You say you want my opinion?

[Warning: This is a political post, and statistically speaking, at least half of you will disagree with me. I’m not particularly interested in seeing my comment thread or Facebook feed turned into a battle zone. If you must say something, keep it civil and respectful or I’ll delete you. It’s my thread.]

Some friends on Facebook disagreed with my statement the other night about no one being interested in my opinions. So if you really want to know what my position on gay marriage is, then here it is.

But first let me make a few introductory statements. Discrimination is not in and of itself an evil. We discriminate every day. We have police to discriminate against those who believe they shouldn’t have to pay for goods at the store, drive within an arbitrary-but-posted speed limit, or park in spots designated for people with handicaps. Every society must choose what it will or won’t accept, and while some of it seems grounded in common sense, every law is nonetheless discriminatory against someone. Every law made means that someone is going to be a minority in that one thing, and they’re not going to get their way.

So contrary to what many on both sides of the issue would like us to believe, there is nothing inherently evil about disagreeing on this or any issue. This is simply the process a democratic society goes through to determine whether or not to change what it finds acceptable. Withholding the rights of gays to marry is discriminatory. I openly admit that. Claiming that the opinions of people of religion should be discounted is discriminatory, too. And should gay marriage achieve recognition in this country, that too will be discrimination—against those who would have it otherwise. So let’s get it straight right now. Discrimination is simply the process of society defining itself. At least in this country you get to have a say in that process.

It’s the same with claims of prejudice and bigotry. Bigotry is defined as “stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.” I have seen plenty of bigotry on both sides of the issue. I have seen quite a bit that falls far short of that, too. You and I may disagree on the issue, but I will never denigrate your right to disagree, nor will I insist that your opinion is invalid.

Prejudice is defined as “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.” To accuse me of prejudice, then, simply means you think I’m making an ignorant, thoughtless decision. I can assure you that is not the case. I have considered this issue deeply, and just because my final position seems irreconcilable with yours does not mean I am prejudiced.

So, what is my opinion on gay marriage? As you might have guessed, I am opposed to it. Do you want to hear my reasons? Some claim they do, so here goes.

First: I believe in God, and I believe in God as described by a particular religion. My religion believes God when he said that homosexual behavior is incorrect (note: behavior, not tendencies. My heterosexual tendencies are also not sinful unless I act on them against the direction of God). My religion, under the direction of God, has defined marriage as between a man and a woman. This does not, per se, preclude gay persons from marrying, but it does preclude men marrying men, and women marrying women.

You are free to disagree with my religion. You are free to disagree with religion in general. But, since the laws of the land currently do not exclude religion as a valid viewpoint, you can’t tell me not to consider my religion in my opinion. On the other hand, even though I may feel that the laws of God should trump the laws of the land, I can’t tell you to vote according to the laws of God, either. So basing my opinion on my religion is valid, but you basing your opinion on your own religion, your own thinking, or even what your tea leaves told you is equally valid. For now, at least, our country allows everyone the freedom of belief, and to vote according to that belief. It’s a good thing, and I heartily approve, no matter how contentious things may become.

As a side note I do not side with the Westboro Baptist Church. I despise their methods, and I despise their message. God does not hate gays. God does not hate any of his children, even when they act contrary to his will. My own children don’t obey me very well some times, but I never stop loving them. But just because I love them doesn’t mean I stop telling them not to do things I know to be wrong just because they disagree or do not understand.

Two: The Law changes slowly, but it does change. It may not immediately make the jump from ruling something illegal to granting full acceptance and marriage rights, but it can cover that distance step by step. This is neither good or bad—it just is. We like it when it moves things the way we want, and we don’t like it when things go the other way. What is harder to recognize, however, is that The Law is neither created nor changed in a vacuum. Any single change sets precedence that may be used as argument for another change that was not necessarily intended.

So while the law currently sees a difference between homosexual behavior and polygamy, incest, statutory rape, or bestiality, for example, this does not mean it always will. Changes in any one of these areas creates precedence that could be applied to others. Justice Sotomayor recognized this in the recent Supreme Court hearings on the matter, and I don’t think the counsel’s answer adequately addressed this potential .

But whenever this issue gets brought up in public discussion it’s seldom acknowledged. Usually it’s dismissed as impossible. It’s not. Are we not talking about gay marriage here? Not that long ago being gay was not even something openly acknowledged, and in some places still is against the law, ranked right there with the other behaviors I mentioned. In a relatively short amount of time it’s gone from being hidden and shunned to accepted, to receiving special legal protections (and not incorrectly in many cases), to standing on the verge of marriage rights.

It’s not inconceivable that full acceptance of incest could follow the same path using the same playbook. Or polygamy. There are already indications that the statutory rape laws are in need of revision. If you believe that there really should be no restrictions on the sexual expression of love and the right to marry, that’s fine. You’re entitled to that belief. But let’s be open about it and not try to make believe that paving the road to gay marriage isn’t also leaving behind an easier road for other less accepted practices. Even if you have no intention of ever supporting the same rights for those practices, you’ve opened the door for others to take up their own fight.

Society and law are changing organisms. I simply don’t support changes in certain directions. Just because some want to redraw the line and claim they will only move it that much and no further doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be concerned about others waiting in the wings to move the line some more. Whether or not the line is currently drawn fairly may be less important than protecting against it being moved too far. Like it or not, if drawing a line in the first place is a valid social activity—and it is—then the viewpoint of “And let’s not move it at all” is a valid position to take. Obviously it’s not the only position, and people have the right to ask for it to be moved. But I have the right to say no when asked for my opinion.

Three: Not everyone gets along, or even wants to get along. There are many in the gay marriage movement who, once gay marriage is achieved, will be content and that’ll be the end of it. They don’t need the approval and good will of everyone they obtained that victory from. Change is not always easy, and it takes time for people to get used to it sometimes. I’m not worried about these people, and I don’t think they worry about me.

I’m worried about the people for whom this battle has always been about something else entirely. I’m worried about the people who feel the idea that anyone could oppose them to be unacceptable, and will never forget or forgive. I’m concerned about those who will not be content with this victory, but will continue onward in an attempt to punish those who offered opposition.

These people will not be satisfied that some churches will gladly perform gay marriages. They won’t be satisfied until every church has to perform them, even if they have to destroy some churches to do it. There are even some for whom destroying religion in general was always the goal, and gay marriage just one battle in the war.

If you feel I’m overreacting, then good for you. You’re apparently not one of those people, and I hope you’ll stand with us when the time comes. But if you really think it won’t happen you’re ignoring the signs. We just recently saw this same battle fought over contraception coverage. The intent of the law was to force everyone, secular and religious organizations alike, to provide free contraception coverage regardless of their religious beliefs on the matter. President Obama attempted to resolve the issue by drafting changes to allow certain objecting groups to opt out of the mandate.

That was a positive step, but not the same as framing the bill to acknowledge the inability of the law to infringe on religious rights in the first place. Religious objectors shouldn’t need permission to be exempt. It’s a basic right that should have been assumed in creating the law. Exemptions are not the same as guarantees, and can be rescinded at will.

This represents a shifting landscape in which freedom of religion is no longer a guarantee. There are those standing ready to further erode those guarantees by claiming that the governmental-given right to gay marriage trumps the religious freedom to refuse to perform those marriages. We’ve seen plenty of outrage over service providers who refuse to provide their services to gay couples. Do you think it would be any different if a church refused to perform the wedding, regardless of whether or not some other church would do so and gladly?

The issue will be pushed, and if the gay rights movement has shown anything so far, it will be pushed repeatedly until they get their way (also their right). I have a hard time believing that those who would not accept civil unions as “separate but equal” will suddenly accept, for example, that a Unitarian marriage is just as good as a Catholic wedding if the couple is Catholic but also gay. So pardon me if I’d prefer to start fighting that battle now, before it’s on my doorstep.

Fourth: I believe the government overreached in assuming control over marriage in the first place. Marriage is a moral contract, not a legal one. No one is being jailed if they cheat on their spouse, and the government doesn’t care how many people shack up together, unless they seek a formal marriage. The unraveling of assets in a divorce is similar to the dissolution of a business, really.

Marriage is a religious institution, and it should be up to religions to define for themselves. Yes, there are economic considerations in creating a new legal entity through marriage, but those could be handled through modifications of existing legal constructs. Rather than a marriage, form a domestic partnership. I’m perfectly fine with the governmental side of it all being handled as civil unions for everyone, including myself. My marriage to my wife means far more to me than the mere legal component, and my promises to her go far beyond anything the government can ever enforce.

So leave to the government the things the government should care about. If my sister and I, for example, were to both lose our spouses, why not allow us to create a joint household for economic purposes? Marriage doesn’t even enter into it—it would simply be for mutual economic and parental support as we continue to raise our respective kids. If two (or three or four) single mothers want to do the same thing, why not? Remember “Full House”? The government doesn’t need to worry about who gets to enter into such an agreement—being a legal adult is sufficient, just like forming a business.

Let individual religions—or lack thereof—determine a marriage however they want. Leave the government out of it. No, it’s not a perfect solution, but I think it would meet everyone’s needs much better than what we’ve got.

So…

There you go: my reasons for the position I take. I know there are people who will still feel my position indefensible. Just the other day one of my Facebook friends stated she couldn’t think of a single good reason for denying gay marriage. I don’t think it’s from a lack of imagination, but simply a lack of candidness. What she was really saying is that she doesn’t accept a single reason.

And that’s okay. It’s her head—she’s the one who has to live there. I live in mine, and I find it adequate, if not always comfortable. There are people who are convinced I’m a terrible, hateful person, and they are free to think that. I wish they wouldn’t, or would least offer some sort of proof beyond my differing opinion on how society should be engineered. I suspect, nine times out of ten, they’re either not really thinking about it, or are looking for justification so they can feel okay about hating me.

There are reasons for and against any change we may wish to make in society. We may not like or accept one another’s reasons, or our frameworks for deciding, but that’s life. The only society where everyone agrees is either one where everyone is the same, or everyone is forced to do what one or a few say—and neither would be much fun. I prefer one where we each have a say and the majority gets their way. It’s not perfect, especially when you’re in the minority, but it’s better than about anything else.

I’m prepared to either live with whatever we all come up with—that’s what democracy is about, after all—or to go find someplace that better represents how I want to live. Hating people takes too much time and effort, and I have better things to do with both. You might be surprised, perhaps, at just how little time I spend fretting about who gets to marry whom, except when people keep forcing the issue on me. I’d rather be writing my novel, or playing with my kids, or…just about anything else, frankly.

I’m just one guy. I’m not your enemy. I simply disagree with you on this issue. I may be right there beside you on others. If disagreement is evil, then we’re all evil together.