Note: the following is my own opinion, and does not stand for the official position of the church I pastor. In addition, it is an invitation to conversation. Those who disagree (as well as any who agree) are asked to respond in civility and with an eye toward mutual edification as we all journey down this path together.
On the radio Sunday afternoon the discussion was on Washington's Ref. 71, the 'Everything but Marriage' act. And the callers were angry. Over and over, the challenge was laid out: "Somebody needs to show me how giving gays the same rights as heterosexual couples affects their marriage. How does a gay marriage harm a straight marriage? What right do people have to vote out the civil rights of others?"
This seems to be the idea and the question at the heart of it all: What couples do in their bedrooms ought to be left to them and not the government. The lifelong commitment of marriage (or, in this case, civil union) ought to be up to the individuals involved, not the rest of society and certainly not the government. If two people are in love, who's to stop them from marrying? And how could those against gay marriage/civil unions be so heartless as to hold back basic rights (hospital visitation, insurance benefits) from two people who love each other? And, ultimately, what does it matter? Two men marrying, two women entering a civil union won't threaten 'straight marriage.' In fact, if any man or woman suffer in their marriage just because gays are given the same rights, than that couple had bigger problems to begin with.
I get that. In fact, should Ref. 71 pass, and should Washington eventually pass legislation recognizing gay marriage, it probably won't affect my marriage in the slightest.
But I think that's asking the wrong question. The assumption is "if what I do doesn't hurt you, then what right do you have to stop me?" Especially when the cause seems so noble - the extension of civil rights to a minority group within society.
The real question, though, is not how it affects me. The real question is how it affects society. And not just tomorrow or next Tuesday, but the days, months, and years to follow. And, theology aside, this is the reason I'm reticent to support Ref. 71.
Let me explain my thinking:
The healthiest place for children to be raised is within a family led by the father and mother who created them.
Already, some people are offended, because that statement is judgmental. For that, I am sorry. I don't mean to denigrate adoptive parents, nor single parents. Right now I know personally a half dozen or more mothers attempting to raise kids alone - some because of divorce, some through adoption, and various other reasons. And they are all doing an admirable job. In no way do I want it said that they aren't honorable or doing a wonderful job.
In addition, I know there are gay and lesbian couples raising their kids in a loving, caring environment, doing their best to support their children, loving them with a fierce and passionate love to rival the love of any straight couple. I recognize that reality.
But, in the end, I can't get around the fact that, of many 'good' possibilities, the 'best' possibility is a household with two parents of different gender, esp. if those parents are the actual biological parents of their children.
Of course, life is broken, and we do what we can to make the best of brokenness. Marriages fail, children are born into untenable situations, spouses die, some people can't conceive, others can't (or aren't ready to) care for the children they do conceive. And we do well to honor those who exist in these places of pain, to care deeply for single mothers or fathers, to support adoptive parents, to love kids who can't be with their birth parents.
At the same time, as a society, do we not have the right to strive for "the best," to create systems that push toward the ideal? Just because the ideal isn't always achievable, does that mean we don't work creatively to assist people in pursuing that ideal? (Which is why I'm perversely intrigued by the anti-divorce proposition making the rounds in California. It started out as an ironic statement. . .but I think just maybe we ought to take it seriously.)
At the end of the day, society has the right to formulate policy that is in the best interests of society as a whole. And, if the best possible scenario, if the healthiest situation is for children to be raised in the home in which they were born, raised by both the father and the mother whose genes they carry, then it seems to make sense that we would want policies supporting that ideal, while still showing kindness and consideration for those who can't achieve that ideal.
Sometimes, it seems we're almost ashamed to hold up an ideal, for fear of offending people who can't reach it. In this age of self-esteem, we dare not label something as 'best,' because all the other variations will somehow feel slighted. But this is not a pathway toward sustainable health; it achieves temporary good feeling while ignoring a deeper problem.
So my disagreement with Ref. 71 is not based on any effect it will have on my marriage. My disagreement is that it continues the falsehood that "any scenario is fine, so long as we call it so." Rather than pushing society in a direction of health, it sends the message that any option is just as healthy as the rest. And with that, I would disagree.
Let me flesh this out just a tiny bit: imagine a world wherein the vast majority of kids have been raised by the parents who conceived them, where they have known the loving hand of both father and mother, growing up in the presence of a healthy male role model AND a healthy female role model, where they have learned to respect both genders, where they have grown up within the sphere of influence of a man and all that he brings to the table, and a woman and all she brings to the table.
That, to me, is the healthiest option, and will create the healthiest society. And, as a society, shouldn't we be making policy that pushes us in the healthiest possible direction? Or do we settle for second-best (which isn't the same as 'bad,' mind you) just because everybody wants to be treated equally?
Post-script: These are not easy words to write. They are controversial; by some they could be conceived as an attack. I have friends who are gay and lesbian, I have former youth group kids who are now firmly on the other side of this issue. So I'm torn between my personal conviction and my love for them, recognizing that, even in posting this, I may be stretching the bonds of our friendship. On the other hand, we're all given the right to share our opinions in this political system, and too often I've been disheartened by the discussion on both sides. Too many on the one side take to name-calling and Bible-bashing, too many on the other take to bullying and lumping all on 'our side' into one pile. What I'm trying to do here is, in as few words as possible, explain my position without resorting to biblical texts or fear-mongering, trying to be a civil voice in the wasteland of 'activism by shouting,' offering up some thoughts for consideration without 'spreading the hate.' Obviously, I'm only touching the surface of this issue; had I nothing else to do in life I might have written a book. Unfortunately, that's not my calling, so, for now, these few thoughts will have to suffice.