I’m a Washington resident, a registered voter, and I’m voting for Referendum 74 to extend the civil right of marriage to all American citizens, gay, straight, or whatever.
Why, you ask?
I am a Christian. I was raised in the United Methodist Church of Dixon, CA—a small-town church that instilled in me a sense of fellowship, compassion, and responsibility to advocate for justice and goodness in our world.
And lest that seem like just a technical detail, let me clarify.
I was heavily involved in the church as a boy and a young man. I sang in the choir and played my saxophone in the church band. I helped supervise and even teach Sunday School and Vacation Bible School, a week every summer in which children attend classes/activities at the church. I served on the Paster/Parish Relations committee, which handles the administrative details of running the church and the relationship between the church body and our priest. I took a key role as a liaison between my Boy Scout troop and the church, facilitating use of the church for their home base meetings as well as their important ceremonies (such as Eagle Scout investitures). I even delivered guest sermons at my church. I did it all, from the artistic to the boring and administrative.
Growing up Christian
Growing up in the church, I developed a firm belief in wisdom, justice, and love. From an early age, I saw women as being an equal part of Christianity as men: we had a female pastor, Cathy Morris, who was notably liberal in her views and sermons, emphasizing love and acceptance. It perplexed me to visit my friend’s Catholic church, where not only were women not allowed to be priests, but indeed they had set “expectations” as regards their behavior in marriage. I, on the other hand, was much more equitable in my thinking as regarded gender roles—this, I think, was instrumental to my eventual anti-sexist stance. I had several very close Mormon friends in high school—I knew little about their actual faith (it seemed not unlike mine), but they were morally upstanding people, so I was naturally drawn to them.
Even so, I did not escape some of the negatives. Being in a church with mostly white/middle class attendants, I was certainly exposed to some tunnel vision as regards homogenized ethnicity. I had little chance to learn about anyone different from myself. I conceived certain unhelpful notions of “godly” behavior: for instance, that sex, while not necessarily evil, was the province of married couples only, and those who indulged outside of marriage were sinners. I learned nothing formal in the church about homosexuality—I never even heard of the concept before I got to high school, really. And at that point, gay people existed to me as a few particularly flamboyant people in the class that weren’t really my friends (though I didn’t dislike them or cross them, as that wouldn’t be very Christian of me). I wasn’t even sure lesbians existed outside of pornography.
By that point I was set in my views about the proper alignment of the human body and gender—though men and women were equal, as I’d learned before, they were properly aligned: one man, one woman. Why would anyone want anything different? It made sense to me that homosexuality was a choice, that some people had just decided they wanted to sleep with people of their own gender. It never occurred to me such people might want to get married, which I defined as a bond between a man and a woman. Because that’s the only concept of “married” I had ever experienced.
My faith evolved in college. I spent the first two years of my college career attending the United Methodist Church in Salem, OR, every Sunday. The pastor of this congregation was less liberal than Cathy. I really didn’t like his emphasis on “sin” and “guilt,” as in painting all human beings as loathsome sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. If God had sent Jesus to redeem all of humankind—and it had been so important that Jesus had to die to do so—then wasn’t preaching that humans were tainted with sin sort of saying God had made a pretty big miscalculation? What they were saying was that God was stupid or, barring that, just incapable of getting the job done. Either way, that philosophy didn’t sit well with me. But while I didn’t agree with all of the things preached from the podium and wasn’t particularly active in the church community (I didn’t feel particularly welcomed), I still went to church and got involved in the youth group as a counselor and teacher. I actually sort of reveled in my “heretical” views about universal love and acceptance. I enjoyed their song-based youth meetings, which appealed equally to local troubled youth and those secure in their faith.
Three things about college fundamentally changed my views about faith in general, and organized religion in particular: Religious philosophy courses, falling in love, and meeting new people.
I have a philosophy minor, having specialized in religious philosophy. The problem of evil resonated particularly powerfully with me, as it has continued to do until today. That is, “if God has the power to eradicate evil (because he’s all-powerful), and God has the will to eradicate evil (because he’s all-loving), why then does evil exist?” You have to compromise on one of those statements, and I wasn’t willing to do that—to me, a deity that is worthy of worship is one that is all-powerful and morally perfect. If God doesn’t love us—or loves some people and not others—then that being isn’t worthy of worship. If God is indeed capable, let alone gleeful, about throwing some people into everlasting suffering in Hell, then I’m really not interested in supporting what would then be an evil entity.
I met an amazing woman—the love of my life, Shelley. I won’t define her views and philosophies (I’m still discovering the wonder that is her), but I will say that she was not raised in any sort of religious tradition. Her perceptions were largely philosophically driven, but she had the strongest moral core of anyone I’d ever seen—stronger than anything I’d ever seen derived from faith. Doing harm was not to be tolerated, and one should strive to end intolerance, hate, and exploitation. In seeing that she derived such strong moral drives from no source other than simple human nature–let alone a God–it suddenly dawned on me that one did not need God or faith to be a moral person. It occurred to me that relying on God—and specifically on the promise of reward for being a good person or punishment for being a bad one—is a pretty cynical view of morality.
Perhaps most important of all my college experiences, I met people of various backgrounds, which varied from my own in terms of ethnicity, politics, or gender. For the first time, I met actual gay people who weren’t closeted or outspoken—they were just people who had different sexual impulses than I did. I won’t pretend it wasn’t scary—it was, since I’d had no experience with “the gay” before. I made a couple of gay friends, though I wouldn’t call us particularly close. Some guys experiment in college, but I never did—I spent a lot of time with gay men but never had any attraction to one of them. Embarrassingly, I also learned that “lesbians” were a real thing, but that made sense to me. After all, if I found things about women beautiful, why wouldn’t women?
My faith, as I understood it, accepted all these people, regardless of their drives, impulses, and desires. But the church I went to didn’t seem to identify with that goal. The pastor didn’t preach hate or intolerance, but he kept his silence on pressing issues, including when marriage became temporarily legal for all couples (straight or not) in Oregon or California. I might be mischaracterizing his position—it’s been a long time, and I wasn’t as engaged in that church as my home church. (I have nothing but respect for the UMC of Salem and would not want any of my statements to be taken otherwise.)
College cemented my politics. I had identified as a moderate Republican in high school, but the election of George W. Bush in 2000 drove me from the party in disgust. (How could thinking people vote for such an obvious wastrel?) Now an independent, I had a comfortable vantage on all sides of the political spectrum, and found myself mostly drawn to liberal political views. The conservatives I knew tended to be arrogant, dismissive, and selfish, which was something that I found extremely difficult to reconcile with my faith. Particularly upsetting to me were the several conservative Christian groups on campus, whose intimidation and exploitation tactics wreaked havoc on some more impressionable friends of mine. They used faith to justify prejudice and looking down on people different from them.
This was also the first time I saw people carrying “God Hates Fags” signs.
I had such a powerfully negative reaction to that. My god doesn’t hate anyone. My god loves everyone: male or female, gay or straight, white or not. I don’t know about your god, but I do know this: I want nothing to do with him. (And you should think long and hard about whether a god who “hates” anyone is worthy of worship.)
I haven’t found a church since college, because at this point I no longer felt the need for one. A lot of the people I choose to socialize these days with are not church people, seeing Sundays as a good day for an all-day gaming session or having bad experiences with organized religion, on account of being gay or not Christian, etc. I don’t often think of myself as a Christian—it’s not a fundamental part of my identity—but when I consider my philosophies and views of the universe, I find that I haven’t moved on from my faith. Left the church, yes, but I’m still a follower of the ways and teachings of Christ. I still believe in doing good works, and I still feel furious when bigots manipulate scripture to justify their hatred of minorities, GLBT people, or anything that is “the other.”
This is what drove me from the church: seeing what people who would call themselves my brothers and sisters do in the name of scripture. This is what is the greatest threat to the church—not the gays, or their marriages, or any politician advancing any agenda. It’s the fact that the church will not step up and purge itself of the vile, anti-Christian elements that are telling the rest of the world that not only do they not follow Jesus, but maybe they voted for the other guy. (The one with horns.)
How does a Christian get along with Gay People?
I’m living testament that “exposure to the gay” is not a problem in any way. I have lots of gay friends and have been running an all-gay (except me, obviously) D&D game for two years now. Our gaming sessions are filled with ridiculous double entendre (mostly propagated by me), witty/crude sexual humor (I certainly don’t discourage this), and all kinds of romantic subplots with male or female PCs or NPCs (created and run by me, the DM) in all sorts of combinations. And it’s really fun.
We hang out socially, often in large groups where I’m the only straight guy there. One of my players married his long-time boyfriend—I went to their wedding, which was officiated by a drag queen. Overall, I’ve had plenty of time to expose myself to “the gay,” as though somehow the radiation might damage my heterosexuality, with no effect. I enjoy hanging out with these guys, but have no desire to have sex with any of them.
I read Savage Love religiously. I stringently post about LGBT rights. I marched in the Pride Parade this year in a gray and pink gay gamer shirt.
Has any of it made me gay? Not remotely.
Being Gay is not a Choice
As I have learned, being gay is not a choice, no more than I had to “choose” to be straight or could “choose” to be gay for an afternoon. Anyone who believes otherwise has clearly never met or seriously talked to a gay person (at least one undamaged by so-called “ex-gay therapy”). And if you think otherwise, prove it—“choose to be gay” for a day, go pick up a guy from a bar, and … Well, do something sexual. If you’re concerned about that ambiguous line in Leviticus about not being allowed to “lie with a man as with a woman,” no worries—just do something you can’t do with a woman. (I suspect most of the women you sleep with don’t have certain parts that men do.)
But even if being gay WAS a choice, what does that have to do with having the right to marry the person you love? Absolutely nothing. People don’t give up their rights because they don’t have the same desires that you do. We need to stop legislating otherwise.
Why do I support Marriage equality?
Why should gays be able to get married? Because it’s a right of passage and a gesture of commitment that all people have the right to earn. LGBT people have every right to whatever straight people do, and our government—which was founded in liberty and enriched in the blood of patriots—should not be in the business of denying them that right.
I personally believe the government should not be in the marriage business at all. As far as the government is concerned, there should be a single status for tax reasons, inheritance, visitation, custody, power of attorney, divorce mediation, and other legal protections: CIVIL UNION, which you either have or you don’t. The criteria for this is that you are both consenting adults with legal rights (so no pets, children, inanimate objects, etc), who can sign a form saying that you are tied together under the law.
Maybe you’re a married man and a woman, an unmarried man and woman, or a married man and a man, or a married woman and a woman, a platonic couple of varying gender who work together but spend time together only occasionally or not at all, or two close friends who’ve been roommates forever and won’t break up the bromance, or a dutiful son taking care of his disabled grandmother with only familial love between them. The government should not be snooping into your bedroom and judging your relationship. The only consideration is that you are living your lives together, working together, and you are the closest person the other has, and vice versa. You are the person your partner relies upon in medical and financial emergencies.
“Marriage” is a totally different thing that is between you, your partner, and whatever authority you deem appropriate. It might be a priest of some kind, a parent, a dear friend, a celebrity, or a Jedi. If you get married in a church with thousands of attendees or in your grandma’s garden, it’s your business. The point is that the ritual is conducted, words are exchanged, and everyone can acknowledge your vows to have and to hold, for as much time as is given to you. Getting a CIVIL UNION certificate is *probably* but not necessarily part of your marriage. We are not here to judge you.
No one is forced to marry anyone against their will (not that such a thing would ever happen anyway), and everyone is equally protected under the law. Men and women can still get married, and doesn’t that make it MORE significant, that it’s not about taxes and legal benefits? Religious organizations are totally free to make it a policy not to marry whoever they want to discriminate against.
Also, this is America, which is a secular state based on laws and equality for all. I will never vote against civil rights for a minority group like homosexuals, no more than I would vote for stripping the vote from women or downgrading people with dark skin to be 3/5ths of people. That is not American. It is not our way.
Marriage Equality is not a threat to Straight Marriage
Ultimately, it comes down to “why do you care?” about gay people getting married. If you don’t like gay marriage, great, don’t get one. Either you’re gay and want to get married, or it doesn’t affect you.
By way of analogy, I’m a fantasy writer, and there are books out there that I really don’t like—things that actually offend me as a writer. I don’t read them. But do you see me calling for them to be banned? Nope.
Live and let live is my philosophy. That’s Jesus’s philosophy. And that should be the Christian philosophy.
No, it doesn’t “threaten” your heterosexual marriage—it doesn’t make it any less meaningful or significant. The urge to belong to an exclusive club is a very human one, but the thing is, you DO belong to an exclusive club: YOUR MARRIAGE. Some guy isn’t going to steal your husband by virtue of getting married, nor is a woman going to prey on your wife because she got married to a girlfriend last week.
The only threat to straight marriage is gays NOT being able to marry. Because like it or not, it weakens your marriage by tainting it with injustice. Like it or not, by being married, you forcibly belong to an exclusive group that lords itself over a smaller minority that can’t join.
This is not me saying not to get married. Shelley and I were together for six years before we finally got married, but we did, and we’re married today, four years later. And I’m not at all resentful or uncomfortable or anything about it. What I am is discontent that other people, by virtue of a genetic variance, don’t get to experience the wonderful thing that Shelley and I have together. They don’t get the acknowledgement that we straight people take for granted. They don’t get to take that life step, and they don’t get to be with the people they love as they’re dying in a hospital. I would be devastated if Shelley were dying and I couldn’t get in to see her because of what happened to be in my pants.
Support Marriage Equality–Vote YES to APPROVE Referendum 74.
If you call yourself Christian, or even if you don’t and you find your morality through another source, don’t let this happen to another person. Don’t be a villain. Be a hero to those weaker than yourself.
Vote Yes on Referendum 74. Support Marriage equality because it’s the right thing to do. And because it’s time.
Erik Scott de Bie
I understand if our opinions differ. And if we’re friends or you have any respect for me, at least show me the respect of allowing me to talk to you about it. Let’s have a conversation.
Email me at erikscottdebie AT yahoo DOT com, or find me on Facebook ( /erikscottdebie ).