Marriage equality: a game of apples and oranges

After Tuesday’s vote in North Carolina, there’s been a lot of tension.  I’ve seen it among my friends and on social media.  It’s on blogs and in the news.  It’s understandable, it feels like a huge blow and a step backwards.  My prayers are with the people of NC that this won’t be the end of the conversation.

One thing I’ve seen, though, that troubles me is the comparisons being made.  The fight for marriage equality has been likened to the fight for the rights of African Americans.  It bothers me for several reasons.  These two issues are apples and oranges.  Certainly, the fact that both involve human rights puts them, in some sense, in the same very broad category.  But otherwise, this is not the same thing at all.

To compare these issues does a disservice to everyone involved.  First, it makes it sound as though we have somehow arrived, that racism is a thing of the past.  Even though we’ve come a long way, there is still more work to be done.  Second, it makes it sound as though African Americans have no stake in marriage equality, as though there isn’t anyone who is both black and gay.  Third, it blatantly ignores some very real distinctions. The ways in which people have been dehumanized based on race are not the same as the ways people have been dehumanized based on sexual orientation.  Playing the comparison game is dangerous here, because it’s divisive rather than uniting.  That doesn’t help anyone.  Finally, it makes it seems as though the only reason gay people deserve rights is because black people have them, rather than because they deserve them on their own.

It’s that last one I want to address here.  When we speak about marriage equality, gay rights, and the moral implications of homosexuality, our arguments must stand on their own merit.  They cannot be based on what someone else has been given.  Our arguments from the Bible cannot be based on what other laws we do or do not obey.  We must examine Scripture, understand context, and reach a conclusion based on that, not on a convoluted set of rules about which things it’s okay to ignore.  Otherwise, all we do is go all Dan Savage on the Bible and attempt in our human frailty to simply take out everything we want to label “bullshit.”

There are people a lot smarter than I am who have studied this stuff.  They’ve come to conclusions about what they believe the Bible does and does not say about homosexual orientation and homosexual relationships.  I urge you to look it up for yourself.  And no, I’m not going to do the work for you.  There’s plenty out there, start with a simple web search and a search of the books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, then go from there.  I spent literally years reading up on this stuff, talking with people, asking questions.  I didn’t just suddenly wake up one day and think, Wow, gay people seem really unhappy that we Christians think they’re sinning.  I guess the answer is to stop thinking they’re sinning.  I had to do much more research than that, because it’s not an experience I’ve lived.  If I do the work for you, you have an excuse to ignore me.  If you do it yourself—and don’t stop the minute you disagree with what you’ve read—you’ll be more likely to make an informed decision of your own.  Even if you continue to disagree, you’ll be doing it because you’ve examined things thoroughly from all sides.

For those of you who are already LGBT allies and have done this work, do me a favor: stop comparing.  Let your arguments stand on their own.  Don’t drag into it all the other things in the Bible that we ignore, or the ways you think this is similar to other human rights issues.  Just like we don’t want the “slippery slope” to be the main argument against marriage equality, we don’t want it to be the main reason for it, either.  Let it be its own issue.  Each ism and phobia deserves its own consideration, independent of resolving the others.

Let’s keep this door open and continue to talk about these things.

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