I live in one of the states that had a so-called "gay marriage ban" on the ballot Tuesday. It passed, as it did in all 11 states where similar amendments were put before voters. Personally, I voted for it. In general, I'd say I'm a middle-of-the-road voter. In economic issues and foreign policy (and the war), I lean left, but on the moral issues such as abortion, I lean right. I accept the church's teachings on homosexuality, but generally try to bury my head in the sand as far as the whole issue goes, for fear of sitting in judgment of others or becoming aligned with the evangelicals, many of whom seem to spew hate and hostility toward homosexuals who, even if their lifestyle is not right, still deserve the love that we are called to give to everyone, regardless of anything they may have done. All of us are sinners -- no exceptions.
But I walked into the voting booth on Tuesday and there it was right in front of me: A choice to vote for or against gay marriage. The church disapproves of gay marriage, I disapprove of gay marriage, and so, well, I voted for the amendment that says marriage exists only between a man and a woman. I agree with that statement.
And yet ... since then, for reasons I can't explain, I've felt guilty about my vote, and haven't wanted to admit to people how I voted, and I've felt slightly ashamed. I've been trying to figure out the reason for my guilt, and I think I've pinned it down to this: it's one thing to disapprove of a behavior. It's another thing to take action to forcibly supress it. In casting that vote, I crossed a line, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I know that gay marriage is wrong, but I'm not sure that me, in essence, forcibly preventing someone from doing it, might not also be wrong, too.
Since Tuesday, there's been a lot of talk among the (very liberal) people I work with and among Democrats interviewed in the news about how mad a lot of people are, and how they feel that their rights are being taken away from them by radical religious zealots. "I hate this state," said one girl at work. "I want to move. Bunch of bigots." Those words stung, knowing that I had also voted for the amendment. The sad truth of the matter is that there are bigots out there. There are a lot of evangelicals out there who don't take the more subdued stance of say, Orthodox or Roman Catholics, but rather are very vehement and vocal and venomous towards homosexuals in a way that I don't feel comfortable with and seems rather un-Christian. The other day I read an article on Salon.com that included a visit to an evangelical church where the preacher was getting people whipped up into a frenzy and chanting about passing "Issue 1." For people like the ones talked about in this article, I fear that it would not be a far leap for them to go back to puritanical times of witchhunts and burning people at the stake. Personally, I want no part of that crowd.
But at the same time, I also cringe to see society moving further and further away from the values that I know, through the teachings and tradition of our church, to be right and true. I don't want my children to have to read textbooks in school that portray same-sex marriages as legitimate, in the same way that the sacrament of marriage is in our church. For us as Orthodox Christians, where is the middle ground? In politics, how do we draw the line between tolerance and acceptance? How do we influence values in the political realm in a positive way, without going too far and becoming hateful and persecuting?
Since Tuesday, I've almost begun to question whether I should be involved in politics in the future at all. If voting could be an occasion to sin, either in not upholding the teachings of my church or else in persecuting somebody over the choices they've made in their life (when I myself am by no means perfect), might it not be better to just abstain from voting altogether?
Has anyone else grappled with these issues, and if so, how do you feel about it all?