FIRST-PERSON: Gay marriage misconceptions
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- President Barack Obama announced on May 9 that he favors the government recognition of same-sex marriage. One day earlier, North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment stating that only marriage between one man and one woman would be recognized in the state.
With the juxtaposition of these events, one of the most divisive sociopolitical issues of modern times has been forced center-stage in American discourse. Along with the renewed discussion has come several misconceptions.
One misconception is that North Carolina, along with 31 other states, has banned gay marriage. In actuality all voters in the Tar Heel State did was to establish that the only legally recognized marriages in their state will be those that take place between a man and a woman.
I do not know anywhere in America that homosexual couples cannot wed. There are churches in every state that will conduct gay weddings and bless same-sex unions. Homosexual couples are free to marry, but 32 states have voted to not legally recognize those unions.
Another misconception is that a majority of Americans are in favor of legalizing homosexual marriage. In March, an ABC News poll indicated 52 percent in the U.S. support same-sex marriage. Other polls over the past year have reported similar results.
In North Carolina, 61 percent of the electorate voted to affirm traditional marriage. In fact, of the states that have held referendums on the subject of marriage -- 32 to date -- the vote to affirm traditional marriage has passed by an average margin of 67-33 percent.
Put another way, 64 percent of the states have weighed in on the subject of marriage and an overwhelming majority have favored recognizing the traditional view of matrimony.
How are we to understand the disparity between public opinion polls and the voting booth?
To put it simply, when people are confronted with a poll on gay marriage, they are not responding with their true feelings. Either that or the questions are asked in such fashion as to skew the outcome of the poll in favor of homosexual marriage. There can be no other conclusion.
Why would someone be less than honest when responding to a poll? It is simple. No one wants to be viewed as bigoted and/or hateful, which is how homosexual activists have long portrayed anyone who dares to disagree with homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage.
When a poll is taken, it normally requires speaking directly to someone on the phone. Most Americans are not confrontational and certainly do not relish the fact of being thought of as "homophobic," so when asked their opinion on gay marriage, they keep their feelings secret.
But when people enter a voting booth, they are alone with their convictions. No one is privy to their vote. Absent is the intimidation factor of being considered hateful or bigoted. Hence when people vote on the subject of matrimony, they vote what they believe deep down to be true -- the state should only recognize marriage that is between one man and one woman.
A Gallup poll released in May 2011 found that "U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian." The percentage is much lower, but even with the perception that one in four American's are homosexual, the electorate in 32 states have still voted to recognize only traditional marriage as legitimate.
The true number of homosexuals is much lower than 25 percent. A study released in April of 2011 by Gary Gates, a demographer-in-residence at UCLA, found that only about 4 million adults in America identify as gay or lesbian. This figure represents 1.7 percent of the nation's population.
President Obama's support of homosexual marriage juxtaposed with that of North Carolina's affirmation of traditional marriage underscores that while Americans are willing to tolerate homosexual behavior, they are just not willing to equate it as being on par with heterosexuality. Nor are they willing to celebrate it as natural, normal or healthy, which is what marriage is designed to do.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message www.baptistmessage.com, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).