Two people meet, fall in love, decide to get married, decide to have children together: what could be more humanly understandable?
Christians who oppose same-sex marriage or same-sex parents or who promote anti-gay discrimination in other ways, usually come across as inhuman, because they really appear not to understand what’s so very human.
“Lesbians and gays have equal rights – they can just get married to a person of the opposite sex, just like straight people do”
What this says, unpacked, is that your Christian advocate against same-sex marriage really believes that marriage isn’t anything to do with making a lifelong committment to the one person in the world whom you have chosen to love, honour, cherish and live with to the end of both your days – marriage is just a legal emotionless contract where anyone will do so long as they’re the right gender. This isn’t just unChristian – it’s inhuman. It’s sociopathic. The notion that people are interchangable – just pieces in a game where what matters is not the individual but the gender – is something completely off from normal humanity.
The usual argument brought forward to support opposition to same-sex marriage is that a same-sex couple “can’t have children”, which actually makes it even worse: marriage has now become a means merely of producing babies which are biologically the offspring of husband and wife, and any couple who aren’t biologically capable of producing babies together ought not to be allowed to get married. In this scenario, marriage has nothing to do with parenting children together, nothing to do with children growing up sheltered and protected by a loving and committed relationship – it’s purely and solely about biological fertility.
A same-sex couple can of course have children: either by AID or by surrogacy, or by adoption or fostering, or step-children from a previous marriage. These are ways in which mixed-sex couples have children too. But legally, while there are countries in which a spouse can divorce their wife or husband for being infertile, in practice it is only these anti-gay Christians who advocate that a couple ought to separate and find other partners if they can’t have children together and still wan them.
Arguments against same-sex marriage have, to my knowledge, included strong statements that a married couple ought not to expect love or passion – that marriage isn’t anything to do with the joy that two people may take in each other. This is an argument against the idea that a same-sex couple are justified in wanting to commit their lives to each other because they love each other. When it’s argued simply and directly as that it’s fairly plain bigotry – if a lesbian or gay person wants to be married and can’t fall in love with a person of the opposite sex, well, they should just marry without love. But when – as these advocates often try to do – it’s argued as if it were a general principle, that marriage isn’t about love, passion, or joy, it’s a legal protection for engendering children – this sounds horribly as if these people have themselves no other experience of marriage. They don’t argue for love in marriage because they don’t themselves feel love for their partner, nor can they imagine that other people do.
Are these people bigots, or sociopaths? Does it matter? Are they ill from the inability to love or even to imagine love, or are they just sick haters who cannot bear the idea of two men or two women who do love each other taking marriage vows to love, to honour, and to cherish each other lifelong?
The problem expands horrifyingly when these people talk about children – not merely when they try to come up with pseudo-scientific ideas about how two men or two women can’t parent children “properly” (no study or research backs this idea, it comes directly from the Institute of It Stands To Reason, which is based at the University of What Everyone Knows) – but when they try to argue that same-sex couples ought not to have children together.
Same-sex couples can be prevented from adopting or fostering children together by passing legislation. (What this means for children in need of adoptive parents is simply that a gay man or a lesbian will adopt a child as if they were a single parent, and the child won’t be allowed the security of a legal relationship with their other dad or other mom.) Nothing but a strongly fascist state can prevent a lesbian from using a sperm donation to conceive, if she wants to: the only legislative options there are to prevent the child conceived from having the security of two legal parents.
All the legislation against same-sex parents being able to adopt or foster as a couple, or having their joint parenthood of a child conceived by donor acknowledged, is primarily damaging to the children of the couple. Though I’ve often asked the question, no anti-gay Christian has ever explained how they justify attacking the children of same-sex couples merely so that they can proclaim their loathing of same-sex relationships. That is, they have responded with something like “I want to protect children”, and then the argument usually circles round to some justification about how the children of same-sex couples shouldn’t exist anyway and their parents are selfish for wanting to have them, and these paired arguments – these children shouldn’t exist, and their parents are bad people, appears to justify the case for attacking the children in the minds of these anti-gay Christians.
When this argument gets expanded out – as recently, when an anti-gay Christian argued that people are just selfish if they have children just because they want children, any parent who chooses to have children because having children will bring them happiness – this sounds even more appalling for these people’s children.
You’d have to be a bit starry-eyed to believe that children are invariably a source of happiness. And I know from bitter personal experience, that the lesbian or gay child of a homophobic parent is in for a world of pain from their parent, as their parent is in for a world of self-created pain. But the pain is because of love. I know from my own personal experience: I hurt my homophobic parent enormously by being a lesbian. What I came to understand after many years was that the pain was not inflicted by me: I was not in any real sense the cause of it, nor was my coming out the cause of it. The pain suffered by my homophobic parent was caused by the awful conflict between the sure knowledge that a homosexual is an evil and depraved person whom no good person ought to associate with, and the equally sure knowledge that this lesbian daughter is a beloved source of joy. What can it be like for a homophobic parent who cannot stop loving their child, and yet cannot let go of their knowledge that being homosexual is something deeply wrong? My parent’s solution was (a) to blame anyone but me for “corrupting” me, (b) to hope I’ll grow out of it (c) to be coldly and rejectingly polite to any partners (the latter, I believe, isn’t a conscious strategy, just an unhelpful kneejerk reaction). This isn’t much of a solution, but such as it is… it’s based on love, on joy. Because if I wasn’t loved so much, I would have been absolutely cut off long ago. And I never was.
But that is human too: to love and to take joy in your children – even when they’re a source of so much pain. This may be “selfish” – in the sense that it’s all about your feelings as parent – but you can’t love someone else without being a self who loves. You can’t take joy in your children – in anyone – unless you are a self who feels joy. A sociopath may not be able to see what’s good in feeling that joy, in feeling that love – a bigot may not be able to understand how a lesbian or gay person can feel that love for their children, or – in a worse-case scenario – a bigoted parent may not be able to love their lesbian or gay child any more.
Are these people sociopaths, to so dismiss the humanity of parents who just simply want children, parents who are made happy by their children? Or bigots, who think anything attack is justified so long as it makes clear to lesbians and gays and their children that Christians believe them to be inferior and unworthy?
Does it matter? I do have a homophobic parent, but one neither bigot nor sociopath. Capable of comprehending, thanks to me – I don’t know if thanks are ever spoken, but by damn I deserve them! – thanks to me coming out, 25 years ago, capable now of recognising the humanity of lesbian and gay people who would once have got a knee-jerk rejection. There’s been a world of pain in that, but the pain was caused by the love which Renaissance Guy has repeatedly dismissed as “selfish”. Because he is sociopathic and cannot feel it and cannot understand it? Or because he is a bigot who cannot conceive that lesbians and gays are human beings like himself?