By any other name, would it matter so much?

Published 12:13 am Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recently, I had coffee with a West Coast acquaintance, the son of a close friend.

He was sporting a relatively-new gold ring on the same finger on which I wear a gold band. He told funny jokes about his mother-in-law’s cooking.

If anything registered on my face at the references, I hope he understands it was my surprise at how openly he discussed his non-traditional marriage in front of his parents, who don’t talk about the fact that their son is married to a man.

The media has been buzzing about Obama’s recent statement in support of gay marriage, which came on the heels of a vice-presidential blunder that forced his hand. This week, they’re chatting about Green Lantern being gay.

Retailer J.C. Penney also made the news when it released a Father’s Day print ad featuring a real-life same-sex couple with their two young children. A similar Mother’s Day print ad featured female “partners.”

Sure, for Marvel and DC Comics, gay characters were a choice. But I don’t know anyone who is homosexual because he or she chose to be.

Witness the son of another friend, who struggled mightily with the realization about his sexuality as an 18-year-old. His biggest concern was that he was condemned to hell, because that’s what he heard his minister – a man he’d been taught to trust, believe and follow – say from the pulpit on Sundays.

“When your 18-year-old crawls in your lap and sobs like a baby because he thinks he’s going to hell, it breaks your heart,” his mother said. Mine broke with hers as she made the difficult decision of leaving a church she and her family loved because it didn’t love her son back.

I get that this topic makes many people uncomfortable. I also am convinced that if gay couples were willing to call their unions anything except “marriage,” most people who are upset about it wouldn’t care nearly so much.

Thump the Bible and tell me that I am wrong. I won’t argue with you, but I will remind you that in biblical times, women were chattel who were bought and sold and marriage was about being controlled by a husband for whom one worked. Sometimes, it still is.

If as a society, we were this outraged over the 10-year-war in which we are involved (Remember “Thou shalt not kill?”), would we make sure it ended?

If we were offended by poverty or hunger, would we do something about it? (“Do unto others?”)

If we studied the early Christian church, which espoused celibacy, would we be against marriage altogether?

I don’t think so.

But I do think this issue is distracting us, politically and otherwise, from bigger, more threatening, problems.