Yesterday, Tony Campolo published an article on Red Letter Christians about the possibility of compromise on the issue of gay marriage. In it, he raises the question of whether the church should be involved the legal aspects of marriage, that perhaps those aspects should be covered by a civil union handled by the government and that the church should only become involved if the couple wants their union blessed by the church. These civil unions would be open to anyone, gay or straight. If that were the case, he says, churches and clergy would no longer be called on to be agents of the state; a position that makes many of them extremely uncomfortable, as it conflicts with their theology and understanding about the role of religion in this country. Also, churches would be free to make their own determination about these unions without the added stress of potentially denying someone their legal rights. All in all, a very well thought out presentation and one that makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it will probably fall on deaf ears.
For some reason, the very idea of compromise has become anathema in this country. For all too many people, compromise equals losing the argument and we cannot lose the argument. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. My first reaction on reading this was “NO! I’m not giving up. I will fight for full inclusion until my last breath!” I’m sure someone on the opposite side of the issue would have an equal and opposite reaction. But, I stepped back, thought and prayed about it and, eventually, saw the reasonableness of the idea. What tipped me over the edge was this blog entry from Tony Jones, an adamant supporter of the LGBT community, which echoes much of Tony Campolo’s piece. When I did, I realized that my pride was hurting people who might benefit from such a compromise. That’s a major consderation on an issue as contentious as this one. I’ve made no secret where I stand on this issue. I firmly believe that LGBT people are as God made them and to deny them the right to marry the person they love is no different from denying interracial marriage; it’s a civil rights issue and, therefore, a social justice issue also. Of course, not everyone sees it that way. Most evangelicals feel that homosexuality and the alphabet soup that goes along with it (LGBTQ and whatever next letter gets thrown in there) are a choice these people make; that there is only one proper orientation and that’s straight, anything else is a sin. We can argue about the rights and wrongs of either side till the cows come home, but that doesn’t address the issue. .
As it stands right now, no matter who wins, someone’s rights are going to be trampled. If those of us who believe in full inclusion prevail and gay marriage becomes legal in this country (which I think will happen eventually), then the system will force churches and pastors to perform ceremonies and sacraments that may violate their beliefs. If the evangelicals are able to keep things as they are, a lot of people are going to continue to live as second-class citizens. Basically, it’s great big shit sandwich. However, as I mentioned above, I believe that the LGBT community won’t always be a seperate one; eventually, they’ll be accepted as no different than anyone else. Until that happens, civil unions might just keep us from having to take a bite.