Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lisa Cressman's Concise, Reasonable Answers to Marriage Equality Questions

Last Saturday the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an op-ed by Dan Nye entitled "Why Should I Accept Same-Sex Couples?," in which Nye posed "six questions for supporters of same-sex marriage to answer – forthrightly."

Local Episcopalian priest Lisa Cressman responded to Nye's challenge, and the editors of the Star Tribune selected her rebuttal as representative of the many others they received.

Cressman's responses stand in stark contrast to the bizarre claims recently made by Minneapolis-St. Paul Roman Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt, including the claim that "the end game of those who oppose the marriage amendment that we [the Catholic bishops of Minnesota] support is not just to secure certain benefits for a particular minority, but, I believe, to eliminate the need for marriage altogether." (For my friend Jim Smith's thoughts on this particular contention of Archbishop Nienstedt's, click here.)

Published in yesterday's edition of the paper, Lisa Cressman's refreshingly calm, reasonable and concise answers to Dan Nye's questions on marriage equality are reprinted in their entirety below.


Marriage Questions, Asked and Answered

By Lisa Cressman

Star Tribune
January 18, 2012

1. Where our ancestors all dumb and bigoted?

Our ancestors knew many truths, but not all. A common example of what our ancestors held to be self-evident, biblically sanctioned truth, which we now hold in abhorrence, is slavery. It's appropriate to ask ourselves whether a particular societal tradition is the best way for us to continue.

2. Don't our sexual organs exist for reproduction?

Reproduction is one of their purposes, but so is intimacy. If our sexual organs existed solely for reproduction, couples would have sex only at the times necessary for procreation. Moreover, if this were the case, physical fulfillment in marriage wouldn't be enjoyed by couples who cannot have children (for medical reasons or by virtue of advanced age) or who choose not to do so. [And as Catholic theologian Tina Beattie points out, "[Catholic] Church teaching now acknowledges that the unitive dimension of sexuality is valid even when a marriage is infertile, but this defeats any appeal [on the part of the bishops] to natural law to defend [their] opposition to gay relationships." See also Catholic theologian Daniel Helminiak's "Non-Negotiables of Human Sex," and his thoughts and insights on the Vatican's narrow identification of sexuality with procreation.]

3. Do we just give in to our sexual desires?

Our sexual desires have been channeled through the worthy tradition that people choose one mate and make a promise of fidelity through marriage. A mutual, joyful and public commitment, permanently held, one to another, is the healthiest way to build stable families and a stable society. This would argue for encouraging members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community likewise to make a commitment of marriage as the appropriate avenue for their sexuality.

4. Adultery, pedophilia and bestiality are wrong. So homosexuality?

Adultery is a problem because of the trust shattered when marriage vows are broken. Pedophilia and bestiality are anathema because there cannot be mutual consent – an adult always holds power over a child or an animal. Homosexual commitment is mutual between consenting adults.

5. Changes in norms require universal acceptance. Prevalent homosexuality will not work.

Many changes in our country have taken place without universal acceptance. Indeed, many laws in our country were designed to protect the very people who do not receive universal acceptance.

As to prevalent homosexuality, the long-held estimate is that roughly 10 percent of the population is homosexual. No law has the ability to increase or decrease those numbers.

6. The religious question: Shouldn't we be trying to encourage others to repent of a wrong?

The assumption is that homosexuality is wrong. Assumptions are fair to question, even religious ones. We understand now, in a way our biblical ancestors could not, that medically and psychologically, homosexuals are born, not made. Would a loving God deliberately create someone who is fundamentally a mistake?

If it's a question about "love the sinner but hate the sin," the way we discern whether something is, in fact, sinful, is to look at its consequences. The consequences that result from committed homosexual relationships are as positive as they are for committed heterosexual relationships: stable, tax-paying, caring-for-one-another-through-thick-and-thin families. These are the kinds of consequences that benefit all of society.

Marriage matters to the GLBT among us as much as it does to the rest of us. Surrounded by family and friends, to make a promise to cherish that one other person until parted by death, matters.

This is a big change, surely. I am persuaded, however, that change based on a commitment, a lifelong commitment of mutual joy, will benefit us all.

Lisa Cressman, of Lake Elmo, is assistant priest at St. Mary's Episcopal Church-Basswood Grove.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Head and Heart Response to the Catholic Hierarchy's Opposition to Marriage Equality
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
Progressive Perspectives on Archbishop Nienstedt's Anti-Gay Activism
Joseph O'Leary Responds to Carson Holloway's Arguments Against Gay Marriage
Marriage Equality: Simple Answers to NOM's Complicated Lies
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
A Catholic Statement of Support for Marriage Equality
Tips on Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality

Recommended Off-site Links:
Archbishop in Minnesota Opposes Marriage Equality, Dissent in Equal Measure (January 17, 2012).
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN

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