For the last month or so I have been in a discussion with a number of people over at the evangelical website www.reasonablefaith.org. The subject has been whether same sex couples should be allowed to marry and enjoy equal status as traditional marital partners. And boy, I've learned a thing or two about unfounded fear. To listen to some of my evangelical opponents one could be forgiven for thinking that to allow same sex marriage would be to herald the onset of the apocalypse, or if you like the Gay-pocalypse. Before we know it marriage could mean anything, they argue. What's to stop a polygamist demanding the same treatment? Or adult-child marriage? Oh my, what's to stop some Apache transvestite pitching up in Vegas and demanding he be able to marry his horse?
Ok, I made the last one up, but the levels of hysteria appear to be distinctly disproportionate. There's a deep rooted fear that any such initiative would undermine traditional marriage and lead to societal decay.
Fine. Where's the evidence to support this?
Silence. The sound of tumbleweed drifting through a frontier ghost town.
You see, this is the thing. There is no evidence to suggest that the States that already permit same sex marriage are any less moral, or boast higher levels of dysfunction. The fears aren't grounded in any measurable, real world sense.
In fact, allow me to speculate what does ground this mass evangelical angst;
It's the simple fact that God doesn't like it when arses and genitals get too cosy with one another. It's about sex, about who is doing what with whom. If you doubt this annex the following thought; let's assume that it is perfectly permissible for men to form deep emotional connections with other men, and women with other women. Let's assume that this is a point of agreement and an uncontroversial brute fact. So it can't be the emotional aspect that bothers the faithful. So what does this leave? Well it leaves arses, and penises, and vagina's and the free expression of sexuality. The Bible frowns over homosexuality and describes it as an abomination, and it's practitioners can expect an extended stay in a fiery hell for their impulses. Well ok, so if we're going to describe being gay as unnatural could somebody explain to me why we have examples of over 1500 species within the animal kingdom forming same sex bonds and demonstrating established courting rituals? More than that, just ask yourself how many things you do on any given day that are unnatural? Is riding a bike natural? Watching television, having a shave? The list is impressive. And no I'm not being glib; I'm encouraging you to think about how you use the term natural. You'll recognise quickly that there's no consistency on your part.
As a heterosexual male I can honestly see no legal or moral impediment to denying a certain group within society the same benefits that the majority of us enjoy. The courts are clear that it's a violation, and there's simply no evidence to support the idea that same sex marriage leads to a slippery slope.
So, based on my forays into this thorny issue, what emerges is that the fears are wholly religiously motivated, and strangely lacking in empirical support. Perhaps Christians want to look to a three thousand year old book for moral guidance, but I feel no such obligation. We need to have a 21st century conversation about this.