Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Love, Equal Rights, and Gay Marriage

By on November 11, 2008

Today I am struggling. In fact, I have been struggling since before the national election. I don’t understand the opposition to gay marriage and how Proposition 8 passed in California.

Growing up, as a Mennonite, I was taught that love was of the highest nature. I see Christ as a true revolutionary who reached out to the poor, the destitute, and the outcasts and he did so without judgment and with pure love in his heart. In the past, I have written that I am a potential Christian and a practicing Buddhist. Today, after the election season in California, much of my bitterness and unhappiness with my Christian roots have been watered and I am not so positive about this potentiality. This is my struggle today. In fact, it is so powerful that I am experiencing resistance to attending another marriage ceremony between two people who may have voted in favor of Proposition 8. This is difficult.

As a practicing Buddhist, I aim to seek understanding and to have compassion. Writing here I am trying to reach some understanding and compassion for my Christian brothers and sisters who have taken the stand to discriminate against a group of people for their sexuality. I know good Christians, people right here in my town, and they are good people. And yet, they have taken the stand of not embracing, not loving. It seems fundamentally wrong, and in opposition to the teachings of Christ, to not allow two people who love each other the right to join in marriage. When I married Leslie in 1995, we did so to share our love with our friends and family, to give the relationship a bit more sanctity, more seriousness, and make a lifetime commitment. Why wouldn’t we want this for gay couples? Aside from the high divorce rate in marriages, I see nothing but positive outcomes to allowing marriage between two people who love each other. It recognizes and honors the love between two people.

Perhaps you can pause here and watch the amazing 6-minute statement from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC – he covers the topic well.

My experience is this. My mom is gay and was in a loving relationship with her partner before she died. Though they had a living trust allowing her partner the right to make decisions, they still found it necessary to give me the Power of Attorney in case the State intervened in their lives. So, in addition to love there are also the legal rights associated with marriage to consider. Several gay couples I know got married in California in the last year. They are in loving, long term relationships and they were able to celebrate that commitment with marriage.

What is the threat to that? Where does the fear arise from? I know some who will read this, including friends and family, would have voted to pass proposition 8 that removes the right to gay marriage. I don’t want to get into a shouting match, but perhaps through loving communication I can sway your perspective a bit and perhaps I can come to a better understanding of your world view.

As my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has said, people are not the enemy but ignorance and fear. Let’s talk.