So you say you don’t hate gay people, Part II

Yesterday we talked about how no matter how often Christians who opposes gay rights claim they don’t hate gay people, their actions still hurt gay people. On some level, then, it doesn’t matter whether these Christians actually hate gay people or not. But let’s go ahead and explore that question, shall we? Can a person oppose another person’s rights without hating that person? In other words, can a person oppose another person’s rights for some reason other than hate?

After all, Christians who oppose gay rights argue that they’re not opposing marriage equality because they dislike someone, but rather because God has ordained that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. In other words, opposing marriage equality has nothing to do with what they think of gay people, hate or no, and everything to do with, well, how God set things up to be. Let’s explore this further, shall we?

In order to truly examine this question, I’m going to bring in two outside examples: racism and sexism. Hang with me here, because I think these examples are critically important to understanding what’s going on here.

Supporters of patriarchy, southern slaveholders, and modern Christian anti-gay-marriage advocates hold something in common: each opposes the rights of a specific group of people in the name of how God set things up to be, and each claims not to hate this group, but to actually have its best interests at heart. As I examine these claims, bear in mind the question we’re asking here: Is it possible to oppose a group’s rights without “hating” that group?

The Christian Patriarchy movement holds that women need extra protection and care, and that God has therefore declared that each woman should be under a man’s authority. This is why I was told that I needed to obey my father and follow what he told me, even when I was an adult. My father and all others who have come under the sway of the Christian Patriarchy movement would insist that they don’t hate women, they just honestly think women are better off, safer, happier, and more secure when they remain under the protection and guidance of a god-given male protector. It’s not about depriving women of their rights or hating them, it’s about adhering to the way God set things up to be.

Similarly, many slave holders in the antebellum South believed that black people were incapable of caring for themselves, that without white guidance they would resort to “savagry,” and that with white guidance and control they could enter into at least a semblance of godly “civilization.” These slaveholders insisted that they didn’t hate black people – they just honestly believed that black people were physically, mentally, and spiritually better off as slaves to good, caring masters. They believed that God had created an ordered world in which the races with darker skin where to work for and in turn be protected by the races with lighter skin. In other words, they opposed black people having equal rights not because they “hated” black  people, but rather because, well, this was how God had set things up to be, and was best for everyone.

Today, Christians who oppose gay rights say that they don’t hate gay people, they just really honestly believe that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman. They’ll say that it’s not that they want to “stick it to gay people,” it’s just that one-man, one-woman marriage is the natural order of things, is the way God set things up, is the most healthy situation for society. It’s not that they hate gay people, it’s just that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman, and that a society will collapse and everyone will be worse off if this timely truth is ignored. In other words, opposing marriage equality, and gay rights in general, is actually what is best for gay people as well as for the entire society. It’s just how things are supposed to be, how God intended for them to be. It’s not about hate.

If we give these three groups the benefit of the doubt, we begin to see that maybe we can take Christians who oppose gay rights at their word when they say they don’t hate gay people. In other words, it is possible to oppose some other group having equal rights without for some reason other than hate.

Except for one thing.

See, in each case the conversation shouldn’t end there. The next question is “why.” Why are women to be under male authority? Why are black people better off in slavery? Why is gay marriage in opposition to God’s plan? And if you get right down to it, you start to see that the reasons aren’t so pretty.

Christian Patriarchy holds that women are weaker, more impressionable, less firm, and more easily led astray than men. Slave owners in the antebellum South believed that black people were less able to make good decisions, less smart, and less hard working than white people. However you slice it, neither supporters of Christian Patriarchy nor southern slave owners hold (held) a very favorable view of those they deprive of rights. They may claim not to hate them, but they most certainly think of them as inferior. Does thinking another group inferior constitute hate? I suppose in the end it depends on how you define “hate.”

But now let’s turn away from these two examples, and focus specifically on the reasons why many Christians oppose marriage equality. My argument so far is that while you can technically oppose another group having equal rights for reasons besides hate, those reasons themselves are generally highly problematic – such as seeing women as emotionally weaker, or black people as less capable of a good work ethic.

When you start asking opponents of gay marriage why marriage is only to be between a man and a woman, and why gay marriage has to be shut out, you start getting somewhere. You start hearing that homosexuality is disordered, or a perversion, or that being gay is a “sinful lifestyle.” God thinks it’s wrong. It’s a sin. You will probably even start hearing how gay people are more likely to commit suicide, more likely to abuse children, and on and on. That homosexuality is sinful, a disease of sorts.

Here is where we start to see a bit of a divergence from our examples involving race and sex. After all, the supporter of Christian Patriarchy (claims) not to see being a woman as sinful in and of itself, and many antebellum supporters of slavery would have claimed that there was nothing wrong with being black. Each saw the marginalized group as inferior and weaker, etc, but did not see womanness or blackness as sinful or wrong (again, giving them the benefit of the doubt). Opponents of marriage equality, though, generally see “being gay” as sinful and “an abomination.” Only by ceasing to be gay (or in some churches, by being celibate and thus refraining from acting out on one’s gayness) can a gay person cease to be sinful. In the case of gay people, then, it’s not a case of seeing another group as inferior intellectually or emotionally, but rather seeing another group as inherently sinful.

Anyway, the point I’m making here is that when a Christian says “I don’t hate gay people, I just think marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman,” it almost never stops there. What’s almost certainly hiding behind all of that is the belief that homosexuality is inherently sinful, a deviation, a perversion that needs to be cured. So that brings us to our next question.

Can you think homosexuality is a perversion, a “sinful lifestyle,” and yet not hate gay people?

Growing up, I was told that you could. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” was the mantra of the Christianity I grew up in. The idea was that you could believe that homosexuality was a perversion that needed to be cured, and yet not hate gay people – and in fact love them. But is this the case?

The problem with this is that it sees someone’s sexuality as somehow separate from them as a person. But it’s not. A person’s sexuality is a part of who they are, and a very integral part at that. You can turn this around with a thought experiment: Could you hate heterosexuality, but love heterosexuals? I don’t think so. I’m not trying to reduce gay people to their sexuality or anything, all I’m saying is that someone’s sexuality is an integral part of who they are, not something that can be separated out from them and hated independently.

Here, let me illustrate what I mean with the help of a movie I love dearly, How To Train Your Dragon. Background: Dragons regularly attack a medieval Viking village, so the villagers train from infancy to fight dragons, and the tough Viking chieftain is not pleased with his scrawny nerdy son’s lack of dragon fighting abilities. This exchange is the one I find so pertinent:

YouTube Preview Image

Here’s a transcription, but you really should watch the clip to hear it with its original inflection:

Father: “If you ever want to get out there to fight dragons, you need to stop all [gestures to his son] this.”

Son: “But you just pointed to all of me.”

Father: “Yes, that’s it! Stop being all of you.”

I feel like that’s what happens when someone says they can hate homosexuality but love the gay person. You can’t hate who a person is and still claim to love them. You just can’t. That’s not love. It’s just not.

Christians who oppose marriage equality aren’t simply opposing gay rights because they believe God has set marriage up to only be between a man and a woman, but also because they believe that homosexuality itself is disordered. And as much as they claim to be able to “love the sinner, hate the sin” or, in other words, “love the gay person, hate homosexuality,” I honestly don’t think that’s possible.

On Indiana
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A Matter of Patriarchy
Red Town, Blue Town
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Bertrand Le Roy

    Part I was spot-on in pointing out that claims to love homosexuals don’t matter as it really feels like hate. The beginning of part II also made the excellent point that a decision is being made by a third party to deprive a person of his rights under a claim to act in their best interest, like one would do for a child.
    But your claim that “you can’t hate who a person is and still claim to love them” sounds weaker. When I read it, I had to ask myself… I do mostly hate religion, but does that mean I really hate religious persons? Even worse: if my child one day does drugs, I will for sure hate that about her. Does it mean that I can’t love her totally and unconditionally? Of course not, and still one could and has claimed that religion is an integral part of who you are, or that the distress that leads to drugs is an integral part of who you are. If homophobia is different like I think it is, you may need to refine what you meant, no? Homophobic people claim that homosexuality is a choice, or even a disease, and not a part of your identity. Doesn’t this still need to be dispelled? Maybe a part III?

    • machintelligence

      Even if homosexuality is a choice, it doesn’t matter. For a powerful argument see
      The link goes to the comments section, but scroll up to the OP. It is only a few paragraphs long, but really makes the point.

      • Bertrand Le Roy

        And I totally agree. My point was that the post needed some additional arguments as the end is very debatable as it is.

    • Cado

      The thing about religion is that there’s an institution to go with it, and it does terrible, terrible things to people. It’s entirely possible to hate the institution without hating any of the individuals that subscribe to its philosophy. It’s also possible to hate something like, say, creationism without hating creationists.

      Can religion become a very big part of someone’s identity? Certainly, but a stance or belief is much more complex than race or sexuality. I certainly don’t mean to imply that those things aren’t complex in and of themselves, but beliefs carry so many connotations and so many unintended consequences that it’s much easier to separate them from an individual than race, sex, or orientation would be. One’s opinion of the individual should be informed by why they hold their stances and how they argue for them, not stances in and of themselves. There’s not much room for that when it comes to sexuality. If someone hates the natural biological inclinations of another being — inclinations that don’t harm anyone — then they may as well come out and say, “I hate you.”

      I’m friends with people from a variety of different backgrounds. I don’t get along well with fundamentalist or even moderate Christians, but liberals mesh with me just fine. In the case of either moderate or liberal Christians, I have a hard time understanding why they’d want to associate themselves with a god as brutal as Yahweh, but it doesn’t make them bad people. More often than not it boils down to them not thinking through all the implications of what they follow, or they’re loose enough with it that they’re basically practicing a form of humanism that’s infused with Christian practices and imagery. Even some fundies aren’t bad on an interpersonal level because you can tell there’s a truly caring and compassionate person behind the beliefs who has either been misled or who hasn’t been challenged by anything outside of their worldview. Someone who’s gay loves and makes love to people of his or her own gender. There’s more to it, but it’s not a moral stance, and it doesn’t make statements about reality. There’s nothing else to discuss. You can debate with a reasonable Christian (or even an unreasonable one if you wanted to scrape your brain against a cheese grater). Few people will debate a gay person for any reason other than intolerance because there’s nothing to debate.

  • Mark

    I liked Part I. I can’t agree with Part II. I have good Christian friends who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but still dearly love their gay child. They are very sad by the lifestyle their child has “chosen,” but I can’t accept that this invalidates their love. Maybe I’m misreading this.

    • Steve

      And such people are completely fucked up in the head. I’d have more respect for them if they were honest and disowned their children.

    • Aleph

      I won’t say that they don’t love their child. That said, they are saying that they do not want their child to be happy if they do not support the right of gay people to marry one another, which is not a very kind thing to wish for your child at all.

    • Cado

      As someone who comes from a fundamentalist Christian background, I have little trouble believing that my “brothers and sisters in Christ” had anything but the sincerest affection for me while I was one of them. The last part of my sentence is key: while I was one of them. When I left the church, I completely dropped off their radar. Few of them ever spoke to me again, and the ones that did responded to me with that condescending self-righteous kind of love that says, “I still love you, but you’re going to burn in hell if you don’t practice what I believe.”

      It’s conditional love, and that’s not real love at all. It necessitates the other person to create an image of you in their minds that they can give their love to in lieu of giving it to you. “It’s just a lifestyle” isn’t merely a lie they’ve concocted just to hate other people; it’s their excuse to give gay people any leeway whatsoever. If it’s a lifestyle, they can change. Not only can they change, they should change. As long as that remains true, they can be allowed to continue their existence. In the case of Christian parents with a gay child, it means they don’t have to kick their kid out of their lives.

      Love is about more than just feelings; it’s about what people do and what results from their actions. Being against gay marriage only has negative effects on homosexuals. There’s no way to reconcile that with love. Two gay people who can’t get married don’t have the same benefits as married couples, and this has all kinds of practical ramifications that opponents to gay marriage are essentially pushing onto homosexuals. Likewise, in the case of parents who reject their child’s sexuality, what happens when said child enters into a long-term relationship with someone of the same gender? How far does their acceptance reach? If their love were to be tested, would they stand next to their child or abandon him or her?

      The woman I’m with isn’t gay, obviously, but ever since she left Christianity, her mother has told her that she’ll come back someday. She always uses the, “train your child up in the way they should go” verse as justification for that stance, and the way she acts toward her confirms the notion that she doesn’t really love her daughter, she loves what she thinks her daughter will someday be. There was no love or support there. That’s what happens any time parents supposedly love their child but try to strongarm them into a certain set of beliefs or a certain way of doing things. It’s never the same past that point, and the “love” that remains is usually borne of social obligations and conditioning concerning family than it is a genuine affection for that person. When there is genuine affection, it’s embroiled in a deep internal conflict that taints whatever it inspires.

      I think every parents wants what’s best for his or her children. However, when “what’s best” is defined by control or the selective rejection of things that aren’t harmful to anyone, it’s no longer love. At the very least it isn’t pure love; pure love accepts people as they are, and the person who holds it within themselves will jump into the trenches with the person they love no matter how dire the situation is. Anyone whose love enables them to stand at the sidelines while their children’s rights are being trampled on needs to seriously examine themselves.

      • Mark

        “I think every parents wants what’s best for his or her children. However, when “what’s best” is defined by control or the selective rejection of things that aren’t harmful to anyone, it’s no longer love.”

        But what if the parents sincerely believe that practicing the “homosexual lifestyle” IS harmful? If they really (mistakenly) believe this, how is it different for them from loving a drug-addicted child but hating their addiction?

      • Steve

        The difference is that they’re WRONG

      • Cado

        “But what if the parents sincerely believe that practicing the “homosexual lifestyle” IS harmful? If they really (mistakenly) believe this, how is it different for them from loving a drug-addicted child but hating their addiction?”

        What someone thinks is of little importance if they’re not willing to test it against reality, and the reality of homosexuality and gay coupling is that it isn’t harmful in and of itself. Everything that could be said against it could also be said against unhealthy heterosexual relationships. If someone values beliefs over people then they don’t know how to love.

  • Lauren F

    To Bertrand: The two examples you cite (drugs, religion) are both cases where somebody has made a choice. A religion feels like an integral part of us, yes, but the fact is that you do make a choice to accept that religion or not. Nobody is inherently Christian or Buddhist or Wiccan; it is taught and chosen. The depression/mental distress that causes one to turn to drugs may be inherent, but the choice to use drugs is still exactly that – a choice. The fact that the bigots believe homosexuality is a choice doesn’t make your examples really comparable, because the bigots are not correct.

    To Mark: How do you know your friends love their child? Is it because they act accepting and loving toward their child? If so, I’d say that they’re not actually hating the sin, but rather are on their way to accepting that homosexuality ISN’T a sin like they were always taught (that’s how the change happened for me, only it was friends instead of kids because I didn’t have any). If, on the other hand, you know that because they’re TELLING everybody how much they love their child and how sad they are, while they’ve, I dunno, kicked their child out of the house until he “reforms” (yes, I picked a harsh example but I don’t know the people you’re talking about)… Well. Then Part I stands – their child is not feeling loved, they’re feeling hated. If you make somebody you love feel hated, then it doesn’t matter if you don’t intend that. I think Part II still stands. People like that, who say they love even close friends and family while making it clear to them, over and over, that they hate who they are…. They’re not loving those people. They’re loving some imaginary idealised image of those people who doesn’t actually exist. (I’ve had THAT happen to me to, on smaller scale – fortunately not anybody I cared about so it wasn’t a big deal to just ignore them.)

    • Steve

      There are indeed people who act all nice towards them, but still don’t want their children to have any rights. I’ve read stories were parents said they “love” their gay child and also “love” their partner and invite them to family events, but won’t attend their wedding because it’s “against their religion”. I find that kind of duplicitous behavior even more despicable and inhuman than outright hatred hate and shunning. It also shows how much lifelong, high-level religious indoctrination screws up people’s minds and totally stops them from behaving rationally. On some level it’s better than complete rejection, sure, but it’s also messes with the child’s head in turn.

      • Christine

        And this is why, despite accepting that I am homophobic, I really resent being lumped in with the general homophobic population.

        My husband’s aunt is currently in a same-sex relationship. I don’t know how she self-identifies, so I’m leaving it at that level. The rest of the family has said that her partner is not welcome. In fact, if a family event is held, and they are invited, the rest of the family will not come. When my husband and I got married we made sure that this aunt and her partner were invited to the shower that my extended family threw, so they’d be welcome at one. We carefully considered which table we’d sit them at at the reception so they wouldn’t feel exiled, nor have to sit with relatives who gave them a hard time.

        Since having a baby, we’ve been careful to reach out specifically to this aunt, because she’s not getting to see her great-nephew much, so we want her to get to see her great-niece. In short, we’d rather spend time with them than with relatives who say that being gay is wrong, who feel that haranguing queer individuals is “showing them love”, who don’t want to have to explain that “people like that” exist to their children, who oppose civil recognition of gay marriage.

        None of this makes me not homophobic, so I will accept your judgement that we are showing love, not hate.

      • Steve

        Do you think she is sinning? Do you think they will go to hell? Do you deny them the right to get legally married? Do you think them not being straight is wrong? If, no, then that didn’t apply to you at all. Of course your aunt accepts your invitations. Having some relationship with her family is better than none. That doesn’t mean that on some level, in the back of her head, your opinions about homosexuality (*if* you’re against it and and she is aware of that) don’t hurt her. Even if it’s just a little.

    • Christine

      I meant hate, not love.

      • Christine

        I have a more conventional Christian viewpoint – I’m not about to say that her not being straight is wrong, that doesn’t mean I’m less homophobic though. The question “do I think she is sinning” is a bit of a trick one though – the answer to that is *always* going to be yes, no matter who you talk about, in what context. And the answer to the second question is *always* going to be “I don’t know, I hope not”, no matter who you talk about, in what context (although I confess to having trouble with the second half of that with regards to, for example, Hitler).

      • Cado

        Christine, I’m a little confused as to why you’d label yourself homophobic. Is it just general discomfort around gay people? Because you’re not in favor of denying anyone their rights, at least as far as I can tell, and you’re not shunning this aunt of yours… If you’re not engaging in any of the behaviors that generally define homophobia, why lump yourself into that category?

        I still feel a little discomfort when I’m around two men or two women that kiss each other. It’s an instilled reaction from 18 years spent within the Christian church. It’s a weird sense of internal contradiction because I’m happy on one level when people can do that and no one bats an eye, yet I still feel that instinctive reaction. Likewise, I have nothing against black people, and I can relax once I’ve been in their presence for a while, but I grew up surrounded by white people in a fundamentalist baptist church. There’s a lot of subtle racism I picked up from them, and while I’ve dispelled most of that, I still experience a milder form of the instinctive reaction that was fostered in me during that time. I’m not racist or homophobic, but there are times when I am uncomfortable. Is your case similar to that?

      • Steve

        It’s not a trick question. I think you’re messed up because you believe in original sin and I think your beliefs are inhuman and anti-human in every aspect. But for anyone who doesn’t believe in this absurdity it’s just a normal question. Even in a religious context.

      • Christine

        I’m somewhat confused as to where original sin came into this discussion, I think I’m miscommunicating it somewhere. Even were I a proponent of that aspect of doctrine, it wouldn’t be relevant, as both of the women in my case are baptised, so orthodoxy is satisfied even. Even most humanists I know (I’m assuming it’s specifically Christianity that you think is inhuman and anti-human) believe that people do wrong things sometimes. I hadn’t realised that the thesis of your argument was that Christians are incapable of loving others. It saddens me that this would be the case, although I do hold some hope that this is as much from exposure to the hell-obsessed variety of Christianity as anything else (which means that the rest of us need to be more visible, which is known). This is, of course, a point which cannot be argued, as it gets into how one defines the words, so I shall leave the point here. I want to offer apologies if at any point I was arguing other than in a respectful manner, and open to dialogue.

        As for why I say I’m homophobic – as much as I do not want to be lumped in with people who think that homosexuality is a a sin of itself, or a choice, or unnatural, or equivalent to paedophilia, or promiscuity, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to define terms. To say that I’m not would be essentially saying “what I believe is not hurtful”. Given that the people who think that “showing love” includes going and haranguing the participants in a Pride parade obviously feel that they aren’t homophobic, humans are capable of much self-delusion. Since I have heard my views being described as homophobic, I will take the label, as anything else would put me on a level with those who want to bring the state back into the bedrooms of the nation, who lie about the effects of homosexual relationships on society, or who hurt others in the name of “love”.

    • Mr. X

      “The two examples you cite (drugs, religion) are both cases where somebody has made a choice.”

      If I see a married woman, I might find myself thinking “Wow, she’s hot”. It might happen automatically, without me having much of a choice in the matter. So does that mean I should celebrate wanting to commit adultery as an integral part of who I am?

      • Steve

        Adultery or cheating is bad because it hurts someone (and not because some people think it’s a “sin”). Being gay doesn’t

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        Steve has already said the most important part but also, feeling attracted to another person is normal sexuality and it isn’t on itself wrong, acting on it would be what would be wrong (and that is a choice so your example isn’t good in any level) and acting on it without the consent of the other person would be even more wrong.

      • Noadi

        I certainly do think that you should accept that just because you are married that doesn’t mean you will no longer be attracted to other women. It is an integral part of who you are and the fact that people judge others for not being able to turn off their hormones around anyone but their spouse is pretty harmful. I’m attracted to other men even though I’m in a relationship with a wonderful guy and that’s okay, it not hurting anyone. Cheating however is violating the trust your partner has in you which is hurtful and that is why it’s wrong NOT because you have a sex drive.

    • Bertrand Le Roy

      And if you re-read my comment you’ll see that I’m making the point that this argument or something similar should have been made in the post. The post seems to talk to homophobes, not to the LGBT supporter choir, so it should, I think, provide a more complete answer to what you’d expect they would retort. That they are wrong in thinking it’s a choice (or whether that matters) is irrelevant until you’ve shown that to them. You don’t need to convince me, but them.

  • Jaimie

    I liked this post, especially the part about depriving certain groups of their rights. That was very well thought out and communicated. However the love part is a little wanting. Some have cited their reasons but I have yet another. Who cares? Love is a word that is flung about and can mean anything. It is an intangible, an emotion is not an issue. Personally I could care less and most of my gay friends and co-workers feel the same. If they don’t like me they can kiss my a##.
    We should stop worrying and arguing about who loves or doesn’t love whom and get down to your first, well thought out issue. Oppression. Because stopping that is the only issue that has real value.

  • Syl

    This post highlights the disconnect that exists when talking about this issue with those who cling to “love the sinner, hate the sin.” They just don’t get – or refuse to believe – that orientation is not a choice, not a behavior, but an integral part of who a person is. They believe they are rejecting a chosen “lifestyle”, a “poor life choice” and if only the person they care for would put their mind to it they could learn to control their “deviant appetites” and unlearn their “unhealthy habits”. The most well-meaning of these folks assume (and for a variety of reasons are usually unwilling to challenge those assumptions) that being gay is much like obesity or addiction – the result of choices and, although having profound effects on that person’s life, not central to the person’s being. So they simply don’t understand that their assumptions are incorrect, with the result that they are oblivious to the pain and harm they inflict on people they may honestly believe they care for.

    This doesn’t begin to consider those who spout “love the sinner” rhetoric without anything approaching care, let alone love, for the person they’re dismissing with that phrase, or those who don’t know (or want to know) that same sex attraction between adults has absolutely nothing to with predatory sexual behavior. Without throwing those attitudes and assumptions into the mix, there’s still an enormous blind spot whoch results in harm being done by otherwise caring people.

    • JeseC

      It depends…I would say most of the ones I talk to will accept that orientation is not a choice. They just don’t believe that “being able to marry someone you love” is the right that matters. The comparison used is being in love with someone else’s wife – there’s nothing wrong if you look at your friend’s wife and think that she’s hot, or even if you fall in love with her, but none of that gives you an excuse to sleep with her. There’s also often a higher focus on being fulfilled as a single person, so they’re less likely to consider it a significant hardship if you can’t get married.

      • smrnda

        Meaning that what, gay people should live a life of self-deception and misery where they have to spew bullshit about how ‘great the single life is’ just to keep homophobes happy?

        Plus, if you fall in love with someone else, I see nothing wrong with ending one marriage and starting another one. Relationships are about personal fulfillment, not adhering to some abstract ideal.

      • JeseC

        I’m not sure I really like that line…I don’t have any problem with homosexuality, but I do think we need to back way off of this “happiness is in being married to the person you fell in love with” line. I think that line is dangerous because it creates a false sense of entitlement to have a partner.

        And yes, I do see marriage as a commitment. It’s not about an “abstract ideal”, it’s about living and working with another real live human being. I’ve seen too many people abandon their partner because “I’m not in love anymore,” regardless of how much damage it does to everyone around them. Adultery and divorce do real harm to real people, not just to an idea.

  • machintelligence

    To first respond to some of the comments:
    Bertrand–I am not sure anyone can (or should) love anyone unconditionally; and if one can, it might strain the definition of love. As an example, in the movie “Old Yeller” , a 1957 Disney flick, does Travis still love the dog? Plot summary from Wikipedia

    Young Travis Coates is left to take care of the family ranch with his mother and younger brother Arliss while his father goes off on a cattle drive in the 1860′s. When a yellow mongrel comes for an uninvited stay with the family, Travis reluctantly adopts the dog. Though Travis initially loathes the “rascal” and at first tries to get rid of it, Old Yeller eventually proves his worth, saving the family on several occasions. Travis grows to love this dog named Old Yeller. And they become great friends.
    The rightful owner of Yeller shows up looking for his dog. The owner recognizes that the family has become attached to Yeller, and trades the dog to Arliss for a home-cooked meal prepared by Travis’s mother, who is an exceptional cook. Old Yeller becomes exposed to rabies while defending the family from an infected wolf. They try to nurse Yeller back to health, but in the end Travis is forced to shoot the dog.

    Of course he does, but he had to kill it anyway, since rabies is invariably fatal, and the dog was a menace to his family.

    Lauren– Claiming that homosexuality is not a choice is not a good idea. For some it may not be, but for others it may be a choice, and it is one they should be allowed to make.

    I hope that I am not going to derail the comments, but I would like to address the question of when we need a law to control behavior, and I intend to base it on choice. Simply put: when reasonable people disagree on a topic, there should be no law constraining their behavior, unless it is harmful to other reasonable people. There are some grey areas here, for instance the problem of feeling offended. I am going to take a liberal stance on this and say that , while everyone has the right to feel offended, they do not have the right to legislate their opinions. The question of what constitutes a reasonable person is a matter for a different time, but I tend to favor Daniel Dennett’s “morally competent agent”.
    How does this rule apply to some “hot button” topics?
    Gay sex and marriage in general: reasonable people disagree and no-one is harmed= no laws. (age restrictions allowed because children may not meet the standard for reasonable person)
    Abortion: reasonable people disagree and no reasonable person (a fetus does not meet the standard of reasonable person) is harmed=no law. A late term fetus is a possible exception.
    Required immunization: let’s give the antivaxers the benefit of a doubt and call them reasonable but many people are potentially harmed by epidemics caused by loss of herd immunity= laws to restrict the choice not to vaccinate are permitted.
    Murder: all reasonable people agree= legislate away.

    • Paul

      Again, you’re confusing the *right* of being gay with the * privilege* of calling the love ‘marriage’.

      - Having hot crazy gay sex = there are no laws against that

      - Making a *personal commitment* to that gay partner that you will love them for the rest of your life, in sickness and in health = again, there’s no legislation preventing it

      - Making that commitment public, and celebrating it with your family and friends = again, no legislation, in fact most countries recognize a Civil Union

      - Getting all of the same benefits and priveleges from the state by making that commitment to your partner (e.g., as a widow/widower) = in most Western countries the laws have already been amended to grant this (I can’t comment on the US) but again these are privileges

      - Calling it a “marriage” = we have thousands of years of tradition and some people are reluctant to change laws overnight. So there’s legislation preventing that at the moment. What “right” does that oppose?

      You can argue that society should redefine marriage, but it has absolutely nothing to do with human rights.

      • machintelligence

        That is fine by me. The government should sanction civil unions with only minimal restrictions, to which all legal rights and privileges apply. Leave the term marriage to the churches, to apply however they see fit. Religion is not a bad thing, as long as it’s claws have been pulled and it has been defanged.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        Again, you’re confusing the *right* of being gay with the * privilege* of calling the love ‘marriage’

        Actually, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes marriage: “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.”

      • Steve

        Marriage is NOT a religious term. The Catholic Church didn’t even get involved in marriage until the middle ages. They just co-opted it together with all other aspects of everyday life when they made their power grab. Until around the 13th century or so there wasn’t even an official liturgy for marriage and priests weren’t required to perform marriages. When the Protestant Reformation came around, its leaders wanted to give marriage back to the civil authorities, which is why more and more countries required some kind of license from the government. So why should the word belong to churches when it doesn’t belong to them in the first place?

        Fact is, marriage is already a secular, civil legal contract. The religious woo is entirely optional. If anything, what the US needs to do is copy the continental European model and require people to get legally married at city hall before they can have religious ceremony. This whole confusions exists because clergy can act as notaries for legal documents which is an absurd situation.

      • machintelligence

        @ Steve
        I agree with you, it’s just that religions have taken over the term marriage and defined it to their satisfaction. I am not wedded (pun intended) to it and am willing to let them have it, as long as the secular term (civil union or what have you) carries all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities.

      • Steve

        But that idea is unrealistic fantasy. Go try and convince straight people to have civil unions instead. You can find some idealists, but 98%+ percent won’t go for it. The whole point of civil unions is that it’s a second class status. You think the religious mob is mad now? Tell them that they have to have civil unions for the legal rights. Even if you explain to them that can still have a religious marriage, they’ll flip out.

      • Rosa

        In the US, marriage is a civil right, as established by our supreme court in Loving vs. Virginia. Not a privilege.

        And, in the US, at the federal level, civil unions with any of the rights and privileges of marriage are strictly forbidden by legislation.

        Currently there is a ballot initiative in my state to change the state constitution to disallow gay marriage, because rightwing bigots are afraid that the constitution as written will cause the state courts to throw out the anti-marriage-rights legislation already in place.

      • Christine

        Hold up a sec here. Lots of straight people have civil unions. Common-law marriage doesn’t have quite the same rights, and many people are happy with it, calling themselves “husband” and “wife” within that framework.

      • smrnda

        We have thousands of years of ‘tradition’ where marriage is basically a property exchange. So fuck tradition.

    • Rosa

      I was heterosexually domestic-partnered for six years before we gave up and got married.

      You know what domestic partnership got us? Access to health insurance for me, at the whim of his employer (my former employer had domestic partnership insurance options for same-sex but not opposite-sex couples because the feeling was straight people should just get married if they want access to things.)

      That’s it. Not inheritance rights, not visitation at a hospital if we needed that, not tax-free inheritance of 401ks, not anything at all concrete that millions of married people get just for getting married. And we paid taxes on the part of the insurance covered by his employer, because the federal Defense of Marriage Act specifically prohibits people in civil unions or domestic partnerships from getting the benefits of legal marriage.

      I don’t get what rights are different for common law marriage? In the states where common-law exists, it’s just another way of having a legal marriage.

      • Christine

        Given that the law changes regionally, I’m clearly in the wrong here. Up here, I believe that a common-law spouse is automatically your next of kin (at least, not with the tax-free inheritance). Also, in the case of a split the division of assets isn’t automatically 50-50 like it is in the case of a formalized marriage, but the existence of a common-law relationship is grounds for arguing that there should be a split. The requirements are obviously looser, too. If you live together for at least a year, and have sex at least once, you can declare yourselves to be married common-law.

        From what I can tell, the bigger argument against it is that you have no paperwork declaring yourself to be spouses, and if you go to a hospital that still gives special privileges to spouses (I think a lot still do if someone’s in the ER, rather than for visiting hours), you’re SOL. Even if you go to a notary public and get a statement, not all countries recognize the relationship, so friends have had to get married to move.

  • machintelligence

    Oops, I might have painted myself into a corner, there. Substitute (children may not meet the standard for consent.)

  • Paul

    > Can a person oppose another person’s rights without hating that person?

    The left love to frame this issue as one of human rights, which I think is wrong. What are human rights? Going by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they cover rights such as the right to vote, the right to protection from arbitrary arrest, the right to move, the right to asylum, the right to nationality, the right to own property, the right to a family life, the right to freedom of expression, the right to work, the right to healthcare, the right to privacy, and so on.

    Historically we’ve denied those rights to blacks. We’ve denied those rights to women. We’ve also denied those rights to gays, such as Alan Turing. We don’t anymore. Gays can go to school. Gays can work. Gays can vote. Women couldn’t.

    Of the list of human rights above, the only one that GLBT members can possibly claim to face discrimination against is in the right to a family life, and only in some jurisdictions. In the UK and parts of Australia for example, gays can adopt. There is no law prevents people from being gay, from settling down with a gay partner, from spending their life with that partner, to raising a family with that partner. How is this an issue of human rights?

    Rights are inalienable, and can’t be granted or taken away by society unless they impact on the rights of others. If you love someone, good for you, society as a whole doesn’t care. But society chooses to celebrate a lasting commitment between a man and a woman as a “marriage”. This is a privilege granted by society, not a right.

    I’m not religious, and I actually think gay marriage is sensible (in fact I think the state should get out of the business of marriage altogether) as long as it isn’t forced on churches. But marriage is a cultural institution, a part of our history for thousands of years. It takes time to change the views of society.

    The left view is that society is always broken and needs to be continually changed to fix it. The right view is that the society we have is very rare, very precious, and we should be careful when making changes. It’s not that things shouldn’t change, but that the change should happen slowly.

    I don’t oppose gay rights. I’m not rushing to change the marriage laws (a *privilege*, not a right), but I think, give it time, it will probably change. Let it happen slowly. Stop acting as if everyone who opposes changing the marriage law is opposed to the rights of other people. We prevented women from working. We prevented blacks from voting. We don’t (anymore) prevent gays from being in love, from expressing that love, or even being committed to each other (plenty of gay and straight couples make lifetime commitments to each other on a personal level without calling it marriage). We just don’t want to redefine an institution that is thousands of years old overnight. It’s got nothing to do with human rights.

    • Jane

      I used to think that too, but when I moved from Australia to the USA my opinion changed. In Australia marriage was a choice about showing commitment. I lived with someone and to us it was the same as being married, and due to common law marriage rules it didn’t make any real difference to be married or not. However once we moved to the USA I found all sorts of rules. Firstly visa rules only recognized married partners or “same sex domestic partners”. Same for health benefits at work – these extended to a spouse or same sex domestic partner but not to an “opposite sex domestic partner” which was my situation. Tax rules at also different and the list goes on. We did eventually get married, mostly just to fit into the normal rules. Now I understand why gay marriage is important here, because marriage isn’t just a cultural institution, it does impact on getting access to the other rights – at least it did for me, in a heterosexual relationship.

      • Paul

        Surely the solution would be to fix those laws that are dependent on “marriage” such that they apply equally to any two people who have made a lifetime commitment to each other, than to redefine the word “marriage”?

        Australia isn’t perfect, but successive Australian governments have continued to make legislative changes that mean the difference between being “married” and being in a “civil union” (or being a de-facto partner) are largely just down to the word used. I’m sure there are a few minor areas that aren’t covered but this seems like the sensible way to go.

        It boggles me why the left can’t see that redefining something so important to our society for thousands of years is going to upset a few people and take time to adjust, and then have to resort to likening them to bigots and racists.

      • Steve

        Oh stop it with the inane “redefine marriage” nonsense. You are just as bad as the Christian Taliban. You a really no different from them.
        There has never been a single “definition” of marriage. It has always widely varied between cultures, countries and different religious sects. And it has been continuously “redefined”. The modern concept of marriage as a partnership of equals entered into out of love is maybe 150 years old. Even when women achieved more rights to property, the next great controversy was divorce. People predicted the end of marriage and society too when divorce was made easier. In the US, no fault divorce was really only introduced from 1968 on. Before that you need to proof something like adultery or abuse. So the current “definition” of marriage is less than 50 years old. And don’t try to claim that this were minor changes. Both coverture and difficult divorces used to be considered integral to marriage and their abolition was very controversial.

    • Maggy

      While marriage is an age-old institution, it is not stagnant. Some things that have changed in the US in recent centuries or decades include the following:
      *Marriage used to mean that a woman was a man’s property.
      *People married primarily for survival, not because they were in love.
      *People of different races were not legally permitted to get married.

      Legalized marriage grants over 1000 legal privileges to couples. These include access to health insurance, property rights, the ability to refuse to testify against a spouse in court and the ability to make important life and death decisions in case a partner is incapacitated. Of course, marriage also bestows a sense of legitimacy to relationships that can have a huge positive psychological impact on the couple. Many gay couples who have been together for years and built lives together are vulnerable if one of them gets sick or dies. Why should another family member (who could be estranged) legally get to make decisions about life support or inherit a house instead of one’s partner? A drunk heterosexual couple that gets married in Las Vegas after knowing each other for 24 hours has more legal rights than a gay unmarried couple that has been together for 25 years. That is unconscionable to me.

    • Anat

      I guess it was wrong for women and black people to demand the right to vote ‘all at once’. Why not wait patiently until gradually the culture changes?

      Gay people are suffering daily because their unions lack the legal protections that heterosexual people’s legal marriages have.

  • Ibis3

    I haven’t finished reading the post nor have I read any of the comments as yet, but I would dispute that Christianity in general and CP in particular do actually see women not only as inherently inferior, but inherently sinful (and more so than men). From the earliest days of Christian theology, Eve and the daughters of Eve have been characterised as the devil’s gateway, more susceptible to sin, even inherently evil.

    • Libby Anne

      Right – that’s why I said “giving the benefit of the doubt.” I think it varies from place to place, but I agree that women are absolutely seen as inherently sinful in some (or even many) churches and groups.

    • Maggy

      This is confusing to me. If women are inherently sinful, why are women the ones expected to be modest? Aren’t men supposed to be unable to control themselves?

      • Christine

        I believe that that line of BS comes along something like men are only human, and therefore need to avoid temptation. Women, because they are so sinful, willfully tempt men to cause them to sin.

  • Karen

    There’s one other reason I can think of for opposing gay marriage while claiming to love gays: the “we must honor the gods” defense. IIRC, one of the things early Christians refused to do was publicly honor the patron deities of the towns they lived in; this understandably got their neighbors cranky, since failure to publicly honor the patron deity might cause the town to lose the patron’s protection. We see that same mind-set in the public speeches of conservative Christians today in the U.S., the proclamation that gay sex, abortion, feminism, etc., has or will have the effect of causing God to lift his hand of protection from the U.S.

    I suppose you can believe that, and somehow manage to not hate the people doing the “ungodly” things, but it strikes me as a challenge.

  • W. Lotus

    All I can say is thank you.

  • Mr. X

    “When you start asking opponents of gay marriage why marriage is only to be between a man and a woman, and why gay marriage has to be shut out, you start getting somewhere. You start hearing that homosexuality is disordered, or a perversion, or that being gay is a “sinful lifestyle.” God thinks it’s wrong. It’s a sin. You will probably even start hearing how gay people are more likely to commit suicide, more likely to abuse children, and on and on. That homosexuality is sinful, a disease of sorts.”

    I’ve heard lots of people say that marriage is about raising a children, or the complementary nature of male and female. How does this require thinking that homosexuality is evil?

    • quartzpebble

      On the first point, it requires thinking that a same-sex couple cannot raise a child adequately, *and* that this is reason enough to deny same-sex couples the many rights that come with marriage. (Studies show the kids are just fine, if that matters.)

  • BabyRaptor

    “God says marriage is between one man and one woman.”

    That sums up one of the biggest issues I have with Christians today.

    One of these days, I would like a straight answer from Christians on this: Why are you guys (general you, not addressing anyone here) so hypocritical? They know that everyone in this country has freedom of religion; they’re constantly yelling about it. And if it were some other religion, say Islam, trying to ban something that they held dear, they’d be screaming their lungs out.

    They also know that laws cannot be made on a religious basis, again because of the collective’s freedom of religion. They’ve proven this with their made up fears of Muslims taking over, or their imagined fear of Atheists ruining everything god holds dear. So why is it okay for them to violate our freedom, but not for anyone else to violate theirs?

    The Christian Right is the biggest group of hypocrites ever. It plays out over and over again: Abortion rights, women’s medical care, the constant pushing of Christianity on the public…So that’s my question. Why are only their rights worth consideration?

  • Elohor

    Hi, I just happen to click on your blog online via google, and I went through it candidly, reason is I write articles as well, but I must say that your articles are amazing!!! I always knew there is more to the lottery than meets the eye. so, thx alot!!!

  • Nurse Bee

    It seems by this line of reasoning that a person is going to hate anyone they disagree with.
    I also think that you are wrong for not believing in God (and I’m sure you think I’m wrong for believing in Him). Do we hate each other? (And as far as gay marriage…while I do think practicing homosexuality is wrong, I’m not sure that gay marriage doesn’t have a place in our society today).

    • Rosa

      If you just think Libby Anne is wrong, that’s not a sign of hate.

      If you think she’s wrong AND fire her from her job, evict her from her housing, block her from marrying her partner, block her from adopting a child, refuse her visitation rights to her beloved in the hospital, or deny her custody of her own biological child, that would seem to be a clear sign of hatred.

      There’s a difference. You’re free to have any beliefs you want. You’re not free to act on all of them.

      • Melissa

        THIS! ^^^ I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it described more concisely!

      • Rosa

        Thanks, Melissa.

        Reading you & Libby Anne on parenting, and practicing it myself, has really made that division between thought and action much clearer to me. I think a lot of conservative Christians are unclear on it. I’ve been thinking through it, how angry it makes me when people say things like “I only spank for deliberate defiance” or demand a cheerful attitude as well as compliant behavior. “I mistreat you out of love” just makes me near-blackout angry, and it’s endemic in the entire worldview.

      • machintelligence

        Damn tootin’ they are are unclear on it. They don’t think there is any difference between committing adultery and just thinking about it.

      • Nurse Bee

        I agree those things are wrong, I never said I didn’t….so maybe some people need to admit that it is possible to think something is wrong, and not hate the person…

  • Joy

    Bob Altemeyer included this as part of his study of fundamentalists/right-wing authoritarians and found that the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” is essentially meaningless.

    “For example… you will often hear fundamentalists say, “Hate sin, but love the sinner.” When I asked a sample of parents if they believed one should do this, virtually all of the fundamentalists said yes. And yet these same parents only two pages later in the survey were advocating rejection of homosexuals and discrimination against them. Some even agreed with the statement, “In many ways the AIDS disease currently killing homosexuals is just what they deserve.” Gentle pieties get shoved back into their files all too easily in fundamentalist minds when a chance to unload on
    some despised group pops up.”

  • smrnda

    Hey, why don’t I just say that I find the ‘traditional marriages’ of conservatives Christians to be nausea inducing to me? They’re all built on female subservience and male insecurity, which I find revolting, and given that I think true equality is necessary for a real marriage, I hardly consider them ‘marriages’ – I cynically call them ‘playing house’ – but yet the fact that I find these marriages appalling doesn’t give me the right to invalidate them. So the least people should leave you alone, leave them alone. If you don’t want people disparaging your marriage, then respect their choices.

    Sorry to be disorganized.

  • Matthew B. Winkel
  • Victoria

    It’s unfair to say someone is hateful simply because they think something is wrong. For example, if I’m against smoking or any drug for that matter and my best friend begins to smoke, I’m not going to hate her. I just also won’t condone her actions.

    I’m unsure if this statement was in a separate post of yours prior to this one or was included in this post, but you also said that,
    “supporters of patriarchy, southern slaveholders, and modern Christian anti-gay-marriage advocates hold something in common: each opposes the rights of a specific group of people in the name of how God set things up to be, and each claims not to hate this group, but to actually have its best interests at heart.”
    You’re wrong in grouping all of these people together. Southern slavery was much different than the slavery mentioned in the Bible-days. The slavery discussed within the Bible doesn’t have to do with nationality or race. In fact, people would put themselves into slavery in order to pay off debts or if they needed an income to support themselves or their families. In some cases within the Bible, some slaves even wanted to stay slaves because they grew such ties and wanted to continue serving their masters. The modern-day slavery is not at all like Bible-day slavery, so comparing the two is using the Bible completely out of context, in the wrong day and age. The southern slave owners did abuse the words in the Bible and twisted them for their own benefit, but that doesn’t mean they were right and it doesn’t make the Bible wrong. And the slavery in which Hebrews were held against their will, God did not condone and sent the seven plagues on to Egypt for this reason.
    You might want to check out this website, in regards to slavery:

    And as for “supporters or patriarchy,” I assume you mean where a men have control over women, forgive me if I’m wrong; I will provide these verses:

    “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

    And this website:

    Now, back to the topic at hand, people who do not support gay rights cannot be grouped with a hateful group of people just because they don’t believe the same things aren’t moral. I believe homosexuality is just as wrong as lieing, stealing, ect. But I also believe all of those things to be immoral. And though I know I’ve lied and will probably lie again, along with my family and friends, as no human is perfect and we all have sinned, I do not hate or bash myself or my family.

    You also said “each opposes the rights of a specific group of people in the name of how God set things up to be, and each claims not to hate this group, but to actually have its best interests at heart.”

    In the Bible, it does say we shouldn’t practice homosexuality:

    “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
    1 Corinthians 6 9-11

    And you’d be wrong to say God doesn’t love those people because he doesn’t believe what they do is right. For God died for us when we were still sinners, going against him:

    “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    Romans 5:8
    And that says enough in itself.