Soon after the state legislature legalized same-sex marriage the effort to repeal that law began, and it now appears we will be voting in November on whether or not the State of Washington will recognize such marriages. Though the signatures on the initiative petition repealing that law have not yet been fully certified, supporters of repeal are confident they have garnered far more than enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. Marriage equality is not strictly a religious issue; it is more about how we understand human rights and equal protection of the law in an open society, and whether or not same-sex marriage falls within those fundamental protections.
Nevertheless, the lion’s share of the repeal effort will be led by people whose Christian religious convictions lead them to believe that God disapproves of gayness, if I may use that term, and that the bible proves it. On the other hand, lots of religious people, myself among them, disagree both with this conclusion and with the analysis of the Bible that justifies it, and are going to vote against repeal. We are not persuaded simply or only on legal grounds, we are also persuaded on moral and religious grounds that marriage equality is right. A substantial number of Christian organizations will also oppose the measure.
In a state such as ours, where fewer than 40 percent of the people attend church regularly, I hope the public notices this. I hope collectively that Christians in Washington can demonstrate that we are as diverse as we truly are, and that there are a great variety of ways to understand both what the Gospel means and how it is lived out in real life. Ever since Paul went to Antioch and “opposed Cephas (Peter) to his face” Christianity has been a diverse and varied religion, and in spite of repeated attempts to enforce uniformity not only of thought, but also of action, it has remained that way. And yet, as Christianity becomes less central to the culture, there seems to be an increasing tendency among those outside Christianity to homogenize us — stereotype would perhaps be the more common term — and this ballot measure could well provide a wonderful opportunity for those inclined that way. Given that both the Roman Catholic Church, and a lot of evangelical Protestants are going to be quite public in their support of repeal, such stereotyping will come naturally to large numbers of people with no other meaningful contact with Christianity.
It is therefore incumbent upon those Christians who are for marriage equality, and whose convictions on this matter emerge from their faith, not in spite of it, to make clear that Christianity does not speak with a single voice on this issue; people of genuine faith, and deep commitment to God can disagree. This disagreement might well be impassioned, but it should not, and need not be vitriolic. If that debate happens with some grace and civility it will help to destroy the stereotyping that identifies people of faith with one particular part of the political and social spectrum. That would be good for Christianity as well as the body politic.
Did you sign the petition? Why or why not?