We’re in the “lightning round” phase of the Marriage Equality movement. Twelve states have, as of this writing, extended marriage rights to same sex couples. In the last three weeks alone, three states — Rhode Island, Delaware, and Minnesota — have passed bills legalizing same-sex marriage. Within the month, Illinois is expected to take it up and pass it.
And, after that … 37 other dominoes.
It is, after all, the majority opinion. Fifty-three (53%) of Americans now support marriage equality, and the trend line is up, with support rising about 2% per year. The New York Times' Nate Silver projects support for same-sex marriage will outweigh opposition in all states by 2020. All states, that is, except for South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Of course, it’s just mere coincidence that those five states were among the first six to secede at the start of the Civil War, or that those same five were among the last to repeal laws against interracial marriage (and then, only by court order).
It’s probably also just mere coincidence that those same five states have among the highest populations of white evangelical Protestants in the country, at more than 30% in Louisiana and Georgia, and more than 45% in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama.
In all honesty, though, the problem really is evangelicals. According to Pew, 77% of religiously unaffiliated Americans support same sex marriage rights. Only 24% of white evangelical Protestants do.
In the interest of turning that frown upside down, here are four perfectly reasonable reasons for evangelicals to support same-sex marriage that will have absolutely no effect whatsoever because they’re not written in Leviticus:
1. Jesus never said anything about it
Pretty much all the Biblical ammo against LGBT rights comes from the fire and brimstone-happy God of the Old Testament. It’s pretty clear He hated LGBT folks. He hated them (along with Lot’s wife) when he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah back in Genesis. He hated them when He was mandating the death penalty for everything in Leviticus. He hated them when He was slaughtering various and sundry straight folks in Kings.
Then again, He pretty much spent all of His time hating and slaughtering. Rinse; repeat.
Sometime between the end of the Babylonian captivity and the rise of the Roman Empire, though, God stopped hating and slaughtering. We don’t know how, why, or when, but He did.
No more hating or slaughtering. Instead, miracles and poverty and benign smiles and not a word against homosexuality. Not a word until Paul.
So choose: OT, scary, homicidal, homophobic Phelps God, or NT, sweet, next door, Cleaver God.
2. While we’re at the buffet…
You deserve to die for pork chops and butterfly shrimp. And you deserve to die for that Jesus tattoo on your calf. And you deserve to die for the polyester blend tie. All these things are prohibited in Leviticus, and you still partake of them.
Point is: As it is with the Phelps God or Cleaver God, so let it be with the rules: pick and choose.
3. It makes you look partisan, angry, and old (plus, sanctity schmanktity)
Younger folks in this country are, by and large, OK with queerness. Support among the 18-30 crowd for same-sex marriage rights is at 64%. At the same time, having come up under George “My favorite philosopher is Jesus” Bush, “millennials” are understandably wary of evangelical Protestantism’s complete politicization. To a large number of young people, evangelical means “white conservative from south of the Mason-Dixon line whose two main issues are abortion and gay marriage and who generally says the word 'sanctity' every other sentence."
Sanctity. Sanctity. You know "sanctity" as in ... well ... nothing. Only possible real world application is as a drag name. Sharon Needles. Manila Luzon. Cinq Titty.
Or maybe not.
Hence the waning of religiosity among young people.
4. Culpability and/or guilt
Suicide rates are off the charts for LGBT young people. They’re three times more likely to attempt it than their straight peers. A young LGBT person who comes from a family that rejects him/her is eight times more likely to attempt suicide than a young LGBT person who comes from a family that’s more accepting. At school, 8 of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment.
Hatred influences behavior, especially if it’s “God” doing the hating. It’s debilitating, especially to the young. The ridiculous “hate the sin; love the sinner” defense aside, religious opposition to LGBT rights has caused incredible damage- to families, children, and adults. Opposition to marriage equality is a key component of that, and contributes to an overall atmosphere of disapproval, rejection, and inferiority that negatively impacts real people living real lives.
And it will continue to do so as long as evangelicals continue down this path, ultimately accomplishing nothing aside from hurt, shame, and denigration.