Two Durham’s – Different Wording – Same Issue

If you go no further please follow this link and read Justin’s post relating to the passing of amendment one.

There are two Durham’s – one is in the UK and the other is in North Carolina. They have much in common including universities with great theological departments – infact Duke University and Durham University have an exchange scheme. Yesterday Durham North Carolina voted on and passed amendment one explicitly banning same sex marriage, as reported in this Guardian article and elsewhere. The wording was different to the consultation going on in the UK but the issue was is the same whether two people of the same sex can be legally married. As in the UK North Carolina had a coalition opposing same sex marriage as well as groups advocating this type of legal recognition, as in the UK.

Regular readers of this blog will know my position of supporting the concept of same sex marriage but being against the way those opposed are being vilified often because they have simply come to an alternative interpretation of scripture to those of us who believe that the law should change. I know this has come across as controversial to some, and in many ways I find myself stuck in a no mans land. I am condemned by those who believe that the current situation makes them second class citizens, particularly within the church because of the way religious arguments are being bandied about and feel my position lacks integrity. I am also condemned by those who have the alternative interpretations of scripture and are seeking to put forward a range of arguments which are problematic, (the issues with which I highlighted in this post).  There are people like me in NC too. One influential figure and inspiring speaker within the LGBT Christian world and beyond is Justin Lee who heads up GCN. Today he put up this post which I referred you to earlier.

Within his extensive and well written post Justin says the following,

After last night’s vote, I heard a disturbingly large number of my friends, national commentators, and others suggesting that this vote just proves that North Carolinians (or at least a giant percentage of us) are bigoted, homophobic, backwards people who are so filled with hate that we oppose equality for certain groups just because we can.

And see, that’s just not the case. Yes, I voted against the amendment, as did many of my friends and hundreds of thousands of other NC residents. But I also know people who voted for it, and I know that they are not simply bigoted, homophobic, backwards people. It’s way more complicated than that.

Is there a lot of prejudice in North Carolina against LGBT people? Absolutely there is. But it’s not, as some have imagined, just a matter of “bigoted homophobes.” By and large, the prejudice that exists is a matter of a lack of understanding. Many of the folks I’ve talked to honestly believe that people choose to be gay and could choose not to be. They think that giving legal recognition to same-sex partnerships would increase the number of people choosing to be gay, and would therefore encourage more people to turn away from God’s plan for their lives. When they talk about homosexuality as a “perversion,” they’re not trying to be bigoted or mean; they’re being quite literal about it.

Those folks aren’t the only ones who supported the amendment, but in my experience, they make up the lion’s share of those who were most vocally in support. My Christian friends who understand what my life has been like as a gay Christian may not support same-sex marriage, but they tend to be way more thoughtful and careful about these questions, and they are the ones who felt most torn about this amendment and all the legal and moral issues it raised.”

Within that quote he sums up alot of what I’ve been trying to get across regarding the people I know who are part of the coalition4marriage. It is because I appreciate that many of them are good people, people I respect that I would rather change the language and talk of my own forthcoming “marriage” – legally a civil partnership followed by a blessing as a ceremony of commitment.

In terms of the other, unique, issue within the UK consultation- the enabling of transgender people to keep their existing legal relationship status upon reciept of a gender recognition certificate I keep coming back to of the transgender thing I am not looking for an exception to be made – what I am looking for is for transgender issues to be taken seriously and treated as a different issue rather than being subsumed into the gay debate, causing invisibility and marginalisation of trans people.

Justin finished his post with a challenge which I want to lay down to people in the UK too – changing the word amendment:

My challenge to you, however you felt about this amendment and however you feel about LGBT/Christian issues in general, is to force yourself to see your opponents as human beings who honestly believe they’re doing the right thing. Figure out what it is that’s really motivating them, and if the answer you come up with is simply “bigotry” or “love of the flesh” or “stupidity” or “rebellion against God,” keep digging, because you haven’t gone deep enough yet. Then once you really understand them—really, really understand them—find the ways you can reach out and begin to educate them, patiently and lovingly. That is how you make change in people’s lives.”