Support for same-sex marriage hits a new high...
Half of all Americans believe that gay men and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll in which a large majority also said businesses should not be able to deny serving gays for religious reasons. Fifty percent say the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection gives gays the right to marry, while 41 percent say it does not. Beyond the constitutional questions, a record-high 59 percent say they support same-sex marriage, while 34 percent are opposed, the widest margin tracked in Post-ABC polling.
Pope Francis reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to gay marriage on Wednesday, but suggested in a newspaper interview that it could support some types of civil unions.
The timing of the pope's comments made me laugh—and his comments reminded of a conversation I had with a friend who happens to be an opposite-married, bible-believing, born-again Christian. (The two of us are thinking of starring in a new production of The Odd Couple.) A couple of months ago my friend put this question to me via text: Would gay people be willing to accept civil unions in place of marriage? Would we be willing to compromise with conservative Christians? Would gay people be willing to settle for all the same rights, responsibilities, and protections of marriage right now in exchange for leaving marriage for opposite-sex couples? I told my friend we would.
When gay men were dying by the tens of thousands at the height of the AIDS crisis—when gay men were being dragged out of the hospital rooms of their dying partners by homophobic family members, when gay men were being barred from the funerals of their deceased partners, when gay men were being evicted from their homes after the deaths of their partners (many evicted gay men were sick and dying themselves)—conservative Christians could've stepped in then and said, "This is wrong. Whatever we believe about homosexual acts, brutalizing people like this is shockingly immoral and deeply un-Christian. Clearly there needs to be some sort of legal framework to protect people in loving, committed, stable same-sex relationships from these appalling cruelties."
Conservative Christians did no such thing. They celebrated AIDS, they welcomed the plague, they said it was God's judgement and they insisted that gay people deserved this pain and suffering—those of us who were sick and dying; those who were being dragged, barred, and evicted; those of us who were watching our friends and lovers die—and that it was only a taste of the pain and suffering that we would face in hell after our deaths.
The way gay people were treated at the height of the AIDS crisis made the importance of marriage rights—the importance of being able to declare your own next-of-kin—scaldingly apparent. Some of the most impassioned fighters for marriage equality, like Andrew Sullivan, cite what they witnessed in AIDS wards as their primary motivation. If Christians had looked at the suffering of gay men in AIDS wards in 1985 said, "The lives, loves, and rights of these couples must be protected," and if conservative Christians had proposed civil unions then and gotten a civil unions statute signed into law by the conservative Christian president they helped elect, that might've halted the push for marriage equality before it could even get off the ground.
But now that we're winning marriage—now that victory is assured—the pope is willing to maybe think about supporting some type of civil union scheme. I'll say to the pope what I said to my evangelical Christian pal: that fucking ship has fucking sailed. What the pope is saying to gay people in 2014 is this: "Okay, now that you're winning marriage, here's an idea: give marriage back and we will give you civil unions... which we once opposed with the same intensity and in the same apocalyptic terms that we oppose marriage today. Is it a deal?"
No deal, Francis.