A Conversation with a Neighbor
As some you may be aware there is an initiative on the Minnesota ballot this November to define marriage as being between a man and woman in a Constitutional amendment. The most recent polls show that this “race” to be incredibly tight, my fellow Minnesotans seem to be split 50/50 on the issue. For those of you wondering, same-sex marriage is currently prohibited in Minnesota.
With an issue this controversial, it is natural to see lawn signs all over town. In my neighborhood, they are split about 50/50, which is not really surprising when we look at the above polls. I count 4 signs supporting the amendment (in favor of defining marriage as being between man/woman) and 5 opposing it. There are 28 houses on my street. Of the four families that support the amendment, two of those are very religious evangelical Christians, one while I do not know their religious views, are assholes, and the last family is not particularly religious. I was out walking my dogs yesterday and had a conversation with the patriarch of family number four, Jim, whom I know well enough.
Let me start out by saying that I very much value peace in my neighborhood and was not looking to start a neighborhood rift. I find it refreshing to walk by people’s houses several times a day and have pleasant conversations with them. I want that to continue. With that in mind, I did not push Jim all that hard.
I pointed out to Jim that I noticed he supports the marriage amendment. He replied that he did, and asked if I agreed with him. I told him that I did not. I then asked him why he supported it. (Bear in mind that I know they are not regular church goers and not particularly religious). The answers I got were the standard canned nonsense—the marriage has always been between a man and women, it is unnatural for two people of the same sex to marry, that it will cheapen or somehow hurt the value of traditional marriages.
I responded, in a friendly but firm way, that just because something has always been done in a certain way does not mean that it is correct way, the best way, or can’t be improved upon. I told him that in fact, homosexuality is quite natural and evidence of this can be seen throughout the animal kingdom (humans included). Lastly, I told him that I could not come up with one way that same-sex marriage would in any way effect the institution of traditional marriage, both globally and personally. The last thing that I added is that this whole thing seems to be motivated by religion. If we removed the religious opposition to same-sex marriage, I believe this subject would be a non-issue. We discussed these for a bit, and he didn’t argue any of the first three points. I suppose he did not have the facts.
Jim did not really know where to go from here. He couldn’t argue any of my points except the last one. He affirmed that he is not very religious and the issue is still important to him. At this point, I knew I was on dangerous ground. I didn’t want to have a huge argument on the guy’s front lawn, and thought to proceed carefully. I asked him, why it was so important to him if he was not religious and the other reasons he stated are at best controversial. (I purposefully did not use the word “wrong” as I had already demonstrated that previously and did not want to fuel the fire.
Jim muttered something that it just is, and then proceeded half-heartedly to the “it just isn’t natural” thing again. In other words, Jim had nothing to say. I felt that my point was made, we both knew it, and moved on to talking about something else.
This conversation was quite interesting to me. I have long held that without religious influence, same-sex marriage would not be nearly as controversial. That it would be a non-issue. Jim is one small test case where my opinion was validated. Jim had nothing to say because the only option left to him at that point in our conversation was, “I just don’t like them”. Jim is a bigot towards homosexuals. They are different than he. He fears something about them. He wants to deny them rights, knowing that his public reasons for doing so are bullshit. Religion plays no part in his thought process. He simply does not like gay people—for whatever reason. If we remove religion from the equation, what we are left with is pure bigotry. (When we put religion in, it is still bigotry, but sanctioned religious bigotry, that people can somehow excuse).
My hope is that I got Jim to do some thinking. He is a pretty reasonable guy, who is very wrong on this one issue. He was not prepared for my refutation of his canned responses. Hopefully, he will look into them. I would be quite happy to see that lawn sign removed in a couple of days…but I won’t hold my breath.
I have yet to hear even a decent argument against same-sex marriage that does not involve religion. (For the record, I think the religious arguments are equally moronic). I am curious to see if any of you have heard any non-religious arguments opposing same-sex marriage that have some merit. I can’t think of any. That noted, I will continue to view those opposed to same-sex marriage as bigots (religiously motivated or not) and as people who are denying basic civil right to another human because they were born differently. If you disagree, I look forward to hearing why.
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