In the aftermath of the gay marriage decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, a lot of arguments and debates ensued. While the dust has generally settled on this from the immediately emotional responses of each side, there will continue to be debate about the status of marriage in the United States forever. Whether you are for or against this decision, it’s a simple fact that this was not legislated on a grand scale at either the federal or state level, nor was the Constitution Amended, which would have been a reflection of widespread approval for such a change. The Supreme Court, like many state courts where it was already legal, deemed that a right existed on a Constitutional basis that is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution, and it ruled this way across ideological lines by the narrowest possible margin.
While many want to move on and claim victory and that the debate is over, others do not. And there is no reason to. One can begrudgingly accept that the court ruled that way and understand that things have changed in a practical sense in how this now applies to the various elements of society where marital status matters, while at the same time utterly disagreeing with the decision itself.
On a moral basis, it’s simply silly and stupid to suggest that a 5-4 decision of an institution of law somehow changes the intrinsic morality of a certain issue. Acceptance of something does not change the intrinsic nature of something. I suppose if you don’t believe in God or any moral authority then you might live by a meandering and flexible set of rules, but if you believe in any higher authority that is a bit more important from a judgment standpoint than our human court, then there is no sense to be made of an argument that morality changes. There just isn’t.
As usual, in trying to set the context of the actual point of this post, I’m rambling. It’s what I do.
One of the predictable and somewhat logical responses to the decision was a sudden surge of straight pride. Facebook posts emerged declaring that so-and-so is proud to be straight. Predictable responses followed by those who argued that this is a statement of bigotry. Really, overall, any such statement or post just devolves into all the same unwinnable arguments. People get angry and upset and nobody is convinced of anything.
But I want to dive deeper into this and view it from a Catholic perspective or mindset. The two sides of the argument would seem to be that this is something we should celebrate, we need to make a point, we need to stand up for traditional marriage, and there is nothing wrong with promoting “straight pride.” The other side of the argument is that this is unnecessarily combative, that it is not charitable, that Jesus wouldn’t do it, and we shouldn’t make our point in this way.
From my perspective, I actually think both sides are right. I don’t think this is black and white, and I think it comes down to what your motive is, who your audience is, how it’s presented, and all that stuff.
Suppose a person set up a “Straight Pride” sign in their yard. For effect, it’s a white sign with a picture of a blue male and a pink female. Maybe include the male/female symbols on wedding rings as a backdrop.
What is the motive with this? What is a person thinking in their heart when they do it? If the honest answer is “I want it to generate conversation and dialogue so I can present my side of the argument” then that is good. If the honest answer is that you just feel so strongly about this issue that you want to make your voice known, and for whatever reason you just simply feel that this is the best way to do that, then that is good. But the motive lies in your heart. It’s not what you say the motive is. If your real desire is to stick it to the other side, or to purposely be combative, or to tick off the neighbor down the road who is flying a rainbow flag, then your action is not good.
The simple fact is that you have to really be the harshest judge of your motives that you can be, and you really should also understand the response you might get. Are you prepared for potential vandalism or angry feedback? And if that happens, will you get angry in return, or will you forgive them and pray for them, and try to find a civil way to discuss what it is that is making them upset? If you are not prepared to meet resistance in a Christ-like manner, then it probably is not worth doing. And that can be really tough. But if you meet negativity with more negativity, you’re doing more harm than good with the stand you are taking.
I saw a debate on this issue on Facebook, and it was not lost on me that opponents immediately go to comparisons of “White Pride.” There are a number of issues I have with this, and I find it the simplistic and convenient argument of an unthinking person who wants to simply shut down debate by painting anyone who thinks differently about things as a horrible person. But these are the kinds of responses you need to be prepared for and have an answer to if you plan to engage in this type of symbolic approach to your opposition to gay marriage.
This is likely the main objection, so here are my thoughts on it:
- A faulty premise stated forcefully and accusingly does not still make the premise true. As vehemently as someone suggests you are a bigot, rather than try to argue nuances as to why you are not, you first of all need to completely disagree and dispute that premise and simply tell them that regardless of what they think, they are wrong, and you could go back and forth all day saying “Am not” “Are too” but you aren’t going to do that
- Once you’ve established the complete disagreement with the premise, it then makes sense to have some reasons as to why this is different. There are many:
- The Supreme Court just declared different kinds of marriages equal. If one group can be proud that they have a particular sexual proclivity, then it makes perfect sense for someone to be proud of theirs. We’re all equal, after all.
- I could argue about all the murkiness about the white pride/black pride issues as well, but let’s boil things down to a couple main points. Whether you agree or disagree that “white pride” is racist, the simple fact is that blacks were once enslaved, were considered property, didn’t have the right to vote for a long part of the history of our country, were segregated, and so on. Despite all these injustices, this was all rectified in the appropriate way (though not soon enough). Laws were passed, and the Constitution was amended. The same can be said of women’s rights. Our country moved slow, but allowed the Constitutional process to play out.
- Building on the previous point, while I am certain that gays can point to injustices (both real and perceived) they can’t hold a candle to the injustices suffered from the black community. I’ll be perfectly honest, I am shocked that as many people in the black community have embraced the comparison as they have. But the bigger point is that the Supreme Court seems to have decided that the processes of the past need no longer apply to the processes of today. Instead of allowing laws and the Constitutional process to provide rights that society want to enumerate and grant, rights are invented and it’s not even hidden anymore that the Constitution does not really support the decision. Instead, we are told that the Constitution really means what we want it to mean in the context of today. By this logic, no Amendments need to be passed, ever, to positively define rights. The Amendment process has moved from clarifying and expanding the rights of people to a process of restricting rights the Supreme Court granted that they have no business granting. And they know that to do so is nearly impossible, or at the very least expensive and difficult. So they can get away with it. And this has offended people who disagree on this topic. We feel that our own view has been trampled on, and the language of the Court automatically casts us in a negative light.
- This all creates a very real difference. When someone says “yeah, that’s the same argument people made against the civil rights act, or women’s right to vote” then you can actually even agree to a point, and then point out that even if they are right they are helping make your point. One reason we are so upset is because the corrective actions taken against those injustices was properly done, whereas this wasn’t. And because it wasn’t, you can’t just expect the masses to suddenly be happy about it and agree with it.
- The granting of rights to blacks did not change anything about the nature of being white and human. The redefinition of marriage is an entirely different animal, and any attempt to diminish that aspect of this and just make it about intolerance to gays is, again, an entirely false premise that needs to be combated at every turn. Because of that, there is a very real fundamental difference between the two.
Having said all that, I will counter with a reason of my own as to why I actually don’t like the “Straight Pride” angle. It’s because I have never, to be honest, understood at all why someone creates an entire identity around being gay. Why is someone gay and proud? Why is it that someone who has heretofore acted and talked in a way that doesn’t advertise to the world their sexual preference, suddenly morph into someone who changes his personality, speech, physical actions, etc. after “coming out?” What is so wrong with just being gay without the world knowing it unless you mention your partner or whatever? I have never understood it, and in fact, I think it is harmful and hurtful for anyone to have the primary identifying factor about them be their sexual preference. We all have so much inherent dignity as a creature made in God’s image and likeness that any “pride” we have about just being us is a misnomer. We owe everything to Him, and have nothing much to be particularly proud about, other than our own God Who loves us unconditionally. Why the heck am I proud to be straight? Why should anyone be proud to be gay? I’m straight. I feel blessed to be straight. I think it’s a gift from God. So, the whole “<Fill in blank> Pride” thing isn’t really my thing.
But if it is, I won’t judge. Just be honest with yourself and be prepared at all times to respond in charitable and informed ways, without accepting premises that are imputed upon you.