I’ve never understood the opposition to gay marriage. But I certainly understand why even my most liberal friends were concerned that coming out in favor of gay marriage could cost President Obama this election. After all, North Carolina just one day earlier became the 30th state to adopt a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage as only between a man and woman.
Yet even though these “traditional marriage” amendments continue to pass and even though gay marriage is prohibited in 38 states, polls show that a little over half the population now agrees that gay unions should be legal -- and that number is swelling by the minute. Could Obama’s statement open the floodgates and inspire others to help move the country “forward” on this most basic of civil rights? Or will other political and religious leaders continue to deny their own “evolution” on the issue?
How many pastors and politicians are really against gay marriage and how many believe they have to say they are for fear of losing contributions, votes or congregants? A number of religious leaders of various faiths have told me privately that they have no problem with gay marriage, in fact they see it as fundamental justice, but that they would lose their congregations if they said so publicly.
The irony of course is that Jesus Christ never mentioned homosexuality and I can find nothing in the Bible about gay marriage. Well, here’s their opening to take a stand. Times change. So do cultures, morals and even religious interpretations of events.
When Atty. Gen. Nicholas Katzenbach (who died this week at age 90) made his famous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” against Gov. George Wallace, who was trying to prevent two black students from enrolling at Alabama in 1963, Wallace criticized the “central government” for “suppression of rights.” Katzenbach shot back, “from the outset governor, all of us have known that the final chapter of this history will be the admission of these students.”
It’s hard not to make a comparison, because from the outset we have all known that the final chapter of gay rights and gay marriage will be their legalization. History is on the side of gay rights and the religious right is gasping its last breath as it goes down fighting a losing battle.
Those last gasps were evident as North Carolina voted on Tuesday. Those supporting the amendment were quoted in the Huffington Post as citing religion as their reason. “The whole point is simply that you don’t rewrite the nature of God’s design based on the demands of a group of adults,” one said. Added another: “I think it’s important that, in the State of North Carolina, laws are compatible with nature but, more importantly, with the laws of God.”
The saddest part of the North Carolina story is that one of the reasons the amendment passed was a series of newspaper ads from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. In the ad, Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “At 93, I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage. The Bible is clear – God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment Tuesday.”
There are some close to Graham who believe that this was the work of his son, Franklin, who influences his father as president and CEO of the BGEA. They say that Billy Graham, as he has aged, has become much more tolerant, and inclusive, much less judgmental.
After Obama made his remarks, Franklin Graham was anything but tolerant: “The definition of marriage is 8,000 years old and was defined, not by man but by God himself.” He said that by changing his position, Obama “has shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage.”
In June of 2005, Billy Graham gave an interview to Larry King in which he stated his view that marriage was between a man and a woman. When King asked him, “You don’t think gay people are lesser, though?” Graham replied, “Oh no. They are created in the image of God, and God loves them. Christ died for them, and he can forgive them of whatever… We make so much of homosexuality, but it’s just one of many sins. There is pride, lust, greed, all of those things….
King asked if Graham thought homosexuality was a choice. “Well,” replied Graham, “that’s a big debate.” Said King: “If it’s not a choice, it can’t be a sin, right?” And Graham answered, “Well, maybe. God will make that judgment, not me. I’m not decided who’s a sinner and who is not.”
This doesn’t sound like the man quoted in those ads.
Make no mistake, this is a religious issue more than a political or cultural one. Obama was careful to answer the criticism of religious conservatives. “When we think about our faith, “ he said, “the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
This is a particularly difficult political issue for Obama because many Americans do not believe he is a Christian. He had to take a moral stance, but had to defend his position on both moral and religious levels. He should be congratulated for his courage for standing up for civil rights and not berated by pro-gay rights activists who say he has not gone far enough.
“For him, there are competing moral values, “ the Rev. Joel Hunter, a Florida evangelical who is one of Obama’s spiritual advisers told my colleagues at The Washington Post. “One is the traditional view of marriage as seen in scripture and the other is fairness and equality.”
Hunter said that he believe the announcement would cause Obama “as much hurt as it will help” in terms of politics. “There will be many groups who feel like it is an attack on the foundations of their faith.”
Could that swing the election for Mitt Romney, who still opposes gay marriage and even civil unions? Perhaps. He said after Obama’s interview that he hopes the issue, “as tender and sensitive as the marriage issue is, is not a source of fundraising for either of us.” That couldn’t be more naïve, but also indicates that Romney is somewhat nervous about his own stance. The evidence of that is that Romney has come out in favor of gay couples adopting. This is baffling. How could he be in favor of gay couples adopting children to raise them in a gay household where the parents are not allowed to be married? It makes no sense politically, culturally or religiously.
Gay marriage will soon be an acceptable part of our culture. Those who stood in “the schoolhouse door” will feel nothing but shame and remorse. They will say they don’t remember. But when they are confronted with past views they will apologize. And they will have to live with their positions for the rest of their lives.
Sally Quinn | May 11, 2012 7:51 PM