Common Ground: Reframing the gay marriage debate

Nick Bratcher

Let’s make a pact, you and I.

Let’s lower our assumptions and even remove our existing opinions from the subject.

If you can promise to do that, I’ll promise not to convince you of anything regarding the morality of gay marriage.

Regardless of my personal stance on that, I just want to help both sides understand each other — if only for a moment.

In fact, if you read this article, you might have an even stronger argument on this subject for the next time it’s discussed, which is likely in the next five minutes judging by the polarization of this issue.

My only mission here is to reframe this debate so we can have better dialogue about the heart of this issue.

So, there are basically two sides.

One side is lead largely by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. They are accompanied by our progressive generation that seeks to extend basic human rights universally.

The other side is comprised mostly of conservative, usually older, Evangelical Christians.

One side believes gay people are being denied a fundamental right to freedom in this country. They have the “right to love who they wish.”

The other side believes that being gay is morally wrong, and therefore, gay people should be denied the right to get married.

But it’s at this point that I’m afraid we’ve made a grave error in the reasoning of this side of the issue.

The pro-gay marriage side assumes that marriage is a human right — a part of fundamental freedom in this nation. And this side is often tempted to point the finger at Evangelicals to declare them bigots or ignorant or some other insult reserved for human rights offenders.

But that’s not the issue we have at hand.

You see, Christians don’t believe marriage — for anyone, regardless of their race, sexual orientation or religious beliefs — is a fundamental human right.

That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Evangelicals believe that no one is entitled to the right to be married because they are a religious group who leans heavily on the Bible to understand the world around them.

And that book does declare being gay is immoral, but those same passages that reference it as a sin also reference people who have sex outside of marriage as committing an equal sin.

In a Christian mind, no one has the right to explore their sexuality, at least outside of marriage. You, whoever you are, don’t have the “right” to be married.

In fact, if you’re a Christian who doesn’t meet that special someone, you’re commanded to remain a virgin for your entire life.

OK, maybe that seems like a sucky way to live, but that’s what we’re dealing with here — a difference in the understanding of human rights.

Look, under the laws of this nation, I am certainly not claiming that Evangelicals have a right to determine who can or cannot get married.

After all, it is the right to personal freedom that allows these people to express their religious convictions in the first place. One could certainly argue that it makes little sense to deny that freedom to another group that’s pursuing its own personal sense of fulfillment.

But before we label Evangelicals as a people of hatred or prejudice, I think we all need to take a step back and examine why they hold the views that they do.