Godwin: Gay-marriage discussion could use tolerance, understanding

January 15, 2014 


— Gay marriage. How did reading those two words make you feel? If you’re like most Americans, you had a strong emotional reaction, positive or negative.

Gay marriage has been grabbing headlines and inciting passions across the country. National public sentiment on gay marriage has moved from rejection toward acceptance at an unprecedented rate and shows no signs of slowing. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. In South Carolina, gay marriage is prohibited by both state law and a constitutional amendment.

Let’s begin by accepting that there are good, genuine, well-meaning people on both sides. Generally, those in favor of gay marriage are not trying to upend the moral fabric of America; nor are those opposed attempting to impose bigoted views on everyone else. Gay marriage is a battle between differing moral codes and world views. Therein lies the fundamental problem.

When a Clemson fan and a South Carolina fan meet in a bar, they will disagree vehemently regarding the supremacy of their respective teams, but they are speaking the same language, and each can understand the values and metrics the other is bringing to bear on the debate. Not so with gay marriage.

Folks in the gay-marriage debate often talk past each other, invoking concepts that, to the other side, ring hollow and may even sound ridiculous. What does a non-Christian care what the Bible says? How are those who see gay marriage as counter to their religious-moral code to understand an analogy to the civil rights movement?

Respect is grossly lacking and must be restored around this debate. Proponents have been looked down upon and judged by some who preach love on Sundays, while opponents have been called backward bigots by some of the very people demanding tolerance. Religion, morality, love and justice are powerful values, deeply held and worthy of respect.

The two sides never will fully see eye to eye. Their world views are too different. This is why we are all so fortunate to live in a democracy. All people should take their genuine beliefs on gay marriage to the voting booth without reproach. And all people should accept the outcome as democratically just.

Pearce Godwin


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