Editor's note: The Jan. 14 commentary "Six questions for supporters of same-sex marriage to answer -- forthrightly" inspired an unusual outpouring of response, with scores of readers submitting answers to commentator Dan Nye's questions. Although each counterpoint writer brought a unique voice and perspective, their answers were similar in substance. We have selected this rebuttal as representative:
1. Were our ancestors all dumb and bigoted?
Our ancestors knew many truths, but not all. A common example of what our ancestors held to be self-evident, biblically sanctioned truth, which we now hold in abhorrence, is slavery. It's appropriate to ask ourselves whether a particular societal tradition is the best way for us to continue.
2. Don't our sexual organs exist for reproduction?
Reproduction is one of their purposes, but so is intimacy. If our sexual organs existed solely for reproduction, couples would have sex only at the times necessary for procreation. Moreover, if this were the case, physical fulfillment in marriage wouldn't be enjoyed by couples who cannot have children (for medical reasons or by virtue of advanced age) or who choose not to do so.
3. Do we just give in to our sexual desires?
Our sexual desires have been channeled through the worthy tradition that people choose one mate and make a promise of fidelity through marriage. A mutual, joyful and public commitment, permanently held, one to another, is the healthiest way to build stable families and a stable society. This would argue for encouraging members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community likewise to make a commitment of marriage as the appropriate avenue for their sexuality.
4. Adultery, pedophilia and bestiality are wrong. So homosexuality?
Adultery is a problem because of the trust shattered when marriage vows are broken. Pedophilia and bestiality are anathema because there cannot be mutual consent -- an adult always holds power over a child or an animal. Homosexual commitment is mutual between consenting adults.
5. Changes in norms require universal acceptance. Prevalent homosexuality will not work.
Many changes in our country have taken place without universal acceptance. Indeed, many laws in our country were designed to protect the very people who do not receive universal acceptance.
As to prevalent homosexuality, the long-held estimate is that roughly 10 percent of the population is homosexual. No law has the ability to increase or decrease those numbers.
6. The religious question: Shouldn't we be trying to encourage others to repent of a wrong?
The assumption is that homosexuality is wrong. Assumptions are fair to question, even religious ones. We understand now, in a way our biblical ancestors could not, that medically and psychologically, homosexuals are born, not made. Would a loving God deliberately create someone who is fundamentally a mistake?
If it's a question about "love the sinner but hate the sin," the way we discern whether something is, in fact, sinful, is to look at its consequences. The consequences that result from committed homosexual relationships are as positive as they are for committed heterosexual relationships: stable, tax-paying, caring-for-one-another-through-thick-and-thin families. These are the kinds of consequences that benefit all of society.
Marriage matters to the GLBT among us as much as it does to the rest of us. Surrounded by family and friends, to make a promise to cherish that one other person until parted by death, matters.
This is a big change, surely. I am persuaded, however, that change based on a commitment, a lifelong commitment of mutual joy, will benefit us all.
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Lisa Cressman, of Lake Elmo, is assistant priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church-Basswood Grove.