It seems like every year when the New Mexico legislature opens, there is some gay rights bill. Last year the gay rights bill that they were trying to pass got stopped in committee, but this year the conservative community is not sounding too optimistic about Senate Bill 12.
When I received an email from a conservative friend telling me to call or write my senator telling him I oppose the bill, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think that gay marriage is wrong as a matter of principle. But on the other hand, I don’t believe it is the government’s right or responsibility to tell people how to live their lives. This prompts me to ask the question: Should gay marriage be legal?
Now, before I go into the politics of the issue, I’d like to say very plainly that I think gay marriage is wrong. I think that there is a very strong case to be made from a Biblical standpoint against gay marriage, and furthermore I think that a case can be made against gay marriage simply from what we know of morals in general, the Bible notwithstanding.
That said, I think there is a strong case to be made for why gay marriage should be legal, and why gay couples should get exactly the same treatment as traditional couples by the government.
First, we must recognize that we live in a post-Christian nation. Yes, America was founded on Christian principles, the Christian system of ethics, etc. And in the beginning it was a Christian nation. But it is no longer. As a result, we simply cannot legislate Christian morality on the basis that this is a Christian nation. The conservative Christian movement must come to grips with this fact.
In addition to this, while there are some very well-meaning Christian politicians out there who are trying to push bills that define marriage as the union between one man and one woman, this is treating the symptoms, not the disease. Do we really think that if the state passes a law saying gay marriages are not really marriages that this will cause all the gay couples out there to suddenly realize the error in their ways and change their lifestyles? No, of course not. All it will do is make gay rights activists hate us more, and give the mainstream media more ammunition to use against us.
This is simply the wrong approach. In fact, I would even say that Christians are using the political system as a quick and easy remedy for the Church not doing its job. If we as conservative Christians really want to change our culture, we need to change it from the bottom up, not the top down. If we do this, then there will be no need for bills that ban gay marriage.
Another argument for why we should not use politics as a weapon against gay marriage is really a quite simple one. If we as conservative Christians impose our system of moral beliefs on others through the political system, what’s to stop them from imposing their moral system on us?
Let me give an example. Suppose the New Mexico state legislature passes a bill that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Then, the next year, some liberal senator proposes a bill that bans homeschooling. On what grounds would we be able to oppose it? The real problem is that if we start using the state to impose our moral beliefs on other people, then there is nothing to stop other people from using our own weapon against us and imposing their moral system on us.
On the other hand, if we as conservatives are politically tolerant of ideologies with which we do not agree, (i.e. gay marriage); we can use this as a basis for why others should be tolerant of our ideologies (i.e. homeschooling, etc.). In the end, it is a win-win situation for everyone. Gays get what they want, (the same rights and benefits as traditional couples), and we get what we want, (less grief from the state about homeschooling, etc.). In addition to this, I predict that if conservatives extend a hand of political friendship to the gay community, we would see a dramatic decrease of hostility between the two groups. Imagine the consequences this might have. Conservative Christians would finally be in a position to present our ideology to an audience that might actually be willing to listen.
In the end, I think that the only thing that will ever be accomplished by laws such as Prop 8 will be to make the gay community hate us all the more. We will never change anyone’s mind by passing a bill that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, or by stopping a bill that gives gay couples the same benefits as traditional couples.
Now, before I close, I’d like to make two very important points. The first is that while I think gay marriage should be legal, I vehemently oppose bills that ban so-called “hate-speech”, ban curriculum that mention traditional marriages, etc. Such laws are violations of our Constitutional rights, and must be opposed at all costs. This is a very fine but extremely important distinction that simply must be recognized.
Second, I’d like to say once again that I am in no way endorsing or supporting gay marriage in principle. I still think it’s wrong, and I’m not afraid to say so. I am also not in any way supporting moral relativism; gay marriage is wrong universally. But there is a world of difference between something that is wrong, and something that should be illegal.
(As a very brief side-note, this is not to say that abortion should be legal. The difference between abortion and gay marriage is this: gay marriage affects no one besides the people who want to be married. Abortion, on the other hand, affects another living human being who has absolutely no say in the matter. When a woman has an abortion, she is encroaching on the baby’s Constitutional rights, and it is the government’s job to stop this. But we’ll save this discussion for another time.)