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[Chalice] Certainties and Hesitancies [Chalice]
A Talk about Gay Marriage

Presented April 4, 2004, by Rev. Dr. Rob Manning


I am certain that gay people are just like everybody else, that they fall in love and at a certain point in their relationship want a public and visible commitment that through thick and thin they will work it out. As the poet Adrienne Rich once wrote: "any two lives together is a miracle" and love between gay people is no less a miracle than love between any two people.

I am certain that prejudice against gay people is the most stubborn, persistent, intransigent and irrational of all human prejudices. Hatred or aversion to gay people is something I have experienced many times as a heterosexual man with mostly heterosexual friends, and it is has never made any sense to me whatsoever. I know plenty of intelligent and even open-minded and liberal men who are uncomfortable with the thought of gay men, though often they think of lesbians in quite a different fashion. I have never understood why so many people, especially men, have such a hard time accepting that a certain percent of the people in every culture have one orientation and a certain percentage have another orientation and leave it at that. I don't know why people seem to have to lay a moral interpretation on the orientation of the minority, and call it bad or weird or evil. The whole issue is a perfect example of Nietzsche's frustration that humans take a natural phenomenon and then lay a moral interpretation on top of it which he said was as unnecessary and as useless as our tendency in some languages to divide things up a give them a masculine or feminine identity: le soleil, la lune. Nietzsche longed for a day when we would just stop doing this, stop laying a moral interpretation on natural phenomenon, when humanity would get, as Nietzsche says in his famous title, "Beyond Good and Evil." I bet you most of us here, maybe all of us, would understand Nietzsche's yearning for this, that inside of us we yearn for the day when this natural thing of being gay would no longer have a moral interpretation put on top of it, when everyone would just let it be, and we would no longer have to have these discussions where we would stand out as weird to most people for either being gay or for supporting gays and opposing all prejudice toward them.

I am certain that in this country we are nowhere close to that future where we are beyond good and evil when it comes to sexual orientation. We have made a lot of progress, but still being prejudiced toward gay people is the permitted prejudice in this country. I know plenty of white students who have plenty of black friends and they hang together and one thing they have in common is that they all think gay people are just weird.

I am certain that this still permitted and pervasive and stubborn and intransigent prejudice, against gays, always seeks a rational grounding, sometimes in science, sometimes in psychology, but most often in religion, in the concept of God. This is constantly done by Christians in this country; but notice when Christians make this argument they very rarely talk about Jesus Christ. Jesus never said anything about gay people or straight people; he did talk about welcoming the outcasts and throwing the first stone, and all that stuff, so Christians opposing gays are thrown back on vague statements about God and strange passages from Leviticus. Do people who make such statements really think that it is the very voice of God speaking when Leviticus says that a man who lays with another man should be executed? Would we like to take other rules from Leviticus to heart? Leviticus also says a woman who is discovered not to be a virgin on her wedding night should be killed. Is that God's voice? If you have sex with a woman during her period you should both be killed. Obviously, all these arguments about God condemning gays are simply religion being put in the service of prejudice, rather than religion challenging prejudice and opening us up to deeper love for our brothers and sisters. I am certain that prejudice against gay people seeks rational grounding all the time but has no rational grounding. It has its grounding in human ignorance and fear and not in human reason.

And I am certain that if a gay couple asked me to perform a wedding for them and I knew them and respected them as a couple, I would be happy to perform the service with them. How could I in good conscience do otherwise? And how would that be different? A lot of people come to me to get married because they cannot get married elsewhere-you have to be a member of that church, you have to believe what they do, you have been married before so you cannot get married again,


I know I may shock and disappoint you but I have to say that most of me wishes that the whole issue of gay marriage would just go away for a while. I would like to see us as a country stay with issues that would draw us closer together rather than divide us. Call this the September 11th effect, and in fact this debate now has a great deal to do with September 11th. The families of the victims of that disaster were compensated by insurance companies and by the government but at first no recognition for same sex couples. Did they grieve less? Did they lose less? And most people in this country, I believe, thought this was unfair. If you asked people, even those vehemently opposed to gay marriage, should gay couples be separated from each other when one is in the hospital, even dying? Should gay couples have the right to pass on their inheritance to their loved ones like other people do? These are very important legal issues, and to resolve them on the part of gay people is really important, and most people would agree with them. These issues reach through people's prejudices and appeal to the better angels of our nature, and whether we are prejudiced against gays or not, think them weird or not, we meet on the solid and worthy ground of compassion. To build up compassion for those you think different from you-this is real spiritual progress.

But the issue of gay marriage is divisive and stops that spiritual progress in its tracks. I think it would be better and wiser if as a culture we lingered longer over these issues that unite us and which build up in many people awareness of how damaging and unfair prejudice is in the lives of gay people, and just let compassion do its work for a while.

But that is exactly what the Bush administration was not about to do. Karl Rove knows very well that though Americans are becoming more compassionate toward gay people the great majority of Americans right now are not ready for gay marriage. So what better issue to put forth, what better issue for George Bush to take the lead on, to show that he is the great defender of God and of all the family values our country cherishes? In making the issues concerning gays gay marriage, and not all these other issues of gays rights we might agree upon, by pushing a Constitutional amendment protecting us all from the evil of gay marriage, the Bush administration knows exactly what it is doing. A letter to the editor in the Herald-Whig this week argued: "President Bush is attempting to protect opinions of Americans who feel that allowing homosexual marriages breaks down the very institution upon which we base our family values. President Bush is also taking actions that reflect the general consensus across America." You bet he is, and this is reason 2,547 to hate the Bush administration.

Can't you just see into the future, into September, October, the presidential debates. John Kerry has been trying to talk about equal protection under the law, about having compassion for gays who cannot visit their loved ones in the hospital or pass on their inheritances, and George Bush looks him straight in the eye and says: "Will you protect our country or not from gays being able to freely get married? Are you going to support my amendment to protect marriage as God intended it to be or not?" And this will become the few seconds of the debate that will show up on the news casts, and that most Americans will be familiar with, and not all those other moments when Bush stammers, stumbles, mispronounces simple words, fails to make his subjects and verbs agree, and calls Greeks Grecians.

Yes, I am very hesitant about the issue of gay marriage because I am very afraid that George W. is going to ride this divisive issue all the way to reelection, because Karl Rove is right. The great majority of Americans, while they are ready to open their hearts to more compassion for gay people, are not ready for gay marriage, and the Bush administration can use that fact and exploit that fact for their own purposes. All kinds of people, who have no business in the world voting for Bush, are going to vote for him because of his bravely leading the way to protect family values and marriage as God intended, and in such a close election this might just be enough to win.

I am sure there are many people who would be very disappointed with me and would say that the time to advocate for gay marriage is now. No, now is the time to reach out to all those who would consider voting for Kerry and make sure they do. We can advocate for gay marriage once we all have built up inside of us more compassion for gay people during the Kerry administration. If that doesn't happen, if Bush wins this election, we will all lose a lot more than the opportunity to have gay marriages.

For example, many people believe that if Bush has another four years he will appoint at least one supreme Court Justice and that Antonin Scalia will become the Chief Justice. Scalia is still fairly young and could be the Chief Justice for the next 20 years. Remember that when the Supreme Court finally struck down anti-sodomy laws that made it illegal to have gay sex it was a 6-3 decision, with Scalia writing the dissenting opinion. He wrote: "Most Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their businesses, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools, or as boarders in their homes."

©2004 Rev. Dr. Rob Manning

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article:
Manning, Robert J. S. 2004. Certainties and Hesitancies, (accessed July 4, 2020).

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