Tahlequah Daily Press

July 10, 2013

Some attitudes are changing


TAHLEQUAH — Polls taken over the past couple of weeks on the Daily Press’ website and Facebook page suggest that here, even in the deepest recesses of the Bible belt, collective attitudes are shifting a bit about same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court justice may have sensed this as they focused on the constitutional aspect of whether the federal Defense of Marriage Act should be allowed to stand. They decided 5-4 that DOMA violates the Fifth Amendment by seeking to deprive personal liberty. Indeed, for that same reason, the Press has long opined that to permanently ban same-sex marriage in wholesale fashion, another amendment would have to be added to the Constitution.

The “collective” qualifier about changing opinions is important, though, because most folks who have been raised to believe same-sex marriage is morally wrong – especially those 50 and older – aren’t likely to change their minds. However, some are beginning to view the gay marriage through a different prism.

While they may still consider it a sin, or  problematic in other ways, they want to funnel their energies into other issues they now consider more pressing. Some people suspect the ongoing public clamor is doing more harm than good to the social fabric of the country. Or, in some cases, they simply see it as a question of Big Brother’s interference: If the government can tell us whom we can marry, what other ways will it find to further intrude upon our lives?

Online polls like those mentioned may give a somewhat warped view of any issue – especially in Cherokee County, where a significant number of rural and older folks still do not have internet access. Younger people, who statistically are more accepting of same-sex marriage, may be skewing such surveys. But talking one on one to local residents who have staunchly opposed it in the past can reveal an interesting perspective.

As an example, one reader who describes himself as a devout Christian said that essentially, no other issue really matters until abortion is eliminated. He didn’t say he approved of gay marriage; he merely said it’s not the most important dish on his plate. Another older couple said that while they worry about the souls of gays who choose to marry, it’s ultimately not their business – any more than any other transgression that doesn’t seem to harm anyone else except possibly the transgressor. And they admitted they can’t see how same-sex marriage ultimately harms the institution of marriage itself.

Finally, there is the most frequently expressed twin sentiment by people of faith: They don’t want to be seen as judging another person and falling short of the command to “love one another.” There’s no qualifier in that mandate.

Regardless of how we view this issue as individuals, how we treat others is ultimately the test of our own character. As people struggle to come to terms with the world’s changing mores, we owe it to our fellow human beings to treat them with dignity – even if we object to the essence of who they are.