I wrote yesterday about the tensions that evangelicals are facing between their moral view of homosexuality (most still think their faith does not allow it) and their political view of gay marriage (while most still oppose it, younger evangelicals oppose it in fewer numbers).
But there is another major tension in this debate, facing another group: the growing number of Americans who favor gay marriage. The question for them is how to treat those who disagree with them.
Piers Morgan's CNN segment on Tuesday night was a vivid illustration of this tension. Morgan invited Ryan T. Anderson, a 31-year-old fellow from The Heritage Foundation, on his program to debate the issue. But Morgan did not have Anderson to sit at a table with him and Suze Orman, the 61-year-old financial guru, who is gay. Instead, Anderson was placed about 15 feet away from Morgan and Orman, among the audience, and had to debate from a distance.
The message, in both the language used by Morgan and Orman, and the physical placement of Anderson on the set, was clear: they thought him morally inferior. Evangelical leader Tim Keller talks about this dynamic -- opponents of gay marriage being treated akin to bigoted groups such as white supremacists -- in yesterday's piece.
Many in America would feel the same way about Anderson as Morgan and Orman, but the largely undiscussed aspect of the current gay marriage moment is that there is a significant number of Americans who continue to disagree with gay marriage or simply with condoning homosexuality within their faith community, and their views are more deeply held than many likely realize.
Walter Russell Mead explores this further in a post today. But he prefaces his comments on religious liberty by stating that "whether you like it or not, [gay marriage is] coming" and that "the climate of bigotry, brutality and violence that so many gay people have had to live with in the past was clearly an evil." He then moves on to discuss the question of how to treat those who disagree with gay marriage or homosexuality.
The other policy question we face is the question of what to do about the substantial minority of Americans who continue to think gay marriage is a bad idea. The Roman Catholic Church and many evangelical churches, as well as many Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu groups aren’t going to change their historical doctrines just because the secular Zeitgeist has changed. The American people is not a flock of starlings who sweep in unison around the sky, all changing direction at just the same moment. If the laws recognize gay marriage, many religious groups will dissent against these laws, refuse to recognize the religious validity of these marriages, and continue to discourage the practice of homosexuality by their members.
Some gay rights advocates will believe that society needs to punish and repress these beliefs. Just as we don’t let segregated schools enjoy tax benefits and deny racists the “right” to discriminate in hiring and promoting, shouldn’t we hand out the same treatment to those backward bigots who refuse to move with the times?
At Via Meadia, we think that’s wrong. The distinction we would draw is between those who promote violence and bullying, and those who dissent from the new laws on moral grounds.
Jonathan Rauch's prescient piece from 2010 on how gays should treat those who disagree with them deals with this at length.