Vote on the amendment banning the recognition of same sex marriage is set for later today. I've spent a good portion of the last day or so preparing to teach this tomorrow. I'm not interested in getting into the merits of the amendment, but I find the dismissal of those who oppose gay marriage as "bigots" expressing their "hate" to be intellectually vapid and enormously short sighted.
I want to put aside for one moment whether it is fair to characterize people who follow religious tenets concerning homosexuality that have been just about unanimously held by the Abrahamic faiths until maybe the last 20 years or so as "bigots." The church I attend has a number of gay parishioners. I am happy to have them as friends and, for reasons that are too complicated to get into here, I do not feel called to judge them (as I hope they do not feel called to judge me.) But there are plenty of issues raised by same-sex marriage that have nothing to do with whether one believes that gay and lesbian relationships are "sinful" or "wrong."
There are issues raised by the marriage of same-sex couples surrounding the presumption of parenthood and the assumptions of spousal dependency and the string of legal rules that flow from it. There are issues regarding the definition of adultery and whether sexual exclusivity in marriage should continue to be regarded as normative and, if so, why? It is an open question whether the reasons for legal recognition of marriage (which, whether or not all heterosexual couples do or even can reproduce, are historically about confining potentially procreative sexual relationships to marriage) even apply to same-sex relationships. If, as some argue, marriage is really about freely chosen relationships of mutual affection and support, there are issues regarding what other types of relationships should be accorded marriage - or marriage like - recognition.
To say that marriage is simply an extension of "benefits" that should not be denied people who choose a conjugal relationship with a member of their own sex is simplistic. If that was the issue, there are other ways to address legal unfairness to same-sex couples.
I'm not sure how I come down on all of this, but to say that people who want to discuss these questions are "bigots" is just another way of telling people who may disagree with you to shut up. To say that the complexity of the issue suggests that it be addressed by legislation and not, as in Massachusetts and Vermont, by the courts is not "hateful" but wise. To hesitate, just a bit, before redefining an extremely old and uniquely universal institution that has been otherwise been weakened over the past fifty years at an enormous social cost strikes me, not as prejudiced, but as prudent.
So, whatever the vote, let's skip the name-calling.