Michael Huang writes:
[F]or many people, their objection to the public acceptance of homosexuality is not rooted ultimately in sheer bigotry and prejudice--feelings like just mere disgust or revulsion to the thought of gay sex. It's really quite simple in my view. Many people believe that homosexuality is wrong because the divine order says so, and to go against the divine order is ultimately to invite moral and spiritual anarchy, or moral relativism. There is no getting around this for conservative Christians. We are all fallen, of course, and so we all contribute in our own ways to moral and spiritual anarchy, but in the case of homosexuality, its advocates are trying to get the public to not merely tolerate, but to accept and affirm what we believe to be sinful. Sin leads to death and leads people away from God. Do we want a society that is, on this particular issue, leading people away from God, who is the ultimate source of goodness, order, and truth? To fully accept homosexuality is to accept blatant sin in general, and if it's done by the fiat of the government by having their relationships officially sanctioned with the name "marriage," it will encourage the society in directions that are further removed from what God intends for human beings.
Huang is right, of course, that conservative Christians see the public acceptance of homosexuality as a sin but his claim that their objections are rooted here rather than bigotry is not entirely credible. Why? We need only look to that favorite document of conservative Christians, the Ten Commandments, to see.
The first commandment forbids worshipping any other gods. The second commandment forbids graven images an idols. The third commandment forbids taking the Lord's name in vain. The fourth commandment requires keeping the sabbath holy. The seventh commandment forbids adultery. If conservative Christians were consistent, they would get even more upset at the fact that such behavior is not only legal, but is in many cases protected in American law.
After all, aren't advocates of false religions and adultery "trying to get the public to not merely tolerate, but to accept and affirm" what is sinful? Isn't fully accepting the equal status of false religions, idols and working on the sabbath the same as accepting "accept blatant sin in general, and if it's done by the fiat of the government by having [these things] officially sanctioned"?
Conservative Christians aren't consistent in their rhetoric. They don't oppose the "big" sins of false beliefs, idols, and working on the sabbath. Because of this, it just isn't possible to take their "sin" claims about homosexuality very seriously. They aren't credible when they claim that they are only really opposing gay marriages because government-sanctioned gay marriages is "government-sanctioned" sin. After all, they don't object to all kinds of other "government-sanctioned" sin, even when it involves sins that are far more serious than homosexuality.
Note: I'm not saying that the perception of homosexuality as sinful isn't relevant at all — quite clearly that plays a role. What I'm saying is that identifying this as the sole or even principle source of conservative Christians' motivation just doesn't seem to work. There are far more important sins that they pay no attention to whatsoever. Personal, visceral, emotional reactions to homosexuality and homosexual acts are far more credible as motivators.
Huang is not foaming at the mouth in his attack on gay marriage — he presents as fair and dispassionate of a case as I'm sure he is able. Indeed, I doubt that many would do a great deal better. The fact that he is unable to demonstrate that the religious conservatives' opposition to gay marriage is reasonable and fair is a good reason to suspect that others won't have better luck.