Before the Court

As I write, the Supreme Court is just finishing up oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act. Something, presumably, is going to be decided about same-sex marriage, although what exactly that might be is anybody’s guess. But the thing is, everyone knows the eventual outcome. Everyone—at least everyone who is honest—regardless of how they feel about same-sex marriage, knows that whatever this court decides, same-sex marriage is going to be the law of the land. The scales have simply tipped too far to go back.

By now, most people know gay folks. If they aren’t in their families then they are neighbors or co-workers or folks who volunteer at their children’s school. And when you see people and their actual lives it’s very difficult to come to any conclusion other than…who cares? It turns out to be patently obvious that most gay and lesbian relationships are simply not very interesting, in the way that most straight relationships are not very interesting. People have lives. They do what people do, which is largely working and shopping for groceries and pulling weeds. Gay people just don’t do it very differently.

And when you’ve seen enough gay people picking up their kids from school or their partner’s laundry from the dry cleaners it becomes hard to argue that something that is obviously the same is really totally different. When the best argument you can come up for why opposite-sex marriage is special is that marriage is for procreation and straight couples can get pregnant by accident, then it is pretty clear that your ship has taken on quite a lot of water, and is headed toward the bottom sooner rather than later.

And really, that sooner rather than later is the most remarkable part of the whole thing. Of course there is still prejudice against gay people. But the rate at which that prejudice has faded is astounding. It turns out that, in the end, people have a hard time denying rights to the people they already know. As more and more people are open about their lives and relationships then more and more of their family members and neighbors and friends have to admit into their hearts the fact that we are talking about people. Real people. Just people. Who would like to have the same rights and privileges as everyone else, and probably deserve them.

It turns out that much of the time it’s just not that hard to love your neighbor. The real religious challenge is to love the person who lives across the tracks, across the world, across lines of race and class and culture. So let’s have an enormous cheer for the great progress that we’ve made on the full inclusion of same-sex couples in our society, and let us pray that the Supreme Court comes down on the side of both love and reason. And then let’s get on with the difficult and never-ending work of expanding the circle of love and justice.

  • Petrus

    Hmm, so would you say that I don’t love you if I disagree that you, as a female, should be allowed into the men’s restroom because you want to go in? Disagreement has nothing to do with lack of love. Some people live by principles, as opposed to emotions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you when they disagree. Giving a toddler everything he asks for will quickly make for a very spoiled and unhappy toddler. And if your argument is that because we all know people who are attracted to same gendered individuals, we should offer them what they want is a powerful emotional argument, but it stops short of examining the whys and what fors that built civilization over the centuries. There’s a good reason for the National Historic Register. We shouldn’t tear down what we don’t understand.

    • Jennifer

      1. Disagreeing and denying rights are two completely different actions. I am not actually denied the right to go into the men’s room. I respect gender separation of restrooms as social contract of courtesy…just as I tip, or hold the door for a stranger behind me.
      2. Giving equality, agreeing, loving, and “giving everything” someone wants are each very different things. What relates them is that they are all based on the basis of emphathy. I believe that Ungar was saying that the harder it is to know someone (ie to see them at the grocery store, to see their kids in the pick up line at school etc) then the harder it is to emphathize with them. I believe Ungar says its actually not that hard to emphathize with your neighbor (thus making denying their rights all the harder), but it is much harder to empathize with someone who lives far away, speaks another language, worships a different god, maintains different morals, etc etc etc (thus making denying their rights, acknowledging their humanity, and fighting for justice in their name a whole lot more difficult).

  • V.HICKINBOTTOM

    I DO NOT GIVE A … ABOUT GAY PERSONS, THE ARGUMENT WILL GO ON FOREVER. MY ONLY CONCERN IS THE PLIGHT OF THE UNFORTUNATE BABIES WHO ARE BEING DELIVERED, WITHOUT ANY CONSIDERATION TO THEIR FUTURE, TO A LIFE OF HELL. IS IT NOT TRUE THAT
    THESE PERSONS CAN HAVE CHILDREN, NOT LIKE THE UNFORTYNATE BARREN COUPLES UNABLE TO HAVE FAMILIES.


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