Family disagreements over same-sex marriage


Over the weekend I attended a wedding in Toronto and while there took the opportunity to visit a cousin of mine, his wife, and their adult son. It was an enjoyable visit and we discussed various topics, especially around the elections that are being held on October 19 in Canada and the permanent elections that are the feature of the US. They of course wanted to discuss the Donald Trump phenomenon.

During the discussion I happened to mention that while rising inequality and abusive policing are sources of serious concern in the US, that there are some bright spots that have happened recently and pointed out the modest improvements in health care coverage for lower income people under Obamacare and the recent Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage as two examples.

Boy, talk about disturbing a hornet’s nest! I got an immediate response from our hosts about how terrible same-sex marriage was and that they abhorred homosexuality and that they felt strongly that marriage should be only between a man and a woman and that the very thought of gay sex was disgusting. It should not come as a surprise that this family is very religious and the son even seems to believe in the imminent arrival of the Rapture. I anticipated that they might not be too happy about same-sex marriage but the sheer vehemence of their opposition took me by surprise.

I was not going to let their comments pass unchallenged and the next half-hour or so was spent vigorously debating the issue with my pointing out all the problems of biblical opposition to homosexuality and with taking the Bible literally. Their arguments featured the usual tactic of cherry picking which parts of the Bible to take literally and treating as metaphors the parts that are inconvenient now. The fact that Jesus did not mention homosexuality at all is problematic for religious anti-gay people because then they have to resort to either the Old Testament or Paul for support for prohibitions and then you can ask them about all the other crazy things in the Old Testament or that Paul said which they conveniently do not follow.

This kind of debate is, of course, is familiar terrain for readers of this blog and I will not repeat them.

But what I found interesting is how they went out of their way to suggest that it was they who were the tolerant ones and that it was gays who were being unreasonable. They said that they would not be mean towards gay people and would talk to them nicely and would even help a gay person in need. What they saw as the problem was that gay people acted ‘pridefully’ (their word) and would not acknowledge that their behavior was sinful. I asked them why they should acknowledge any such thing when clearly they (and I) did not think they were sinning, but that was something they just could not get their minds around.

The same-sex marriage issue came up at the wedding too. I met another cousin at the reception who had grown up like me in the Methodist church in Sri Lanka but now belonged to a nondenominational church. When I asked him why he switched, he said that his move was triggered by the Methodist church accepting gays into their midst. Since this was at a wedding and the conversations were brief, it did not seem appropriate to get into a long discussion about it but while my cousin was saying this, his wife made comments suggesting that she and their children did not share his views. This is, of course, commonplace, that the younger generation cannot understand why we oldsters care what other consenting adults do.

Because my family is so widely dispersed around the globe, we have all evolved in our thinking differently from the time we were children and so it should not be that surprising to find divergences on the rare occasions when we meet. But we intuitively think that other people have changed in the same way that we have and thus it was still strange for me to find such strong anti-gay views in relatives with whom I have long been close and have grown up with from infancy and am fond of. I am sure that they too were surprised to find that my views had evolved differently from theirs. I am sure many readers of this blog have had similar experiences.

I did not hope to change their minds with my arguments and the discussions were cordial. What I hoped was to make them to realize is that they are part of an increasingly small minority. There is simply no going back and the inevitable promulgation of laws prohibiting discrimination against the LGBT community, the way we prohibit discrimination based on race or gender, will be the next step in that process.

Comments

  1. Bruce says

    Mano, how do your religious relatives feel about vegetarians who would accuse them of sinning when they eat meat? How do your non-American relatives feel about Americans who would accuse them of sinning by not wanting to be American citizens? How do they feel about bible-believers who feel they are sinning by not getting circumcised and keeping Kosher?
    Etc.
    In short, why do people feel that THEY can pick standards that others should follow, while they don’t accept standards invented by others?

  2. moarscienceplz says

    What they saw as the problem was that gay people acted ‘pridefully’ (their word) and would not acknowledge that their behavior was sinful.

    Well, sure. If you’re going to choose to be gay, you should at least have the decency to be ashamed of yourself. Yes, you are going to be tormented in the Lake of Fire for all eternity by the loving God, but living a joyous life in the meantime just makes it too hard for fundie Christians to feel smugly superior.

  3. says

    There’s been a decade of marriage equality in Canada, so there’s no going back here. Even the Harper government hasn’t made any moves to change that because they know it would be a losing proposition.

  4. doublereed says

    they felt strongly that marriage should be only between a man and a woman and that the very thought of gay sex was disgusting.

    I’ve always found this mindset to particularly baffling and amusing. Have these people ever had heterosexual sex? All sex is disgusting. There’s a lot of bodily fluids involved.

    Of course, this is because the religious train themselves to use neutered, lying language when they discuss sex. It’s all “becoming one with each other” or whatever.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    The fact that Jesus did not mention homosexuality at all

    Meanwhile, Jesus did have some things to say about divorce and remarriage, which are repeated in all of the canonical Gospels.

    What they saw as the problem was that gay people acted ‘pridefully’ (their word)

    Which translates quite easily into “uppity.” Did they have a single argument to offer which had not previously been used against interracial marriage?

    Meanwhile, I also attended a family wedding recently, of one of my nieces. The celebrant was ordained by the Universal Life Church. That’s a church which offers ordination to anyone with no doctrinal requirements. Some atheists and humanists get ordained by the universal life church precisely so that they can celebrate weddings. I haven’t had a chance to discuss religion with my niece, but now I am wondering.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    I am sure many readers of this blog have had similar experiences.

    Heh. Possibly even worse. I had this discussion with my brother not long ago. His first argument was a comparison to bestiality. I had to remind him that gay people are people. My last argument was, “How does gay marriage hurt you?” It isn’t costing him money or anything. It doesn’t change the way he lives his life.

  7. says

    @1 “In short, why do people feel that THEY can pick standards that others should follow, while they don’t accept standards invented by others?

    Well, I think we all know the answer to that: They don’t see their standards as invented. Oh, I’m sure they see everyone else’s standards as invented. But, they have insight into the TRUTH(TM).

  8. jockmcdock says

    I live in The Netherlands and same sex marriage has been legal here since April 1 2001. Amazingly, the country hasn’t broken off from the rest of Europe and sunk into the sea. Same sex marriage is a complete non-issue here (as it should be).

    The only thing that worries me is that date. Will King Willem Alexander suddenly appear on TV and shout “April Fools!”

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    Amazingly, the country hasn’t broken off from the rest of Europe and sunk into the sea.

    Well technically, considerable parts of the country are below sea level, and would be sunken if it weren’t for the dikes.

  10. jockmcdock says

    Yep. Large parts of Holland have been reclaimed from the sea. There’s a hotel in Amsterdam which has a column on which sea level is depicted by a horizontal line. It’s about 2 metres above the floor.

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