Must Gays Be Offended?
One reader of this blog, whose opinions expressed here I usually find constructive and helpful (even when I don’t agree) suggested in her comment that refusing to refer to civil unions as marriages is offensive to gay persons. I understand this challenge, but, at the same time, think that persons should not be offended if others, driven by conscience and/or religious conviction, call their unions “civil unions” rather than marriages.
Gays need to recognize that conservative Christians, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, struggle with recognizing anything other than a union between one man and one woman as marriage. That’s not bigotry; that’s adhering to a two thousand years long (and more) history and to conscience.
My question to gays who are offended is Why? Whence the offense? So long as they are not in any way legally injured why should they be offended if others call their unions “civil unions” instead of marriages?
A Catholic friend calls my Protestant church an “ecclesial community” and denies that it is really a church at all. I am not offended. I recognize that as an expression of his religious conviction and affiliation with a religious tradition. He would be violating his conscience and breaking the bonds of his religious affiliation were he to grant my church “church” status. I understand this and therefore am not offended. By calling my church an “ecclesial community” (roughly equivalent to “parachurch organization”) he is not in any way infringing on my rights or my church’s rights or freedoms. I would only be offended if by calling my church not a church he intended to impose limits on my church’s freedoms or rights.
I realize that some defenders of gay unions as marriages will argue this is not a valid analogy, but I believe it is. Ours is a pluralistic society; if some traditions within it prefer not to recognize gay civil unions as true marriages because of religious conviction, that is no “skin off gays’ noses”—so long as this religious conviction does not in any way infringe on their civil rights. And they are wrong to be offended insofar as 1) this preference of language is not rooted in hatred, and 2) this preference of language does not in any way limit their civil rights and freedoms.