Of Same-Sex Marriage, True Love and the Pope

I had arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early waiting for my lunch partner to show up. We had exchanged a few emails but never met in person and had business to discuss. When she walked into the dark restaurant, it was as if the sun had lowered from the sky and lit the room. We sat, we talked (not about the business that was supposed to be the point of the lunch), we fell in love and seven years and two children later, we are a happy and secure family.

What I felt that day, and still feel today, is an uncontrollable, physical, and emotional need for this woman. I could no more control that feeling than I could stop breathing. I am not a religious man but the only way to describe it adequately is to plagiarize someone else (Les Miserables): "To love another person is to see the face of God."

If Lynne's name were Larry, the State of Georgia, and the federal government, would deny us so many things. I could go on and on about estate taxes, income taxes, social security benefits, hospital visitations, etc., but what the government really would deny us is our dignity as human beings and the right to express our love openly, proudly, and without any stigma or disapproval.

I don't think one has to be a romantic to know that true love cannot be created, controlled or cabined. Songs are composed, plays are written, and paintings are drawn in the service of and to express true love. When love is repressed or refused, the consequences are almost never good.

Why would any thinking person believe that society would be better off if we deny true love to the significant percentage of the population who finds love with members of the same sex? To be part of a stable, happy and cohesive family is certainly not the only way to live a good life but for millions of people it is their primary source of happiness and inspiration. And for those who wish to make a moral judgment about homosexual conduct between consenting adults, I am sorry, but the sex is going to happen anyway. If you think you can repress sexual desire, you should stop reading because there is nothing in this essay for you. So even assuming one has a moral objection to intimacy between people of the same sex, wouldn't it be better if that intimacy occurred in the context of a true family arrangement? Making people feel ashamed for the love they feel causes spiritual agony for tens of millions of Americans. Why would we want to make them feel that way? Relationships (even among people truly in love) are hard enough without that kind of pressure.

All of which of brings me to the pope. In college I had a friend who was Catholic and gay. He was both through and through. But acting on his sexual desire foreclosed his religious practices and his religious practices precluded his desire. Talking him down one night from suicidal wishes was an experience I will never forget. Conflict between fundamental desire and one's religious teachings is awful. As you read this essay, the Vatican and other religious institutions are causing this deep and most painful conflict in millions of people around the world based on an outdated moral precept that simply cannot be right.

For the pope to say that sexual conduct among people of the same sex should be treated differently than sexual conduct among people of different sexes is to denigrate, disrespect, and deny what are real and unchangeable emotions to much of the world's population. As I said earlier, I am not a religious person, but I think I know a sin when I see one. The Vatican's position on homosexual conduct, like DOMA (the federal law denying same sex couples benefits) , and all our laws treating gay couples differently, taken together constitute a terrible sin. It is a sin because the disapproval denies real feelings, desires, and the need for acceptance to so many people only because they have different sexual and emotional needs than we do. That is just not fair or, to put it another way, a Christian thing to do. The only way I know to truly drive home the point to those not already convinced is to imagine yourself, a heterosexual person, being told you had to have a same sex partner to be fully accepted in society. Could you do it?

As a legal matter, our government is not allowed to deny any "person" the "equal protection" of the laws. Denying to same-sex couples governmental benefits we give heterosexual couples for no reason other than a moral judgment about sexual preferences is a denial of equal protection in the most fundamental sense. But the larger point is that we as a society, and all of the religions that seek to prevent true love from being affirmed among people of the same sex, create evil, strife, and unnecessary pain and suffering because of an out-of-date and pernicious moral judgment that some consensual love among adults is more pure than others. Our world would be a much better place without that judgment, and people who sincerely believe in so-called "Christian" values like charity, empathy, and treating others like you want to be treated, should be leading the way.