It was an interesting process here in N.C. — the run up to the vote last Tuesday on the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. People were picking the soapbox most suited to their bias, climbing up and having their holler. Folks who usually want to keep the "guv'ment" far away, were welcoming lawyers into the most private personal decision a couple can make and urging support of the ban. Former President Clinton called me on the phone to ask me to go and protect single parents by voting against the ban because gay marriage helped — ah, single women. I tried to ask him about that, but he just kept repeating himself. Everyone had their own drum to beat. And through it all I couldn't get the old March 1, 2004, New Yorker cartoon by Michael Shaw out of my mind: A rather stodgy couple is sitting in their living room. The woman is sitting off to the side and behind the man who is berating the television: "Gays and lesbians getting married — haven't they suffered enough?"
So, where do I come down? Well, as I've said before, I try to focus my life through the three guidelines of "Foster Harmony, Enable Beauty, and Oppose Harm." Being a media professor I shudder to think of the hit "Enable Beauty," would take if we passed an amendment that would ban the artistic contributions of gays and lesbians. But the amendment wasn't aimed at the cool gays and lesbians we flock to watch on TV, the big screen, the theater, museums and the like. No, it was aimed at the ordinary folks who work, shop and live right alongside us straight people.
And that is where "Foster Harmony" and "Oppose Harm" can shed some light. As I understand it, all that gay and lesbian couples are asking for is the right to get married. No storming of the cathedral, barricades at the bimah, nothing like that, just a marriage at a place, civil or sacred, where they would be welcomed. I'm having difficulty seeing the discord in that. They are just asking for the same chance as any other couple to build a life together. And no marriage is a sure thing. A quick glance at divorce and spousal abuse statistics reveals that being straight is sure no guarantee that a marriage will work. What's wrong with acknowledging that gays share a fundamental human right to give marriage a try along with the rest of us? Seems the harmonious thing to do, not?
Oh, that's right. God says its wrong. At least that's what the TV down was here was saying. Which is what brings me to "Oppose Harm." I have a real problem with people assuming that we all share a holy book, or the same holy book, or if we do, that we read it the same way. Somehow whenever "Group A" decides that they know what God thinks is best for "Group B," and moves to enforce that "truth" via the rule of law, the folks in "Group B" end up — oh, in the back of the bus, on the wrong side of town, or dead. Because, somehow, God thought it was right. I doubt that very seriously. But it is incredible how many people still think they know the inner workings of how the divine wants us to run our lives. More importantly, how God wants you to live your life. I see no harmony, only harm in that kind of theological imperialism and I am morally obligated to "Oppose Harm."
So how does one answer to the question posed in the cartoon — "Gays and lesbians getting married — haven't they suffered enough?" Unlike most of the citizens of the Old North State, for me the answer is "Nope, they haven't. Come on in. The water's fine."