From the Rev. Jay Leach of Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, in response to Friday's For the Record column opposing gay marriage:
Our nation is celebrating the breakdown of a racial barrier. How regrettable, then, that a decision to erect another barrier was acclaimed by a local seminary professor as “a victory for democracy.” In an Observer article, Don Fortson rejoiced in California's passage of Proposition 8, a vote denying legal protection to persons in loving, committed relationships.
The professor's approach was a familiar one. While rightly decrying efforts to marginalize others by name calling, he resorted to an equally unconvincing argument.
Why shouldn't loving gay and lesbian couples enjoy the benefits of marriage? That, the professor said, is “unnatural.” Pointing to what he called the “essential anatomical fit between the two sexes,” he claimed that just seeing how people look enables “most people” to know “intuitively” that same-sex marriage is “unnatural.”
The record of this sort of religious reasoning is long and lamentable in our nation. Why shouldn't women be able to own property, to vote, to hold political office? That is “unnatural.” Just looking at women's physical stature is enough to convince “most people” that women should be submissive.
Why shouldn't enslaved Africans be emancipated and accorded equal rights? That is “unnatural.” Their physiques make their innate inferiority “intuitively” obvious to “most people.”
Why shouldn't whites and people of color be allowed to marry? That is “unnatural.” Marked differences in appearance enable “most people” to know “intuitively” interracial marriage should be illegal.
The professor is correct in claiming: “In the marketplace of ideas, both sides have a right to advocate their position.” However, to advocate that someone's rights should be denied, one needs more than the feeling that something is “unnatural.” A simple appeal to “intuitive truth” is not a convincing case.
I am one of thousands of clergy people who support the right of all loving couples to marry. I wasn't, as the professor suggests, “recruited by gay-rights activists.” My commitment to marriage equality is grounded in my own religion's affirmation of each person's “inherent worth and dignity” and guided by our religious devotion to justice and equity.
In the marketplace of ideas, the burden of argumentation is on those trying to preserve special privileges for themselves. To make that case, something more than the familiar cry “unnatural” is required.