‘Defender of true marriage’

If the LGBT community ever hopes to win equality on issues such as marriage, we will have to start facing the issue of religion and using to our advantage.

That’s the gist of what I wrote back in November on Bilerico.com, in a post entitled, “For marriage victories, we must face and use religion.”

For a lot of LGBT folks, religion is sticky issue. We’ve spent years of our own lives reconciling ourselves with the faith of our childhoods. Many of our churches, synogogues, and other spaces of worship have rejected us and hurt us deeply. Our relationships with the divine have been repeatedly torn to shreds, and we have been the ones left to patch the quilt back up.

As a movement, we’ve spent years insisting on a separation of church and state. We’ve repeated time-and-time again that personal religious views should not be used to keep us from equality.

We’ve lost 31 times in a row.

In that November Bilerico.com piece, I wrote:

If there is one thing we’ve learned after seeing a majority of our states fall like dominoes to this anti-LGBT, anti-family marriage agenda, it’s that this marriage issue plays with people’s emotions in mightily strong and effective ways. Proponents of government-sanctioned discrimination have been able to pull at otherwise understanding and accepting folks’ heartstrings while playing up some false commitment to “morality.” It’s why you see friends and family members voting to ban your civil marriage recognition, while they say (and wholeheartedly mean) they love you and treat you and your family no differently than your brother or sister and their spouse.

A perfect example of this type of prejudice popped up as a comment on Advocate.com’s online story about attempts to put a marriage amendment into force in New Hampshire, where same-sex marriage became legal on Jan. 1.

The New Hampshirite wrote:

This bill will go somewhere. It might not be immediate but it will be. Contrary to all you out of state commenters, we who actually live in NH were ignored. When there were not enough votes for this,the NH legislature kicked off the person voting against and put in one who would vote yes. I am a NH native who has a sister and a best friend that is gay. I also voted in the recent town elections for a gay town official. That said, we all know the word homophobe is delicious sounding.. Homophobe, no. Defender of true marriage yes.

Commenter “Shawn” is a perfect example of a person who can treat LGBT people with equality and dignity but whose religious views prevent him or her from extending that same dignity to our relationships and marriage equality. Folks like Shawn really do love us, I believe, but their emotional heartstrings have been tugged on and tied up by anti-LGBT religion-based prejudice. There is a limit to their good graces. (NYT published a great article on how folks support gay candidates even when they don’t support issues like marriage equality. I suggest everyone read it.)

It is clear, at least to me, that anti-gay religious forces’ attempts to use religion as a wedge and reason to discriminate are working. Why is it, then, that our community has not yet used Christianity’s true message of radical love and inclusion to win back the hearts and minds of people who, at some level, do love us and treat us equally in some parts of our lives?

LGBT strategists in future marriage initiatives should strongly consider using religion in much broader ways when reaching out to voters. Religion should be the focus of our TV, radio and print ads and commercials. LGBT advocacy groups should appoint friendly religious leaders to their boards and use their words and faces in these ads and commercials. Better yet, why not make a friendly pastor, rabbi or imam the E.D. or chair of a marriage initiative?

Although we are fighting for civil marriage, the journey to that equality requires we undertake a uniquely religious campaign. If we wish to win our equality, we will have to face up to issues of religion and use it to our advantage.

3 Responses to “‘Defender of true marriage’”
  1. Jarred says:

    The fact that you use “religion” and “Christianity” interchangeably through much of this post underscores my problem with your proposal.

    I do believe in separation of church and state. I also believe in putting an end to Christian privilege in our government. And the arguments against same-sex marriage are as much about Christian privilege as they are about same-sex marriage. I’m not going to be quiet about the former — or worse, become complicit in encouraging it — just to obtain the latter.

    Yes, it may mean for a harder, longer fight. But sometimes, maintaining my principles are worth sacrificing the easy route to obtaining a particular aim.

  2. Matt Comer says:

    Jarred… I agree with you in many respects. I didn’t use Christianity and Religion interchangeably, though. I only used “Christianity” once in the piece, and more than once talked about a wide range of religious opinion, even saying we should have a “friendly pastor, rabbi or imam” lead our marriage initiatives.

    I did say “Christianity,” though, because we can’t ignore that the overwhelming majority of the opposition toward our equality is coming from fundamentalist and conservative Christian camps. Folks calling themselves “Christians” are at the very root of our opposition.

    I’m thinking and talking about media and political strategy. You do what it takes to win, or we keep adding to our 31-in-a-row losses.

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