I can empathize with people who say that they are opposed to gay marriage, but my empathy turns to incredulousness when I hear some of the reasoning that people put forth in defending their opposition.

The latest example is Sue Everhart, the Georgia Republican Party chairwoman, who told the Marietta Daily Journal that legalizing gay marriage would prompt straight people to pretend they are gay simply to get federal benefits.

"Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you're gay, and y'all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it's unreal," she told the Journal.

The only thing unreal here is Everhart's own grasp of reality. If what she says was even a remote possibility, wouldn't there be tons of people taking part in fake heterosexual marriages now just so they could get the benefits? It isn't even tied to sexual orientation. Any man and woman, regardless of sexual orientation, can get married now just to get these government benefits. There is absolutely no logic behind her absurd statement.

Another bizarre statement that I heard often when Maryland was considering its same-sex marriage law was that if we make gay marriage legal more people will "become gay." The argument is used by those who still hold to the antiquated theory that your sexual orientation is something you choose.

Oddly, no one holding this viewpoint can pinpoint when it was that they made that personal choice to be heterosexual, yet apparently if you are homosexual it is something that you choose.

Beyond that, even if your sexual orientation was a choice, it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to choose that path given the discrimination, hatred and outright ignorance that some people display toward homosexuals.

Opponents also say that allowing gay couples to wed would destroy the institution of marriage. I'm sorry, but the institution of marriage is crumbling just fine on its own. How you can look at something that ends more than half the time in failure as something to be held up and revered is beyond my comprehension. And while those who say that it is better for children growing up in homes with a father and a mother parental figure have a point, I challenge them to come up with any long-term comprehensive studies that show the gender of those parents is a major factor. In reality, children with two parents are going to have a better time than those with one parent present, because there is presumably more love and attention to give, just as children who grow up with more extended family members around them would benefit from those additional bonds.

The biggest objections, and by far the most understandable ones, come rooted in religion.

Some religions do not accept gay marriage. That is fine. We live in a free country where everyone should be able to practice whatever religious beliefs they want.

Those people tied to their own personal religious beliefs about gay marriage, however, should extend the same courtesy to others to practice whatever religion they choose, or to practice no religion if that is what they want.

People who attempt to quote the Bible, however, are more than a little annoying because of their selective interpretation of that text. While it is true that the Bible in many places condemns homosexual lifestyles, in other places it says equally antiquated things, like in Exodus where it notes you should sell your daughter into slavery. You also can't believe in personal property rights, because the Bible says that you should give away all your possessions, and there are many passages that relate to men having multiple wives. So if you are going to quote the Bible in your opposition to gay marriage, I would also expect you to be selling your daughter into slavery, giving away all your possessions or following other controversial chapters and verses in an equally literal manner. To do otherwise would be hypocritical.

Ultimately it boils down to whether you support creating different classes of citizens which are treated differently based solely on your own personal opinions or beliefs, or whether you believe in an America where everyone has equal rights. We don't all have to agree on all the same things, but we should at least respect other people's right to live their lives as they want, just as we expect others to let us live our lives the way we want.

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