that we need to remember when discussing who can get married.

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  9. With so much hate and bigotry these days, it is hard to not push the angry button right away. It definitely is getting harder to count ten.

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