There have been two tremendous misperceptions which I believe have clouded the debate re: gay marriage.
The first is that embedded in our Constitution is the separation of church and state. While the religious roots of our country may have been expunged from our discourse by those who embrace a humanist religion, there is no separation of church and state embodied in our Constitution.
The First Amendment states that “CONGRESS shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof” (the second half of which seems to take a distant back seat to the first half).
But the states were free to establish, and did in fact establish, their own state religion(s). The fear of the Founders was that this new, “Federal” government, which was formed by the States, would prohibit them from practicing the religion of their individual state. That was what they were fleeing in Europe and they didn’t want to replace one overarching national government with another.
Second, I repeatedly hear that Christians should keep their religion out of this discussion. What is forgotten is that those who are in favor of gay marriage almost certainly have a religion (also defined as a belief system) as well, whether it be humanism, post-modernism, atheism, etc. And being amoral, or having a belief that everyone should believe as they wish, is, in and of itself, a belief system. So it’s not a matter of one group imposing their belief system on another. That’s inevitable in a free society.
The question is: who’s belief system should be encoded into law? And to say a certain group (in this case Christians) should have no place in the discourse engages the very intolerance that those who claim to be tolerant decry. In the end, *every* single law ever enacted is the imposition of someone’s morality on someone else (cf. the Civil Rights Acts vis-a-vis the belief system of the Black Muslims or the KKK). It’s just a matter of whose belief system is actually encoded into law.
Third, what this discussion is *really* about is the government’s right and interest to define what constitutes a “family.” From the very founding of our nation, and throughout history, the benefits of a stable family have been recognized and encouraged. In our own country, there’s a long history of family units receiving incentives through the tax code, etc. because it was recognized that a stable family: husband, wife, children was of great benefit to society and governance (one only needs to peruse Census Bureau statistics and sociology studies to recognize that children that come from single-parent households have much larger challenges in life (statistically speaking) than those who come from two-parent homes).
So the debate shouldn’t be about “separation of church and state”, because that phrase has no basis in the reality of our Constitution; and it’s not about one certain group imposing their religion/morality on everyone else because whoever “wins” this debate, someone’s religion is going to foisted on someone else.
The debate is really about what the government should recognize as a family unit with all of its ramifications. That is a legitimate debate about which there can be legitimate disagreements. But to vilify as “intolerant” and “radical” a group of people whose definition of “family” comports with that which has been in place across all cultures and societies for millenia seems to reflect a lack of historicity as well as being, well… a bit intolerant.