Jayne: Gay marriage hasn't affected my traditional union

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 
photoGreg Jayne, Opinion page editor

For me, personally, it hasn’t made a bit of difference.

Gay marriage has been legal in Washington for about 17 months, and for longer in some other states, and I don’t feel any different. My wife doesn’t seem different; I don’t feel any less married; our union hasn’t been diminished. For years, that has been one of the arguments against same-sex marriage — it would diminish traditional marriage. But I don’t feel any different.

And that, it seems, is the best argument in favor of gay marriage — the screeds against it don’t stand up to scrutiny. Take the one about tradition, and how marriage has been between one man and one woman for thousands of years. Good point. Except that “tradition” was used centuries ago in defense of slavery and decades ago in defense of racial segregation.

Or take the one that eschews growing public opinion in favor of gay marriage and disingenuously asks, “What if most people thought pedophilia was OK?” Well, if you can’t discern the difference between consenting adults and child victims, then you probably shouldn’t be engaging in any debate, let alone one about important social issues.

Anyway, there was a video a couple years ago in which the Rev. Dr. Phil Snider, a pastor in Springfield, Mo., spoke before the city council about a proposed gay-rights ordinance. Snider said things such as gay rights are “another stepping stone toward the immorality and lawlessness that will be characteristic of the last days,” and that they are “a denial of all that we believe in and no one should force it upon us.” Then came the kicker: “I’m sorry … I’ve borrowed my argument from the wrong century. It turns out what I’ve been reading to you this whole time are direct quotes from white preachers from the 1950s and the 1960s, all in support of racial segregation.” He simply replaced “desegregation” with “gay rights.”

It was powerful. It was poignant. It brought forth the overriding truth of the gay-marriage debate — 40 years from now, our descendants are going to look askance at us and wonder what all the fuss was about.

But in delivering a succinct message about the importance of being on the right side of history, Snider also brushed alongside the most difficult portion of the debate. You see, many people oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, and I’m not about to tell them they are wrong. I’m certainly not qualified to engage them in a biblical debate. But I am comfortable pointing out that many churches don’t consider a marriage valid unless the ceremony takes place in that church, and I can point out that gay marriage is no different. If people of a particular church don’t believe that God recognizes a wedding in front of the justice of the peace, why should the gender of the participants matter? And if anybody tries to force churches to participate in or recognize gay marriage, they are going to have some serious constitutional problems.

Why is state involved?

Now, if we want to engage in a debate about whether the state should be in the marriage business in the first place, that’s an argument that could have some legs. I’m not sure there would be much downside to allowing religious weddings if people are so inclined, but not having the state decide which marriages to bless. Well, except that my tax bill would take a hit.

Which brings us back to the crux of the debate: I can only speak from my own experience.

My wife and I have been married since 1991. Some years have been better than others; sometimes I’m not the husband I want to be or the one that she deserves. But we keep plugging away, building our relationship on a foundation of love and trying to create a nurturing environment for our family. I’m guessing that’s no different from other couples that make a lifelong commitment, regardless of gender.

I was reminded of all these arguments last week. Oregon — the state in which we were married — became the latest to allow gay marriage. And the funny thing is, I don’t feel any different.