Friday, September 16, 2011

A wedding, and all that we bring to it

Bobby is unsure about his wedding. He’s thinking that intimate might be the way to go – family and some close friends in a small celebration. Or maybe a bigger bash with everyone they know, a chance to look out on all those faces smiling back at you.

He’s the last in our family who’s unmarried. My sister was the first to take the plunge, more than 20 years ago in New Hampshire. A little more than a decade later, I brought everyone south to my bride’s Alabama church.

Now Bobby, my older brother, is thinking of having us join him in New York, where lawmakers voted this summer to legalize same-sex marriage.

This week, N.C. legislators dug in harder on keeping the wedding day away from gays, approving a constitutional amendment outlawing homosexual marriage that will go before voters next May. Our state already has a law against gay marriage, of course, but a consititutional amendment is harder to change than a simple law. Gay marriage opponents know it’s their best chance at defending an institution they believe is under attack.

That’s a word – attack – that sneaks often into this gay marriage debate. And also this word: agenda. It’s how those who fear homosexuality separate gays from the rest of us, by painting them as “others,” as an occupying force that wants to diminish the things we hold important.

Some of us, maybe most of us, know something different – that gays are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They grew up in the same households we did, grounded in the same values and appreciating the same institutions, then keeping or discarding those lessons as we all do when we move into adulthood. There is no gay filter through which they process all of life’s issues. It’s part, not the entirety, of who they are.

In my house, those values and institutions were brought to us by parents who are approaching 50 years together, with the delights and bumpiness that so many marriages traverse. Now, says Bobby, he looks around and is sometimes troubled that marriage isn’t valued the way he thinks it should be. That might surprise you if you believe, as many do, that gays don’t bring the same depth of commitment to their relationships. But Bobby, who’s been with his partner for 15 years, wants to participate in marriage for the same reason others don’t want him to – because it says something important.

He understands, too, that such importance is what tangles marriage with legislation. As much as homosexuals and their advocates would like a clean break between our laws and our religion, our laws are a reflection of our values, and those values are often grounded in faith.

And this is where I confess. I’ve long struggled with what my Bible says about my brother. I know Leviticus, along with the other Scripture spread before us as evidence against homosexuality. But scholars I respect tell me the Bible isn’t as certain about gays as some think. They also tell me to be cautious about selective literalism – holding up the passage condemning homesexuality yet ignoring the one that says it’s shameful for a woman to speak at church.

What they don’t have to tell me is this: We should all think hard before declaring ourselves God’s proxy on determining what makes for a big sin – and who is a sinner.

Yes, that’s an easier spot to land intellectually when you have a brother who’s gay, but polls are showing that time is bringing more of us to the same place. We live in a country that moves slowly in allowing rights to its minorities, but eventually it gets there, and eventually we will.

That’s a good thing not only for the oft-stated and significant reasons – that gay marriage laws discriminate and fuel hostility, and that gays deserve the rights and benefits that come with marriage. It’s good because my brother and Osvaldo, and all our brothers and sisters, get to do the same thing we did – stand in front of a large or intimate gathering, wear a tux or a dress or a ring or none of those, but announce a commitment we believe will endure.

Bobby isn’t sure about his wedding’s particulars, but with it he’ll get to appreciate all those things big and small. In time, that’s coming here, too, no matter what happened last week or happens in May. It’s coming not because we’re finally willing to accept people who are different, but because we understand that they’re not.

52 comments:

pstonge said...

Hi all,

Welcome back. Here's Saturday's column, the first of what will be a weekly weekend column.

I know this is a passionate subject for a lot of people, but I ask that we follow the same commenting guidelines that we always have here - discussion and disagreement are more than welcome, but no nastiness or namecalling, please.

Thanks...

Peter

Lara McKinnon said...

Good luck to your brother! Planning a wedding is wonderful and stressful all at the same time. Tell him to just focus on having fun. And what a nice wedding gift this article is for him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your column. Hopefully, it will help change the minds of some people who can't tolerate homosexuals.
The bottom line: Jesus said "love your neighbor".

Anonymous said...

And here is the Observer, with yet ANOTHER liberal talking point issue to grace the front page. What a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Last week in the real comment section of the Opinion page I asked that the editor of the CO who is the promoter of the homosexual agenda "come on out of the closet". Well, now we all know who that person is. What we have here is a very clear example of "situational ethics" which is defined by its misguided inventor back the '60's as " the casting aside of your moral (Christian)code in certain situations where you feel love takes precedence". In other words, you get to rewrite the Bible (and laws) to suit yourself and make it fit into your situation. Sorry Peter, that ain't the way God works.

Anonymous said...

no matter the state by state legislation, the historic and real definition of marriage will remain the same. civil unions are the
answer.

Anonymous said...

Great article!

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts on the subject. The people that condemn gays are usually the ones that call themselves devout Christians--guess they don't understand the passages in the Bible that say judging is God's responsibility--not theirs. Anyway, your thoughts on the subject are refreshing and your brother is a lucky guy to have you and a wonderful partner!! Best of luck to them.

ThaQueenCity said...

But scholars I respect tell me the Bible isn’t as certain about gays as some think. They also tell me to be cautious about selective literalism – holding up the passage condemning homosexuality yet ignoring the one that says it’s shameful for a woman to speak at church.

And yet you choose to be "selective" in your own literary piece...guess just in case someone disagrees with you or your scholars?

I am also at a loss as to how you connected "it’s shameful for a woman to speak at church." with being gay?

Personally, I disagree with the gay lifestyle, because of my upbringing, but I certainly do not “hate” gays. I have a family member who is gay. I may not agree with his lifestyle, but that does not prevent me from loving him just as I do any other member of my family. Matter of fact, he gets a lot of “special” attention from me, because as a child he and I were always close from the day he was born and still are.

But I disagree with your scholars; the Bible is quite explicit on homosexuality:

"If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination." (Leviticus 20:13). "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you." (Leviticus 18:22-24). Notice that the latter verses - Leviticus 18:22-24 – which also lumps in homosexuality with bestiality. So I guess our next worldly debate will be the pros & cons of bestiality?

However, it is still not my place to judge another, because the Bible also states in John 8:7 “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” Although this passage is related to adultery I do like to use it in many other scenarios throughout life.

ThaQueenCity said...

Ooppss, sorry my PS got left off:

Much luck to your brother and his partner....

Anonymous said...

So when you called proponents of the ban bigots earlier this week you weren't engaging in namecalling?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Pete... like usual, I tried to read your article but dozed off after the second paraghaph... maybe next time.

Lynne Stevenson said...

Congratulations and best wishes to your brother and his partner. May they continue to live in peace and wedded bliss. 15 years in any relationship is a true miracle and blessing in today's society.

pstonge said...

Anon, 9:08: You're mistaken. I didnt write that.

Peter

Anonymous said...

It is extremely frustrating when almost all arguments for the amendment end with someone imposing their religious traditions and beliefs on me.

It makes me wonder if they read history. I suggest they pick up s history book or two and better understand why we have the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clauses to our US Construction. Going against their intent is a slippery slope that endangers all of our rights.

They might also realize their proposal is a waste of time and will ultimately fail to stop gay marriage. History has shown this type of law does not stand up to the basic core of our belief that all men are created equal. Some suggested reading topics: pilgrims, witch burnings, trail of tears, slavery, women’s suffrage, interment camps, and civil rights.

Anonymous said...

Well someone signed your name to the "Why is Perdue quiet on Gays?" post.

Answerman said...

The irony of the Levitical laws is that they were written by a minority group that was essentially and occupying force... The Israelites were newcomers in Canaan, and one thing they needed more than anything were more Israelites - so it is OK to have multiple wives and concubines in order to increase the population, but it is not OK to be homosexual because they are not breeders.

Anonymous said...

Nice column, Peter. I lived in Charlotte but recently moved away. I was disheartened to read that there's a push for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Just as proud as I was when the state went for Barack Obama for president, I am as sad that this may come to pass. One step forward, two steps back. Dance a number at your brother's wedding for all of us who support equality for everyone!

pstonge said...

Anon, 10:22 - This is what I wrote: "Avoiding the question may be politically savvy, but it's cowardly at a time the state needs courageous leaders to speak out against bigotry."

I think it is fair to point out what we think is bigotry - without calling individuals bigots - just as it's fair here for someone to say that homosexuality is immoral without calling gays names.

Thanks,

Peter

ThaQueenCity said...

At 10:08am: Sorry posting "my belief" in the Bible offend you, they have actually been around a lot longer than both of us.

And why is it again, I am supposed to be tolerant of yours, yet you are not or refuse to be tolerant of any one elses? See that is where the hypocrisy comes in.

Had you kept reading you would have seen, I don't just look at one part of the Bible, I look at it all.

But hey, good luck with your one-sided only view.....

Jeto said...

Great article, Peter. Good luck to your brother and his partner. Unfortunately for North Carolina, we are going backwards.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations!!! I hope they have a great time!! It's really sad so many people are against people who simply love one another. I had a couple gay friends who had to move from VA to MD just because of the anti-gay messages coming from Richmond that due to their family status (adopted children) could threaten them. They had both grown up in VA and lived there for nearly 40 years.

JC said...

What an incredible gift for your brother and his partner. Your post is obviously from the heart and represents many hours of thought and reflection. They are lucky to be surrounded by a family during this time.

I recently left my church of more than 50 years because my minister looked at me and said, "I believe that you are biblically wrong." I fully support his right to his own opinion but I find it hard to hear the word of God professing love and inclusion from someone who thinks that I am "wrong". He went on to tell me that he has to be pastor to all of the members of the church - me included. I am no different from so many in the congregation. I work, pay me debts, pray, laugh, love, and care for the world around me. My sexuality is but one very small piece of my core and it is frankly no one's business - I don't spend any time wondering about the right or wrongness of other member's sex lives. My sexuality does not define me.

Keep up the very good work Peter.

Jude Nagurney Camwell said...

Peter, this made me cry. You're a wonderful writer. I hope, with all my heart, that we can all someday say, "Can you believe it was ever like this?"

Anonymous said...

Why would you be proud of North Carolina for voting for Obama? He doesn't support gay marriage. Dick Cheney, however, does. Obviously, Obama lacks the courage to stand up to bigotry.

Rick said...

It never ceases to amaze me how judgmental and intolerant today's brand of Christians are. They have elevated discrimination to a genuine "family value". Yet, the concept of family and what that means still lies outside their comprehension.

They fail to understand the meaning of the holy book they claim to revere, and they actively encourage discrimination against the one remaining group in America when it's not only tolerated but actively encouraged. I honestly pity them, and fear for our country when such mean and misguided people wield so much political power.

Thank you for that beautiful article, Peter. Hopefully, it will do some good. Good luck to your brother.

Kristie said...

A marriage is the joining of two people in love and commitment. While so called "Christians" state that gay marriage is contradictory to family values, love and commitment are the epitomy of family values. If those who keep spewing hate and discrimination would actually live by the values they are jumping up and down about, they would stop passing judgement, love their neighbors and celebrate all people who want to commit their life to someone they love.

Thank you for your column that approaches this subject with intelligence, logic and respect. Congratulations to your brother and his future husband!

pstonge said...

Rick,

Thanks for your thoughts, but I would caution you not to generalize about "today's brand of Christians." I know - and I include myself among - Christians who do not do what you say.

Peter

Sam said...

Hi Peter,

Just for the record, what happened to that "I am in the political center" that you spoke of? That sure didn't seem to last long after your appointment to the big CO board did it.

spinelabel said...

Congratulations and best wishes to your brother and thank you for this column.

pstonge said...

Hi Sam,

You left out the other part of that post, which said: "you rarely peg folks based on first impressions, or even third impressions." Don't make the mistake of labeling based on one issue.

Also, my perspective on homosexuality, which I've written about here before, hasn't changed since I moved to a new desk.

Peter

Reader550 said...

ThaQueenCity wrote: "I am also at a loss as to how you connected 'it’s shameful for a woman to speak at church' with being gay?. TQC: The "connection" is simply that Peter cites one example of a very, very "clear" directive in the Bible that (almost) no one bothers to adhere to anymore (and if they do, they are bigots). There are others. Others that are much more hideous than oppressing females, like condoning slavery, condoning stonings for various offenses, I could go on but won't.

Further, you claim that others are not being "tolerant" of your beliefs. Here is how I draw the line: If your belief is that if YOU may not practice something (let's say, homosexuality), because it is wrong for YOU, and YOU believe YOU would be sinning and therefore unable to enter the Kingdom of God, by all means, I am tolerant of your belief. But when your belief is that OTHERS may not be who they are, then I am simply calling you out for being intolerant, and indeed, bigoted. My intolerance (of your bigotry) is warranted.

Anonymous said...

Until recently, it seemed like North Carolina had found a winning combination of progressive governance, educational excellence and business magnetism.

Now, we are losing jobs hand over fist, our schools suck and we're about as progressive as a Sunday evening prayer meeting.

Could someone please show me the way out?

Smedette said...

Peter,

This is a wonderful piece; I hope you don't mind me sharing it with others.

Best wishes to your brother and partner. He is so very lucky to have a brother like you.

Anonymous said...

Great article, you made some very valid points.
Best to your family on such a happy occasion.

Anonymous said...

Hope your brother finds a nice lady to marry someday. Until then, he will not be, regardless of what a liberal judge or legislature says.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a great family story. Much love and happiness to your brother and his partner.

A Bookish Mind said...

What a great story! Ignore all these anonymous people. I'm so glad you were able to partake in your brother's special day.

Peace & Love

~Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Thank you for you most thoughtful post - It's really spot on to my way of thinking - As a registered Republican, I'm horrified and saddened by how political this has all become - I'm also the sister of a gay brother who died of AIDS in 1989, and having a gay brother DOES change your perspective - He was such a loving and kind man, but was "gay" from the day he was born - How very hard this world made it for him - but he had an incredible faith in Christ and taught me so much - I'm sad that all those "Christians" out there don't have the compassion Christ taught - one day perhaps they'll understand - I'm so very happy for your brother!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article. It still amazes me how people that believe in a loving and caring God could have so much hatred in them. What business does government have in what goes on in someone's home? This witch hunt smells of what happened throughout the South in the 1950's.

Anonymous said...

Your brother will only be married when he marries a woman-period.

OH, and for all the "progressives" on this board promoting gay "marriage" please board the next plane to SF or NY and leave "backward" NC-you will not be missed.

bobcat99 said...

Thank you for another thoughtful column. The ban will likely pass by a large margin, as it has in other states. The marriage ban will not stop a couple who love each other from making a public statement of that love. The ban will simply make it more difficult for that couple to take care of eachother through inheritance rights, social security benefits, health insurance, etc., in a world where we are increasingly told to be more independent and look out for ourselves. Futhermore, in contrast to the insistence that God will punish a people that acknowledges and supports its gay citizens, this ban will punish NC by making it more difficult for businesses and universities to recruit here.

Anonymous said...

"attack" is the right word when those who simply have a different opinion are called "bigots"

Anonymous said...

What state does your brother live in?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this column which is, obviously, born out of love and respect for your brother. He is lucky to have you in his life. Best of luck to him and his partner of 15 years as they publically affirm through ceremony their commitment and love for each other. The world certainly needs more love and commitment.

Dr. Jimmy said...

Congratulations on another committed couple standing up for their love, and for their committed family members that support them. Pay no attention to the naysayers who have obviously created God in their own image because He hates all the same people they do. And they seem to believe God quit talking to us 2000 years ago.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful article. Wishing them continued happiness!

In my opinion, there are 2 kinds of marriage: legal and spiritual (not necessarily religious or with a god). Legal marriage is a civil contract recognized in the state in which the marriage icense was submitted. It has many benefits including next of kin in medical emergencies, property inheritance without a valid will, employee benefits, etc. The other kind, well anyone can exchange vows. However, ALL adults should be able to have the legal kind with whatever consenting adult they choose.

Anonymous said...

slippery slope to hell

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/elections/fl-gay-rights-impact-20110920,0,3502246.story

mark1209 said...

I realize we want to be so correct here in Charlotte given our aspirations and the big Convention coming next year but Peter's point of view should have been an In My Opinion essay and not on the editorial page.Even if the Editorial Board endorsed homosexuality,it would not want one writer to represent it.A Constitutional ballot question may reflect the will of the majority but a lot of us accept gays as friends or associates and still do not seek a referendum on whether married men and women are to be considered normal. Much happiness to Peter's brother and family.

pstonge said...

Mark,

You bring up an excellent point. My column was intended to be just that - a personal column, not an editorial representing the views of the board. That's why we put my face on it - unlike the unsigned editorials that usually appear in that space.

The Observer once ran personal columns in that editorial space on Saturdays, but you're not the only one who didn't understand that's what we were doing. We should have done a better job signaling that to our readers.

Thanks,

Peter

Adrian DeVore said...

Congratulations on your Borther's marriage! May he and his partner share a wonderful life together.

74Doug said...

Peter, you are a very good younger brother and a thoughtful Christian.