Thou shalt not treat human beings as ‘controversial issues’

Dylan Matthews again distills the high points from the oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages, is unconstitutional. Everyone knows this. Everyone has known this for a long time. That’s why opponents of same-sex marriage have long advocated for a “marriage amendment” to the Constitution — because they know that without such an amendment, DOMA was destined to be struck down. Opponents of marriage equality have long conceded that their cause requires them to change the Constitution.

The excerpts from yesterday’s arguments Matthews provides, as well as other reports from the court yesterday, suggest that a majority of the justices agree. DOMA is an illegal law.

But here I don’t want to wade into that legal debate. Or into some abstract, meta-level theological debate. Here I want to just highlight a couple of bold posts from yesterday that remind the rest of us that this is not primarily about a “debate” — it’s about people. And it is wrong to treat people as something other than people. It is wrong to reduce people to “controversial issues.”

Kimberly Knight put it this way, “This ain’t politics, and I’m not an f’n lifestyle“:

For folks who holler about Christians not playing politics, you fundamentally miss the mark. I AM A CHRISTIAN. I am a lesbian. I am not talking about politics, I am talking about my very humanity in Christ.

If you are still talking about lifestyle choices, I am afraid you are still using language that is laced with ignorant propaganda that is reserved for the privileged oppressor who has the choice to freely love the one they are created to love without question.

… I am a lesbian as created by God. If there is any lifestyle of which to speak it is my choice to live a Christian life. I am married to a woman as blessed by a Christian pastor and affirmed by a Christian community with whom I worship and am raising my family. I am not an issue, I am not a lifestyle. I am a child of God who has been freed by Christ to live fully into the life I have been given.

Can I get an amen? That there is what my people like to call a testimony.

Here is Travis Mamone, and he’s not mincing words either, asking “Which Side Are You On?

For years I sat on the fence and said, “Whatever you believe is fine with me.” Even after coming out I still didn’t want to step one anyone’s toes, so I told my non-affirming friends, “It’s okay if you don’t agree with my ‘lifestyle,’ just don’t preach at me and we’ll be fine.”

I can’t do that anymore. Now is the time for you to decide which side you’re on.

Yes, I know you can’t force anyone to be an ally, and I’m not trying to do that. I’m just saying that at this time, no one can afford to sit on the fence on this issue anymore. Not when elected officials are deciding whether or not people like me should marry whoever we want. Or when parents throw their kids out of the house for being queer. Or when trans* people are getting mugged on the streets. Or when religious institutions say queer people are going to Hell for being themselves.

I know some of  you are going to say, “Yes, but this is a difficult issue.” No it’s not. You’re either for the full acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, genderqueer people as fellow human beings, or you’re not. You either believe we are all equal, or you don’t. It’s just that simple.

Amen again. After that testimony, I feel like we should have an altar call.

Let me add one more. This is from a letter Jesse Curtis shared yesterday, written a while ago by a woman named Harriet Southwell:

I truly believe the time is here — (it is late) and that we as Christians — and as true citizens need to acknowledge our wrong and face up to and admit that we have not done to and for  [others] what we … would have wanted to be done for us. … I have seen in these years of soul-searching many men and women who with great effort and almost heartbreak have changed their views. … Understand that it took soul-rending change for some of these — some who had been bitter and resentful but who were fair minded and who examined their souls and had to change.

Different time. Same kairos.

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  • EllieMurasaki


  • Lorehead

    Even so, the tendency to avoid male nudity because of “gay panic” in male audiences is pretty odd, at least if one accepts the conventional wisdom. It does seem to presume that men will be aroused by male bodies, then feel upset about that.

  • P J Evans

    They might also be afraid that if they tried it, they’d enjoy it, and enjoying sex is (in their minds) Wrong.

  • stardreamer42

    I agree. I’m probably closer to being a 1.5 than a 0 — I’ve occasionally found someone of the same sex to be somewhat attractive, but have never felt any strong urge to act on it. OTOH, I’m not afraid to say that I’ve felt that way, either.

  • stardreamer42

    “Bisexual — that means BOTH sides think you’re a pervert.” – Omaha the Cat Dancer

  • stardreamer42

    Cleolinda-style summation of the Prop H8 oral arguments:

    (Kinda NSFW due to language.)

  • reynard61

    So Neigh We All.

    (I’m a Ponytheist.)

  • gpike

    In a similar vein, I sometimes fantasize about becoming a more skilled/successful comics artist than Doug TenNapel – but then I don’t really have to go that far because my life as a godless, childfree feminazi has already proven to be FAR more interesting and fulfilling than the sad, angry little existence of a misogynist homophobe who considers having kids to be the greatest achievement a person can attain in life.

  • Lectorel

    Sort of? It’s hard to articulate for me, since I have so few models of what non-sexual romance looks like. Plus, I tend to reject the idea that platonic love and romantic love are hard and fast categories, never overlapping, so that makes it confusing too.

    I love several women dearly as friends, and there’s one I think I am romantically attracted to, but it’s hard to articulate. Is wanting to hold her a sign my love is more romantic than platonic? Wanting to share a bed? Wanting to be at her side, wanting her to be in my life? What’s the line?

    I call myself romantic because the sort of devotion and intimacy, emotional and physical, that I desire is seen as a feature of either romantic or familial relationships, not ‘mere’ friendship. But I don’t know. I don’t even really fully believe there is a separation between romantic and platonic love as opposed to degrees of intensity.

  • Siletta

    I think it’s because we are taught that you can’t have romance without sex, or at least the desire for sex. Which is a stinking load of BS, but it’s what we’re taught and for many it is true to at least some extent.

  • Lectorel

    Amen to that. I sent so long as a teen trying to figure out why people obsessed over certain body parts, and why everyone was so bloody fascinated with sex.

  • Oh wow, thanks so much for linking me up!

  • I think it has to do with being bisexual. Since I am, it’s deeply weird to me to just automatically disqualify half of humanity, unmet, from the category “potentially sexually/romantically attractive.” But I think it’s parallel to how someone who is 100% het does not get how someone could find someone else of the same gender attractive. The way we’re wired has a lot to do with the possibilities we instinctively see, and the ones we instinctively don’t.

  • …which is still not entirely unlearnable. Involuntary reactions can be stimulated by learned triggers; see the famous Pavlov and his dogs.

    I think it’s possible that in a sexist society like ours, where on the one hand men are taught that finding men erotic is wrong and on the other hand EVERYONE is taught that the female body is sexy (oh, women may not be taught “YOU should find this sexy,” but the female form is held as a synonym for sexy/sex-object/sexual prize in an overwhelming amount of our mainstream media), it shouldn’t be surprising that 1) innate sexual impulses that follow accepted mainstream teaching are given expression to more, and 2) to the extent that a sexual impulse can be learned, we may to that extent learn to respond sexually in the ways our culture tells us, or implies to us, are acceptable.

  • *Nods* I trust you’re correct. It took a long argument with a friend before I realized that the feelings were parallel, but I’m somewhat handicapped in the “seeing things from other perspectives” department. :p

  • Lorehead

    Some of our subconscious sexual reactions are definitely learned. Just look at what styles of clothing, or what body types, have been considered attractive over the years and how that’s changed. Or how different costumes have different associations across cultures.

  • Nicole Resweber

    Oh hey, you’re welcome. Forgot about this one, hehe. :)