Today my partner and I celebrate 10 years together. 10 wonderful years filled with travel, food, and amazing friends and family. Most people who look back on a decade of a relationship tend to say, “We’ve been through good times and bad times.” But I have a hard time pinpointing any bad times along the way. Sure, we’ve struggled financially. We’ve been in a small handful of arguments (mostly over what colors to paint the house). We’ve faced layoffs, deaths in our families, my coming-out to my family at age 34… But I can’t classify any of these as “bad times.”
Most people mark their anniversary from the date they got married. We can’t do that, because it’s against the law for us to get married, both in the state where we live, and in the country we call home.
I tend to speak with a fair amount of reserve when it comes to political and religious issues, and I don’t address my sexuality very often. I know I have many, many fans who are uncomfortable thinking or discussing or reading about this issue.
But as this is my 10th anniversary, I do hope you’ll take a moment to truly consider what I have to say in this blog entry. Close your doors, turn off your phone, and tune in. Wrestle with this. Don’t let your pastor or your spouse or your political affiliation make this decision for you. Make up your own mind.
Perhaps the most common argument against gay marriage is that marriage is a religious institution. More than 3/4ths of Americans identify themselves as Christian, whether they are affiliated with a church or not. Yet we permit Muslims, Buddhists, and even atheists to marry, provided they are of opposite genders. Some Christian denominations bless the union between loving same-sex couples, and allow members of the clergy to be openly gay, but the majority do not.
As someone who grew up in a devoutly Christian home, and who was educated at a Christian university, I find any Christian who condemns homosexuals to be quite confusing. The root of Christianity is Christ. The foundation of all Christian religions is the sacrifice and teachings of Jesus. And while the current translation of the Bible may, indeed, condemn homosexuality, ANY legitimate Biblical scholar will tell you they are quite dubious about how accurately those passages are translated. Regardless, the majority of what the Bible has to say about gay people is from the Old Testament, which also condones slavery, polygamy, divorce, genocide, and the list goes on and on. Most religious institutions tend to take broad lessons from the Old Testament, rather than wielding selective scriptures as daggers in favor of this or that cause. The New Testament has far fewer references to gay people, and Jesus never spoke a word about it. (Paul, on the other hand, who was never married himself, yet doled out a nearly infinite amount of advice on marriage, was, in fact, a lawyer who made his living interpreting the laws from the Old Testament, so he naturally had an affinity towards the Old Law which Jesus, in fact, came to replace with a new law: love.) Jesus spent his time with the outcasts of society. He dined with prostitutes and placed his hands on people afflicted with leprosy (VERY much against Old Testament law). He preached inclusion and love. He gave us only two laws, and they both say the same thing: “Make every decision in your life from a position of love…love for yourself, for your neighbor, and for your God.”
And so I get quite confused when I hear Christians scrambling to deny gay people the supreme expression of love that two humans can share: marriage. To deny them that would be as unthinkable as denying them the supreme expression of love that a human can have with his God: baptism. There’s not a church in existence that requires someone confess to exclusive heterosexuality before being baptized.
There has been a lot of talk recently about Chick-Fil-A’s verbal (and financial) opposition to homosexuality, and I’ve tried to stay out of it. But I am infinitely more fascinated by the Christians who have risen up in support of Chick-Fil-A over this issue, and who went out to support them by buying chicken sandwiches and marching in front of stores. Is that what Jesus would have done? Picked up a sign and marched in support of exclusion and separation? Or would he have been off somewhere, on his knees, helping people? Would it not have been more Christ-like for Christians spend that day in a soup kitchen, at the hospital or nursing home? Jesus spent so much of his time preaching mercy and going to great (and sometimes illegal) lengths to INCLUDE. To accept. To forgive. To love. What on earth is all this denial, exclusion, and separation about? Those are most decidedly NOT Christian values.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that being gay is a choice. At no point in my life did I decide to be gay. I knew I was gay from the earliest moments of my life, once I was capable of rational thought. I was born gay. And if you’re a Christian, that means God made me this way. I could no more be heterosexual than YOU could suddenly become homosexual. I am made in the image of God, and this is how he made me. If you’re more inclined to a scientific understanding of the world, you’ll find that scientific evidence overwhelmingly points to homosexuality as a genetic phenomenon. And there are as many gay people walking around the planet today as there were 2,000 years ago. (Well…there are more humans on the planet, but the ratio is about the same. Roughly 3-4%, according to most studies, though that statistic is far higher in urban areas.)
That may not sound like a lot to you, but it’s 1 out of every 25 or so. In cities, it’s closer to 1 in 10. There are as many gay people in this country as there are Asian people. You have gay people in your extended family, whether you realize it or not. And some occupations tend to attract a higher-than-average ratio of homosexuals, including teaching and (ironically) the clergy or religious service. So if you’re a proponent of gay marriage, realize what a significant number of people you are seeking to deny this right.
Some argue that allowing gay people to marry will destroy the sanctity of marriage. I would argue that divorce is a far greater threat to the sanctity of marriage, and divorce among Christians identically mirrors the divorce rate of the entire country…40-50% depending on which study you look at. (Strangely, the divorce rate amongst atheists and agnostics is lower than the national divorce rate in most studies.) If you take a look at countries which have legalized gay marriage, like Canada, Spain and Belgium, you’ll find absolutely no change to the national divorce rate after gay marriage was legalized.
Some argue that gay marriage will make it legal for gay people to adopt children. (Gay people can already legally adopt children in all 50 states.) Studies show time and again, though, that kids raised in gay households are no more likely to behave differently or have problems than any other child with a father and mother. (In fact, some studies show that kids raised by two lesbian mothers have higher self esteem and perform better in school than kids who have a father and mother.)
Then there’s the argument that homosexuality will be championed in schools. To me, this is a ridiculous argument. I was taught in 4th grade public school that humans evolved from apes. But my parents had taught me that God created humans. Who do you think I believed at that age? Parents, you have the ability to instill beliefs in your children that they will not shake loose until they are capable of making their own decisions. If you believe gay marriage is wrong, your kid’s grade school teachers aren’t going to change his mind. Hopefully, though, you will also teach him tolerance and acceptance, so that he doesn’t end up being violent toward kids who have same sex parents, or teasing and taunting openly gay kids to the point of suicide (which happens far too often.)
Marriage, however, is a covenant between two people which does not largely impact society outside of the family unit. Your marriage does not affect the marriage of the people living two streets down from you. Your marriage belongs to you, your spouse, and your family. (And, if you are so inclined, your God.) Your marriage will never be threatened by the marriage of two people you don’t know, whether they are male/female, male/male, or female/female. Your church should NEVER be forced to practice or recognize marriage for anyone, and proponents of gay marriage are not asking for that. There are plenty of churches who already recognize and bless same sex unions, and some gay couples are not religious and wouldn’t seek the recognition of a church in the first place…though 70% of homosexuals identify themselves as Christian. (This is according to the Barna Group, which is the nation’s leading organization that studies faith and culture, and most of my statistics cited come from their studies.)
But ultimately, all these arguments, to me, are moot. Marriage is not about politics or statistics, or even about religion. Marriage is a deeply personal ritual, and it is about love. Marriage is something that can’t ever be defined or mandated by anything other than the two people who choose to enter into it. Marriage is the supreme expression of love between two people. Why would we ever want to deny that to anyone? While marriage can most certainly end in divorce, the covenant encourages monogamy, financial and moral responsibility, community involvement…and would our society do anything but benefit from more of this?
The soul…the spirit…has no gender identity. Gender comes from chromosomes and skin cells in different shapes. A man doesn’t love his wife solely because of her breasts or her genitals. A marriage doesn’t last a lifetime because of sex. Gender and sexuality, when it comes right down to it, have very little to do with a lifelong marriage, and any couple who has celebrated 50 years of marriage will tell you that. Marriage is about compassion, compromise, selflessness, trust, teamwork, integrity, and most of all…love.
And to try to make laws that prevent any two human beings from expressing their true love the same way that any other couple can, is downright immoral.
My name is Ben Starr. I am a gay man. For 10 years I’ve been in love with Christian Eggers. Another man. We are both good people. We spend a significant majority of our time helping others. We believe in doing as much good for the world as we can before we die. And we can do more together than we can alone. You may not know me personally, but I hope, since you’re reading this, that you FEEL close to me. That you feel like you understand who I am and what I believe in.
And one of the things I want most in this world is to marry the person I’ve loved for 10 years. So next time you think about gay marriage…don’t think about what comes from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Don’t think about polling booths and presidential races. This issue is NOT ABOUT THAT.
This issue is about me. I’m a person who tries to make every decision in life based on love and compassion and acceptance and inclusion. If you are against gay marriage, you are personally wanting to deny it from ME, Ben Starr. You are wanting to send a clear signal to me, and the man I have loved for a decade, that we are not as human as you. That we don’t deserve the same loving bond that you deserve. Putting a human face on a polarizing issue is always the best way to consider it.
Now, as I close, I must turn my thoughts to my partner of 10 years. Christian, you have been the model of a spouse. You are selfless, tender, caring, and supportive. You smile at the things I do that annoy you. You accept my messiness, my chaotic lifestyle, and the fact that I usually look like a homeless person. You think before you speak. You let me be right, even when I’m wrong. You smile when I fill our house with complete strangers for dinner. You take care of me when I’m sick, when I’m broke, and when I’m at my wit’s end. You not only let me be who I am, you encourage me to be who I am. You are the best husband anyone could ever hope for…and I can’t wait to spend the next decade of my life with you. The first one has been better than my wildest dreams.
Please, please, please share. And comment freely and honestly.