I've been over at AVI's commenting on a post of his about Same Sex Marriage.
A couple of people made the point that SSM is about the gay community wanting validation and affirmation more than it is about obtaining specific marital rights.
I don't think that's a necessarily incorrect assessment. And, I think withholding that validation is a serious motive for opponents to gay marriage, who are comfortable tolerating gay people and acknowledging their existence, but don't want to be required to put their stamp of approval on gay relationships, elevating the status of gay relationships to those of heterosexual relationships.
Full disclosure. I don't know how comfortable I am, personally, with Same Sex Marriage. That's to say, while I don't harbor ill will towards homosexuals, I can also say that I have a hard time understanding homosexuality simply because I can't identify with it personally. I don't know or understand what it would be like to be attracted to the same sex, and because of that I can't un-self-consciously accept it in the same way that I would any other straight relationship. I actually have to consciously work on not making value judgements.
Those statements are not meant to be used as ammunition against me. I am merely trying to be honest about the thought process I have. Because I don't identify with or understand homosexuality in the same way that I understand heterosexuality....I am limited in my abilities to be as instinctively OK with it as I would be with other relationships. As such, I have to take what gay people say about themselves and their relationships at face value to some extent. If most of them feel as if this is something they were born with or something they have no power to change, then I have to accept that.
I have no basis to argue otherwise.
How valuable is this validation of SSM and what do opponents gain by not giving it?
For the gay population, I think the validation is extremely valuable. Having governmental recognition of SSM would allow them to feel accepted and as if their relationships were equal to heterosexual marriages and all that it entails. Living in a society that doesn't purposely and consciously exclude you and that doesn't merely tolerate you is definitely more appealing and freeing than living in a society in which you feel slighted.
Is it the government's responsibility to make sure that everyone feel more accepted and free? Is the government supposed to make us feel warm and fuzzy about all of our choices? Is the government supposed to be a hippie love-in organization making sure that everyone gets a hug and a flower in their hair?
Well....not exactly. However, the government isn't a separate entity that operates outside and independent of society. It is a representation of society and serves to enact laws that society considers just and good. Those laws are adjusted and added to as society adjusts and adds to its conception of "just" and "good".
Validating SSM is a way of declaring that society thinks it is more just and good to honor consensual, binding, relational agreements between two gay people than it is to not honor those agreements. While it is about making homosexuals feel openly accepted and equal, it is also about honoring the wills of individuals to live peacefully, according to their own consciences, without government impediments, a principle which is entirely American.
Very conservative Christians will never accept homosexuals in any way. The only option in their eyes is a fundamental denial of same sex attraction. Homosexuals are expected to repent and live as heterosexuals. The problem is that after many years of this approach, it doesn't seem widely viable or workable. Some of the founders of various ex-gay movements, after many years of working in those movements, have given up on the idea of thinking it's even possible to be "ex-gay".
Conservative Christians will characterize these people as giving up on God, or the faith, or surrendering to the devil and their lusts.
On the other hand, if someone so desperately wants not to be gay, founds an organization for ex-gays, and dedicates themselves to that movement for many years, and after all that discovers that their life's work hasn't been very effective and openly admits it...then I think Christians need to listen to what they have to say.
The average evangelical christian has historically taken the path of "loving the sinner, hating the sin" when it comes to homosexuality. I once thought this was a workable spiritual solution; tell homosexuals that we love them and think God loves them, but that their actions are not pleasing to God and we can't condone their behavior. In theory, the idea is that acting on homosexual desires is equivalent to acting on heterosexual desires outside of marriage. People make mistakes. God offers forgiveness. We simply can't condone the mistakes.
The problem is that it never really works that way in evangelical churches. No matter how open and loving an evangelical church can be, or how insistent that homosexuals are welcome to attend, they are not treated in the same way that heterosexuals are because an attraction to the same sex is not viewed equivalently to an attraction to the opposite sex, in the eyes of the church. Attraction to the opposite sex is seen as inherently natural and if heterosexuals stray then it is a matter of right desire, wrong timing or wrong relationship. With homosexuals there is never a right time, place, or relationship to express their sexual orientation.
What remains is the option of lifelong celibacy in an evangelical church. However, even if an openly gay person chooses to be celibate, there is always a lingering suspicion towards them and they will most likely not be given any visible leadership positions within the church.
Withholding approval/validation effectively keeps acknowledged homosexuals out of evangelical churches. It's not hard to see why. If desires that you have always had, desires that you can't get rid of, and desires that are an integral part of the framework of your self-conception are considered twisted and unnatural, even if you don't act on them, it would be difficult to feel loved, accepted and part of that community.
When a person latches onto the idea of withholding validation or approval from someone as a means of influencing them, they are operating on several assumptions.
Assumption #1 --They are in a superior position. Validation is theirs to give or withhold by fiat and natural authority.
Assumption #2--Their purposeful withholding of validation will influence the subject of it to submit and agree to the authority's position and discourage them from the subject's own position
Assumption #3--Giving validation to someone who lives and believes differently than they do is as bad as living and believing in the same way as that person. Validation=participation.
#1 is hard for anyone to prove. Justifying hierarchies and inherent authority is incredibly difficult when people begin to critically examine that hierarchy and the basis for the authority given to it.
#2 isn't effective. When you don't validate people they typically don't change, they simply continue being the way they are in a different location.
#3 Validation is not equal to participation.
I may write more about this when time permits.