As Utah courts and legislators go back and forth on the subject of marriage equality, a new set of players has emerged: Christians who want a pat on the back for not taking to the streets in protest of marriage equality.
Take Michael and Jenet Erickson. Last week, they wrote a column for Deseret News titled “Being For Traditional Marriage Does Not Mean Being Against Anyone.” Their thesis statement? Because Utahns didn’t start riots or pillage gay folks’ houses during the brief window when marriage equality was legal in their state, they are clearly not anti-gay. They’re just pro-“traditional” marriage.
Here’s the totally twisted, borderline-offensive analogy the authors craft to make their point:
Contrast that respectful response to the angry mob that hurled insults and threats at 6-year old Ruby Bridges while U.S. Marshals escorted her to an all-white elementary school after federal courts ruled that “separate but equal” schools were unconstitutionally discriminatory. Although the gay-marriage movement is often analogized as the “civil rights issue of our day,” Utahns did not support Amendment 3 to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and their response to it being struck down shows that.
Rather than taking to the streets during the Christmas holiday, supporters of traditional marriage gathered with their families. And for most of them, the overwhelming reaction to the news about Amendment 3 was one of sadness, not anger at gays and lesbians.
To start, we all know that it’s problematic to compare the LGBT rights movement to the African-American Civil Rights Movement for a host of different reasons, which sort of makes this argument moot. Uncomfortable comparison aside, though, you don’t have to set fires or threaten children to hold anti-gay beliefs. In fact, being “sad” that LGBT people are starting to get equal rights is a pretty clear indication of being anti-gay.
Huffington Post Gay Voices editor Noah Michelson addressed this issue about a month ago in response to another viral essay defending anti-gay-marriage viewpoints from The Atlantic: “Being Against Gay Marriage Doesn’t Make You a Homophobe,” by Brandon Ambrosino. Ambrosino is gay himself, but claimed that there was nothing wrong with challenging arguments in defense of marriage equality and that doing so shouldn’t earn you the label of “homophobe”:
I would argue that an essential feature of the term “homophobia” must include personal animus or malice toward the gay community. Simply having reservations about gay marriage might be anti-gay marriage, but if the reservations are articulated in a respectful way, I see no reason to dismiss the person holding those reservations as anti-gay people. In other words, I think it’s quite possible for marriage-equality opponents to have flawed reasoning without necessarily having flawed character. When we hastily label our opposition with terms like “anti-gay,” we make an unwarranted leap from the first description to the second.
In response, Michelson penned the brilliant “Here’s an Easy Test to Find Out If You’re Anti-Gay (And Maybe Don’t Even Know It),” in which he tore Ambrosino’s piece apart and suggested a sort of litmus test to tell if you hold beliefs that are anti-gay:
- If you have a gay friend (or sister or coworker or…) but still think that queer people should not be able to get married, then you are anti-gay.
- If you’re fine with queer people as long as you don’t have to see them kissing or holding hands, then you are anti-gay.
- If you don’t have anything against queer people but wouldn’t want a gay man leading your son’s scout troop, then you are anti-gay.
- If you think that inside queer people there is anything lurking — however small — that causes us to have any less integrity or humanity than straight people have, then you are anti-gay.
Sounds about right! Of course, this logic would fall short on the Ericksons, who believe pretty strongly that marriage equality is a sad thing. (Not something worth being angry about, though. Because only homophobes get angry, and they aren’t homophobes. Sure.) Check out some of the things they’re sad about:
Sadness for what it means to redefine — to change — the meaning of marriage from its transcendent roots across cultures and time as the union of complementary halves — the Biblical “one flesh” — to a fundamentally genderless institution. …
Sadness that in changing the age-old purpose of marriage from uniting men and women, society undermines the pillars of marital prevalence, permanence and monogamy, each vital to creating a bond strong enough that “a child’s heart can rely upon it.”
No, no, no, no, no. Complementary halves? Uniting men and women? I think you’re referring to the time-honored tradition of a business transaction between people whose body parts lend well to reproduction. Marriage has changed for the better over the years (we often take feelings into consideration and rarely expect an exchange of goods, for instance) and allowing same-sex couples to join the party is only going to make it a more loving institution. (Oh, and did I miss something where all different-sex marriages are permanent and monogamous?)
But they won’t have any of that. The authors are caught up on marriage as the sole pathway towards procreation and stable families, citing the long-disputed, scientifically-unsound Mark Regnerus study that claims children of same-sex parents are less stable than their peers. (All drivel, in case you hadn’t guessed.) They’re upset that their refusal to serve same-sex couples in their businesses counts as discrimination (what else would it be?) and they absolutely refuse to acknowledge that there are benefits to legal marriage outside of religion.
Maybe the worst part, though, is that they think they’re being empathetic to poor gay folks. They think they’re taking a stand on our behalf. They’re so, so wrong.
We are conscious in writing that some may read these words and ask, “But what about the sadness that I have felt for so many years? For my loneliness and fear of being rejected before I told my family and friends that I felt attracted to the same sex? For the insults and the jokes and the careless insensitivity at school, at church, at work, and, worst of all, at home? For the noisy harangue that ‘those people’ — me — were destroying society? For tempting, debilitating thoughts that I was never good enough and that God did not love me?”
To any who may ask such questions themselves or on behalf of a loved one, we emphatically agree that must change. You or your loved ones deserve better. All are owed dignity and respect. We are grateful that much of the prejudice and mean-spirited attitudes we witnessed in our youth have diminished significantly. We also recognize that there is a long way to go.
Herein lies the major contradiction in their logic: you cannot tell LGBT folks that our relationships are a threat to society without implying — even if you’re too cowardly to say it out loud — that WE are a threat to society. You cannot say that same-sex parents can’t raise children without saying that we, as individuals, cannot raise children. Just like you, many of us put a great deal of ourselves into our relationships. If you hate what our unions “do to society,” you hate us. Even if you’re not picketing in the streets.
For once, a substantial number of comments are pro-marriage equality rather than blindly-bigoted and, well, trolling. Other people are picking apart the author’s supposed logic and explaining why advocating for “traditional” marriage is obviously motivated by an anti-gay bias. For example, Robert Johnson from Sunland, California wrote:
Bigotry is believing that you have a right to something while denying it to others. No one is saying that you have to embrace marriage equality. You as an American have the right to personally accept it or not, but what you don’t have a right to do is to deny your fellow Americans their right to marry the person that they love.
And finally, “Blue” from Salt Lake City nails it:
What is also perfectly clear is that opposition to respecting the equal rights of homosexual citizens derives exclusively from the hostility of religious fundamentalists towards homosexuals.
We do not live in a theocracy. Our nation is a constitutionally constrained republic in which the rights of a minority are not subject to majority vote. And because of that fact, Utah’s Amendment 3 has rightly been found, through extensive legal review and due process, to be invalid. … Your personal religious convictions do not trump the 14th Amendment, no matter how much sugar-coating you apply to your arguments.
Stop sugar-coating it. If you’re against marriage equality, you’re against same-sex relationships and against LGBT people. And if that hurts your feelings, you’re the one who needs to change.