The Gay Marriage Debate is Fundamentally about Freedom, but Not Like You Think

Rob Portman, Republican Senator from Ohio and one of the early favorites for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016 (how much longer til that election, by the way?), has reversed himself and thrown his support behind same-sex marriage.

Reactions that I’ve read have ranged from skeptical to “Ruination!” But his decision, and the reasoning for it, just makes me think again that no one on either side of this issue is really thinking this thing through.

Portman explained his change of heart in an editorial, in which he said: “… I believe all of our sons and daughters ought to have the same opportunity to experience the joy and stability of marriage.” It’s a sentiment that’s pretty typical among same-sex marriage supporters. Their arguments are draped in the language of rights and equality and freedom, and I think that most of them, Portman included, are sincere about that. In their minds, the issue is just a question of granting a freedom to a group that doesn’t have it, then everyone will be equal. Problem solved. Anyone who wants to deny this freedom just does it out of meanness or spite.

I think a lot of people really believe it’s that simple, but I’m afraid it’s not.

Let us use the power of imagination to transport ourselves ahead in time twenty years or so to an America where all of Rob Portman’s dreams have come true: gay marriage is legally recognized as equal to heterosexual marriage in all fifty states, and same-sex married couples have all the same legal protections and privileges.

Is this a country in which I can legally stand up in a church’s pulpit and say that homosexuality is a sin? Can I say it on TV or on the radio? Can I write it in a magazine or on the Internet?

If I own a church or a wedding chapel or a catering service, and I’m a Christian who believes homosexuality is a sin, can I decline to offer service to homosexual weddings?

Or in all of these situations, am I subject to lawsuits or maybe even hate crimes charges?

The gay marriage debate is not just about whether weddings with two tuxedos or two dresses are just as good as weddings that have one of each. It is also about religious freedom, and whether Christians will have the right to live by their beliefs or be forced to subordinate their beliefs to the demands of the broader culture (and I say “Christians” because the number of lawsuits that will ever be filed against mosques for not allowing gay marriages will be exactly zero).

The more that homosexuality becomes mainstream, the more Christian doctrine about homosexuality will have to be marginalized. The gay marriage debate isn’t about extending privileges to a certain group; it’s about trading the freedoms of one group for the freedoms of another. Don’t be surprised if the group that is losing freedoms pushes back.