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Gay Marriage: A Classic Head and Heart Conundrum | Andrew J. Skerritt

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Gay Marriage: A Classic Head and Heart Conundrum | Andrew J. Skerritt

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Gay Marriage: A Classic Head and Heart Conundrum
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 — Andrew J. Skerritt

I remember exactly what I was doing when I saw the news last week: President Obama endorses gay marriage in an interview with ABC. 

My heart dropped. I was still processing the news from North Carolina, where the innate conservatism of Southerners made it obvious that a gay-marriage ban would become part of that state’s constitution. One diligent scribe reminded us that an earlier amendment to the Tar Heel state constitution banned interracial marriage.

So when I heard the news, I thought, no, not now. No matter what the poll numbers say, the president’s decision to endorse gay marriage is one more hurdle to his re-election. Whenever given the choice, Americans are more likely to vote for stuff they are against than what they’re for.

I immediately thought of my Sunday school class. The president’s name comes up reverentially. Are folks still going to pray for him? Accepting gay marriage is a bridge too far for some people I know. It doesn’t make them bad people.  However, given everything that’s at stake, how many people will cast a vote because of an issue that does not affect them materially? 

But elections matter. I’m not willing to roll the dice on my country’s future just because I object to what two consenting adults do in their bedroom.

Gay marriage doesn’t undermine the institution of marriage. It affirms it. Unfortunately, philandering, premarital sex and children out of wedlock do more to weaken marriage than anything two lesbians can conjure. Where’s the outrage? But I’m trying to make sense when this issue goes far deeper. It’s visceral.

I was bemused when I heard about the president’s “evolution” on gay marriage. I kind of understood where he was going. His endorsement of gay marriage will take care of those “he’s a Muslim” accusations for good. Hey, maybe as Newsweek says, he’s our first gay president.

Being exposed to gays and lesbians is an education in accepting people for who and what they are. But some people read tolerance and compromise as the seeds of America’s destruction. I don’t subscribe to that apocalyptic vision of our demise. I’m still hopeful.

Are we a theocracy or a secular democracy? At some point we will have to draw the line. As people of faith we can’t have it both ways.  We are going have to agree on a universally acceptable set of values we can all live with, if not support. We know what happened the last time folks decided that they’d rather come to blows than agree.

The subject of gay marriage is a classic head and heart conundrum. Intellectually, I cannot muster the strength or indignation to object to two people in a committed relationship wanting to formalize that union. I believe in marriage. I’ve been practicing it for 25 years.  The problem occurs when intellect runs headlong into my faith. Like most people, I’m still trying to figure it out.  I’m not going to begin quoting Bible verses. I can find the appropriate verses to justify any position.

Then there is the realism of daily living; we see colleagues, sisters and brothers pursuing self-destructive lives, rebelling because they can’t get society’s approval. From where we stand, we see them as cursed with loving someone of the wrong gender. The president suggested it may be time for a re-evaluation.

As someone said, we elected Obama as our president, not our pastor. He’s asking us to reconsider our point of view, not abandon our faith. Unfortunately, some people can’t do one without doing the other.

Andrew J. Skerritt is an assistant professor of journalism at Florida A&M University and the author of Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial and the AIDS Epidemic in the South. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter at andrewjskerrit

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