Fear and gay marriage

February 24, 2012

From the LA Times: Maryland Republican: Meeting gay couples left me ‘changed person’

A chance shake-up of Maryland House of Delegates seating assignments brought Republican Wade Kach face to face with gay couples who had come to make the case for a gay marriage law, and might have proved decisive in its final passage through the state’s General Assembly on Thursday.

Kach, who had previously backed attempts to define marriage as between one man and one woman, found a space right next to the witness table.

“I saw with so many of the gay couples, they were so devoted to another. I saw so much love,” he said. “When this hearing was over, I was a changed person in regard to this issue. I felt that I understood what same sex couples were looking for.”

A week later, Kach voted for the gay marriage bill on the floor of the House of Delegates, one of only two Republicans to do so. Their support proved vital, as the bill squeaked through the 141-member chamber on a 72–67 vote.

If only we could get more conservatives to sit down with gay couples, have a conversation, and realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. Because I believe at the core of every anti-gay-marriage argument, is fear.

Of course, most people would reject that accusation. But I don’t see any way around it.

If they say they “have nothing against gay people”, then I ask why they feel the need to control their behavior, when that behavior has no tangible effect on anyone whatsoever?

If it’s that they’re “protecting the sanctity of marriage”, then I ask what they are protecting it from? “Protecting” it implies there’s somebody out there attacking it, which implies that those “attackers” ought to be feared and stopped.

Or if it’s just that they’re worried about the country’s moral values, then what makes a values system that embraces married gay couples so threatening? Why would such a moral code be a problem for anyone? If it’s a problem at all, then the problem must be gay couples, who must represent some sort of moral disease, a disease that decays our values and thus should be feared and expunged (which gets me back to fear again).

Fear is a powerful and influential emotion, causing people to do and say very irrational things. But there’s no real threat, and we all have the conscious rational capacity to take a moment and realize that our instinctual reaction to people who aren’t like us doesn’t have to be our conscious reaction. That just because they don’t look like us or act like us doesn’t necessarily make them a threat. That just because they don’t think like we do doesn’t make them wrong.

We humans are a widely varying breed. At the lines that divide us, there is often fear, suspicion, and conflict. But we as a species have the conscious ability to overcome our instincts. We have the uniquely-human capacity to communicate with each other using precise terms and intellectual clarity. We’re not grunting beasts anymore. Perhaps one day we all can find solidarity in that.

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