Dear Susan: How Can You Compare Marriage Equality to the Civil Rights Movement? That’s Ridiculous!

Dear Susan: How Can You Compare Marriage Equality to the Civil Rights Movement? That’s Ridiculous! April 3, 2015


Sometimes people just don’t want to face the truth. They deny facts, history, scripture – all in an attempt to justify the continued oppression and marginalization of an entire group of people. And many do so “in Jesus name.”  But walls are crumbling down, and love and truth are rising to the top – as they usually do.

We often get slammed anytime we compare what is happening to the LGBTQ community to what happened to the black community in the 60’s – be it abuse, violence, exclusion, condemnation, a fight for equal rights or a fight against discrimination. Such is the topic of today’s question.


I write Dear Susan posts most every Friday. Sometimes they are poignant, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes tender, sometimes funny… but hopefully always worth the read.

Dear Susan,

I’m offended by the comparison between the civil rights movement and marriage equality. It’s not the same because black people didn’t choose to be black but gay people chose to be gay. This is ridiculous!

Deeply Offended

Dear Deeply Offended,

My concern is not their similarities but ours. The church.*

I’m concerned that we as the collective church give ourselves permission to exclude others from the mercy and privilege we take for granted. I’m concerned that we have not learned significantly enough from the great tragedies that our nation, including the church, perpetuated against a group of people, that we have allowed it to continue against another group.

We the church failed to mobilize our considerable power and influence to stand against the violence of slavery, the injustice of segregation, and the ongoing hate and fear. Many church pastors perpetuated the violence through active teaching of separateness and inherent inequality. Many churchgoers acted on those teachings and took to the streets.

I’m concerned because the eerily similar pattern has been repeated today in failure to mobilize against the violence that always occurs when a group is marginalized and vilified, the injustice of turning people away be cause we don’t like them, and the ongoing hate and fear. Many church pastors continue to perpetrate violence through active teaching of separateness and inherent inequality. Many churchgoers act on those teachings and take to the streets, and many churchgoers throw their family members, including children, to the streets.

I’m concerned that we as Christians** take so lightly the abundant grace God has lavished on us that we think it’s ours to withhold from others as we see fit. We step between the love of God and the many to whom it is given, and then we have the audacity to claim we do this in love.

1427768699117All of the above stands, regardless of anyone’s opinion of the black community or the LGBTQ community. God’s love is not for us to pick and choose. We are meant to be a lawn sprinkler that pours God’s loving refreshment to whoever comes near—not a watering can reserving God’s love for someone I like.

All of that said, I must say that you are wrong about choice. Part of loving others is listening to their story. (Not judging, or waiting to talk, but listening.) Those who listen to the stories of our LGBTQ neighbors or children will come to realize that this is not a choice. The thousands of parents I work with will tell you it’s not a choice. (You don’t have an LGBTQ neighbor or child? Better then not to weigh in on the stories of people you don’t know.)

But whether or not you believe it to be a choice does not change the above.

We cannot collapse this distinction: our job as the body of Christ is to love and help free those who are being oppressed—whether or not being LGBTQ is a choice. Period.

And, being LGBTQ is not a choice.

Remember that people who oppressed blacks in horrible ways felt the same way about them, and used some of the same justifications, as their counterparts today feel about LGBTQ people.

Be on the right side of history, be on the right side of God’s heart.

Love and truth rose above all of that in the 60’s – and it is rising above it again today.


*I refer here to the parts of the church to whom it applies. Certainly, that does not include all churches, as many stood against the hate and oppression then and now. The same is true today.

** I refer here to the Christians for whom this is true. Certainly, millions of Christians today stand against the injustices being perpetrated against the LGBTQ community.

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