In the thirtieth anniversary of the assasination of gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, a proposition is now being considered that would ban gay marriages in the state of California. This proposition, Proposition 8, would create a state constitutional amendment to take away the rights of gays and lesbians to get married in California and would overturn a ruling by the California State Supreme Court to allow such marriages to take place. Many of the more conservative Christian believers from the Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical churches are spearheading a strong organized drive to get Proposition 8 passed, while the more liberal Christian and Jewish groups have been less organized in their efforts to defeat Proposition 8. Matthai Kuruvila wrote an informative article in the October 15, 2008 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle about the fight between liberal and conservative Christians over Proposition 8 and the issue of gay marriage.
Many of the conservative Christians who oppose gay marriage do so because of the way they read the Bible. They believe that 3 passages (Genesis 19:4-6, Leviticus 20:13, and Romans 1:27) condemn homosexuality and they view the Bible as the inerrant word that came from God. In ads across the state, conservative Christians argue that homosexual marriages is a threat to the institution of marriage and would undermine the traditional nuclear family. They push the idea that children would be indoctrinated about gay marriage without their parents consent. The Church of Latter Day Saints have made a concerted effort to persuade its members to fight for Proposition 8 and Mormons account for 40 percent of the donors supporting the ballot measure. The Knights of Columbus, a conservative Catholic organization, and Focus on the Family, a conservative Evangelical organization, are also heavily contributing to the passage of Prop 8.
Kuruvila notes that liberal groups representing Christians, Jews and others have been far less organized in their efforts to defeat the measure. St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in San Francisco has been marshalling opposition against Proposition 8, mainly through individuals working at phone banks. St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco, which chose lesbian priests to lead it two decades ago and gave up its membershilp in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have had fragmented efforts to make a liberal opposition. In a Roman Catholic Church in Fresno, a priest went out of the closet and decried Proposition 8 in the pulpit in early October, causing controversy in his parish. The Reverand Geoffrey Farrow said, “How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8…. I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them… I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights, but of their human dignity as well.”
I personally am opposed to Proposition 8. My wife and I both have close gay and lesbian friends, and we know two lesbian couples who have married and have had no harm to the people around them. Since conservative Christians are targeting their fellow churchgoers to support Proposition 8, it would do well for liberal Christians to do the same. In my time at an evangelical church, I found two types of people who were against homosexuality: one group thought homosexuality was a sin and hated gays and lesbians; and the other group thought homosexuality was a sin but had close family members or friends who were gay and lesbian and sincerely struggled with loving their gay friends and family while holding on to their belief. Trying to talk to the first group is a waste of time, but I think it’s possible to talk to the second group. The people in the second group do not see gays and lesbians as two dimensional stereotypes: they are their brothers, sisters, relatives, close friends. Though it may be futile to try to convince them that homosexuality is not a sin, I think it’s possible to convince them that even if they believe homosexuality is a sin, homophobia is an even worse sin. Homophobia is like racism and sexism in that they have the effect of dehumanizing and marginalizing a group of people, making them vulnerable to a whole range of cruel treatment. Jesus went out of his way to reach out to marginalized people, to make people see the humanity in prostitutes, demon possessed people, taxcollectors and outcasts. Here is the full context of a passage in Romans that is often used to justify the idea that homosexuality is a sin:
“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, Godhaters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towar parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die- yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”
The whole point of the first part of Paul’s letter to the Romans is that everyone falls short of the righteousness of God, whether it be the pious Jew or the licentious Gentile. Paul seems to be saying that we all have our faults, we’re all guilty of some sin. In today’s terms, it doesn’t matter if a person is a devoted churchgoer or a gay or lesbian; we’re no better or no worse than anyone else in God’s eyes. We’re all just people.
Most of the people who advocate Proposition 8 are probably nice people, conscientious citizens, and loving family people. But I’m against them on this issue because this particular idea does harm to a specific group of people. I believe that the argument used by African Americans and women in their fight for equal rights applies also to the gay community: if a certain group of people are denied certain rights due to prejudice or unjust reasons, then it has bad effects all of us as a community.