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.

"He's probably had a real woman.Not consensually, but still."

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  • hidden_urchin

    I’m not a Christian but ” AMEN.”

  • EllieMurasaki


  • Nicole Resweber

    “The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens.”

  • EllieMurasaki


  • Kenneth Raymond

    I really need to read more on ancient Greek philosophy and thought. I keep finding words that I never knew I needed. This and “anamnesis” are lovely words that I want to make so much use of.

  • Nicole Resweber

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

  • FearlessSon

    I could say “Amen” but I could also say “So say we all!”

  • Charles Scott

    I’m with you on this. “So Say We All!”

  • Jessica_R

    All of this has happened before, all all of this will happen again. All the more reason to keep fighting for justice. So Say We All.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Please accept this Like of your post. I couldn’t have said it any better :)

  • reynard61

    So Neigh We All.

    (I’m a Ponytheist.)

  • Fusina

    On equality of marriage, I think we should go with the Picard’s favorite line, “Make it so.”

    But also, “Amen, preach it sister”, and “So say we all”.

  • Edo

    Or we could say both in French. Ainsi soit-il!

  • Fusina

    Allons y? (Been a long time since French class, I hope I spelled that right.) Also a good line here. Yes, let us go.

  • AnonymousSam

    I’d offer “so it is written, so it shall come to pass,” but most of us shower too often to fit into Raven’s Flock.

  • Dogfacedboy

    OT: Disqus-haters et al: CEO live chat today – where he’ll be taking questions and, perhaps, complaints? I’d participate but have to work.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I feel traitorous in saying that he’s cute.

  • FearlessSon

    I remember reading an article a couple days ago, about the protest groups assembled in Washington D.C. over this. It was two opposed protests, one pro-gay marriage and one anti-gay marriage. In the anti-gay marriage camp, one of the people was a Mormon homemaker and mother of nine. The reporters providing material for the article asked her why this mattered to her. After some hesitation, she confessed that she was a lesbian, but realized that the only happiness to be had in life was by having a family and denying her own carnal desires.

    It made me want to put on my best sympathetic expression and ask, “What the hell did they do to you to warp you this way?”

  • Lori

    I wouldn’t ask because I know what they did to her. I’m sympathetic to that, but my sympathy is limited by the fact that the victim has become the victimizer, wanting to do to others what was done to her.

    As an aside, if I had been the reporter there is no way I could have stopped myself from asking where her husband fits into this (clueless? also gay? thinks marrying the lesbian is some sort of Christian duty? just doesn’t care that she doesn’t like him like him?), how her kids feel about her self-sacrificing martyrdom and what she plans to do in the statistically likely event that one of her many children turns out to be gay.

  • FearlessSon

    It actually reminded me of the reason I stopped reading Orson Scott Card. His political beliefs aside (some of which even then were agreeable, some politely disagreeable, but things change) it was a message which kept popping up in his books even before the whole Prop 8 fiasco that turned me off. He kept pushing this message that the only way to be happy was to have a family. The only way, and ends up driving characters who are either canonically gay or make a clear choice to be childfree into heterosexual marriages for the purpose of siring children, because they finally realize that they will never be happy if they do not do so.

    I hope to meet Card at a book signing one day, and shake his hand while I tell him that I have him to thank for motivating me to get a vasectomy while still a virgin. Somehow, I doubt that was the message he intended me to take away from his books.

  • Lori

    There’s a part of me that’s just mean enough to hope that you get an opportunity to share that with him.

    Card is one of those topics I just don’t discuss any more because the whole thing is so depressing to me.

  • 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.

  • Ross

    I’d kinda like to know how her husband and children felt about that. Preferably as the result of them being asked the question in a really insulting way.

  • FearlessSon

    I would rather it not be asked insultingly, primarily because that approach will cause them to “turtle” into dogma when they perceive hostility. The woman was kind enough to share a detail she considered very personal, and if someone is going to extend me courtesy then I would repay them with more courtesy. Besides, some of her kids are very young (though the eldest was twenty-four,) we have no need to insult them for their parents’ choices.

    I do find it interesting that she self-identified as lesbian, suggesting she realizes it is simply who she is. However, she made the choice to only engage in a heterosexual relationship in spite of herself. I wonder if this is how fundamentalists justify homosexuality being a “choice” even when all research suggests it is a quality inherently ascribed to the individual?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I wonder if this is how fundamentalists justify homosexuality being a “choice” even when all research suggests it is a quality inherently ascribed to the individual?

    I’m convinced that most people are bisexual, but social pressures lead them to identify as heterosexual.

  • Lori

    Aside from intuition what makes you believe that?

  • EllieMurasaki

    If they’re saying it’s a choice, it’s a choice they must have made, right?

  • Lori

    That’s logical and I’ve used that as a rejoinder to homophobes many times, but I don’t think it reflects any deep truth about human sexuality. They don’t say that being gay is a choice because they chose or because deep down they’re bi. They say it because they’re repeating an argument that they believe will get them what they want, not because they thought it through in any meaningful way and found that it meshed with their experience of the real world.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    It’s also a rather annoyingly erasing argument used by homophobes against bisexuals by implying they could just choose to conform to opposite-gender relationships and all will be hunky-dory.

  • Lori

    It’s equal opportunity offensive in that it also obviously erases straight people by telling them that they’re not actually straight, they’re bisexual and just too clueless, weak-minded, conformist and/or cowardly to own it.

    Basically I’m not a fan of arguments about human sexuality that involve the phrase “Everyone is really________”, no matter how one fills in the blank.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh. Um. I need to go think about that.

  • David Policar

    (nods) As a bisexual man in a long-term monogamous same-sex relationship, I’ve had variations on this conversation more than a few times. (And I frequently label as gay in order to forestall it.)

    It’s also one of the reasons I find the whole “homosexuality isn’t a choice, it’s innate, and that’s why we should respect it” line of argument troubling. I’m capable of forming sexual, emotional, and romantic bonds with women; indeed, I’ve done so, and it was fine. But the person I chose to build a family with is male.

    I don’t endorse the idea that, because in my case it is a choice, my family is somehow less worthy of acceptance or recognition or support.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    It would be nice if society in general simply respected the diversity of sexualities and didn’t try to create one-size-fits-all solutions. Alas. :(

  • David Policar


    I try to remind myself that every time someone articulates the position that all loving mutually supportive families are equally deserving of social recognition and respect, they move society a step in that direction.

    It’s not always easy to remember, especially when I’m the “someone”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Fair enough.

  • Isabel C.

    I think most people are bisexual in the sense that not many of us are either a 0 or a 6 on the Kinsey scale, but there’s a lot going on in the middle there and sometimes self-administered labels are useful social shorthand.

  • Lori

    This is a fair point. I agree that 0s and 6s are not at all common. I think there are plenty of 1s & 5s though, and that both of those are quite different from 3s.

  • fredgiblet

    I agree completely, I would even go as far as to say that a lot of gays/lesbians are probably bi, but they’ve pushed to label themselves by BOTH sides. I’ve seen gays who insist that bisexuals either don’t exist or are playing both sides so they can “win” no matter what.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve seen gays who insist that bisexuals either don’t exist or are playing both sides so they can “win” no matter what.

    That was very annoying when I first heard it. :|

  • stardreamer42

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

  • 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.

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s how I used to think. I’ve since recanted, but there’s still a large part of me that does not understand hetero- or homosexuality.

  • Lectorel

    I sort of struggle with understanding that myself, likely because I’m an ace. I get not being sexually attracted to certain body types and configurations of genitals, because personal taste isn’t really a thing you consciously control. You can’t make yourself be attracted to what you’re not.

    But romantically, it confuses me. I define myself as ‘Queer Romantic’, as a handy short hand for ‘mostly romantically attracted to women and genderqueer people, and the occasional trans* man, but not cis men.’ But that’s not a gender thing. That’s a personality thing – the sort of personality I find attractive is heavily discouraged among men, and more valued among women. So in general, my odds of finding a romantic partner are upped by ruling out cis men. But there’s nothing inherent about being male
    and cis that makes it impossible for me to feel romantic attraction. If someone hits my romantic buttons, I don’t care what gender they are.

    I don’t really understand if this is a me thing, or an ace
    thing, or something else altogether. But I really have trouble understanding why everyone isn’t panromantic.

  • AnonaMiss

    Is there a distinction in your experience between romance without sexual attraction, and being best friends/bosom buddies/”heterosexual life partners”? I’m heterosexual, and I have friends that I’m as close to/closer to than I am to my sex partner, in a comfortable, spoon-and-cuddle-with-them way. My intuition is that most people with limited sexualities may have romantic attractions to people they aren’t sexually attracted to, but because they also have romantic attractions to people they are sexually attracted to, they categorize romantic-but-not-sexual feelings as “close friendships” instead of “non-sexual romances.”

  • 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.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    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.

  • AnonymousSam

    *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

    For what it’s worth, there are studies suggesting that men tend to get aroused by only one gender, while women get aroused by both. It’s not very-well understood (at least by me).

  • EllieMurasaki

    I suspect that’s an artifact of various expressions of sexism. Men who are aroused by women tend to ID as straight, because anything else would be unmanly. People are much more accustomed to seeing women as objects of sexual desire than to so seeing men. Etc.

  • Lorehead

    I won’t rule any of that out, and we don’t really know much about what causes sexual orientation. There’s also a lot of dispute about how to interpret the results. But the experiments were not based on self-idenitication as “gay” or “straight,” but rather actual blood flow to the genitals.

  • 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.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    …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.

  • 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.

  • arcseconds

    From what I understand, the formation of sexual orientation is a highly complex thing, resulting from a complicated interplay between genetics, environment, and the person’s own activities. It seems highly idiosyncratic. The exact weighting on each factor, and the resulting dance, may be quite different for different people.

    I don’t think there’s much point, beyond academic interest maybe, in quibbling about what resulted in someone’s particular experience today. They’re where they are, for most people there’s no real sense in which it was volitional, and even if it was volitional, if it resulted in settled attitudes and tastes they’re in much the same position as someone who thinks God made them that way.

    There are certainly many people who will loudly proclaim ‘making out with a person the same sex as me? eww…’. I’ve known plenty of people like that, and they’re not necessarily homophobic in the sense they object to anyone else doing it. Maybe there’s a sense that you’re right, and that they could or do experience same-sex attraction, but always shy away from it, never dwell on it, maybe they’re so good at this that they don’t even realise they’re doing it.

    And maybe they’re genetically predisposed to be bi, too, or even homosexual but their development went the other way.

    But none of this matters. If fleeting same-sex attraction are hardly noticed and put aside, possibly with accompanying feelings of awkwardness, and opposite-sex attraction happens often and is embraced and indulged in, then for all practical purposes they’re straight.

  • Lunch Meat

    A friend I had told me she knew homosexuality was a choice because one time as a kid she thought a girl was cute, but she was ashamed and prayed that God would make it go away, and God did, and now she’s happily married to a man.

    (CN for stupid homophobic reasoning that makes me cringe)

    Of course, there was a time in my life when I reasoned: “I’m very attracted to men, but I don’t mind the thought of being with another woman. Everyone else is the same as me, therefore gay people must not mind the thought of being with someone of the opposite sex and they could make that sacrifice and do it if they really wanted to.” Then I discovered the internet and that bisexuality was a thing.

  • Lori

    The internet is indeed a fount of sexual knowledge, and at least some of it is true. Three important lessons

    Not everyone is like me. The fact that something is true for me sexually does not mean it’s true for everyone or that it’s true for all normal people and everyone else is a freak.

    Conversely, I am neither alone nor a special snowflake, depending on how you look at it. If it’s true for me sexually there are other people for whom it is also true.

    3. Trying to prove Rule 34 wrong is a fool’s errand. If you try it you’re doing to see things you wish you hadn’t. Brain bleach is not an actual product. You’ve been warned, from here on out it’s on you.

  • FearlessSon

    Trying to prove Rule 34 wrong is a fool’s errand. If you try it you’re going to see things you wish you hadn’t. Brain bleach is not an actual product. You’ve been warned, from here on out it’s on you.

    Extra Credits illustrates the proper application of Brain Bleach.

  • AnonymousSam

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

    Ah, but “free love” is what they hate. They’re still living in the shadow of the 1960’s, fearing the Communists, Soviet Russia, Cuba’s evil intentions and the unpatriotic hippies and their immoral behavior. The words “free love” instantly transport them into that happy place where the endorphin kicks in, indignation and righteousness take over and they open their mouths to spew vitriolic Bible verses while remembering the Good Old Days they have confused for episodes of Leave It to Beaver.

    You said it before: They don’t have sexual ethics, they have rules about sex. “Free love,” to them, is code for “sometimes I think it’s fine to break the rules,” and that’s something they just cannot abide.

    They are eternally wrapped in conventional moral development. The rest of us moved on to post-conventional and are no longer speaking the same language.

  • FearlessSon

    I take a firm stance in my belief that homophobia is a degenerate lifestyle choice. I do not care if it makes them uncomfortable to hear it, but they could just choose to be normal and everything would be fine. (⌒▽⌒)

  • 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.

  • Jessica_R

    On picking sides, not that it’s news Willie Nelson is awesome, but still, “But I’d never marry a guy I didn’t like.”

  • SisterCoyote

    Preach it, brother.

  • stardreamer42

    Cleolinda-style summation of the Prop H8 oral arguments:

    (Kinda NSFW due to language.)

  • Travis Mamone

    Oh wow, thanks so much for linking me up!