When you put religious conservatives, progressive liberals, and an audience of hundreds of passionate citizens in a room together to debate a controversial issue, you know it’s going to be an evening to remember, and the “Great Castro Valley Marriage Debate,” held in the Castro Valley Library on July 18, certainly was that.
It started off pretty routinely. It was a classic style debate, with three pro speakers, three con speakers and a moderator.
Representing the pro side were Billy Bradford, Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring, and Dr. Irene Landaw, while the con side consisted of Stacy Spink, and Peter Hauer, and recent CVHS graduate Trinity Bustria. Reema Kakaday acted as the moderator, holding a sort of half-MC, half-crowd control role.
The audience itself was very diverse, spanning all ages, races, and, yes, sexual orientations.
The issue being debated? Whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to legally marry.
The con speakers gave their opening speeches first. Their plan of attack included long passages from the Bible, parallels between homosexuality and alcoholism and obesity, and calling gays “selfish hypocrites” out to get money.
Next up to the plate were the pro speakers. Bradford got the audience to their feet with his very first statement: “I am gay, and there is nothing wrong with that!” The other two speakers chimed in with their own arguments, pointing out that, among other things, “an adult has the legal right to marry another adult,” and that homosexuality is a biological trait some are born with, not something chosen, learned, or contagious.
After the speeches were over, the audience was allowed to ask questions of the speakers. One speaker asked the con speakers why they believed tolerance was detrimental to society. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” answered Hauer, who also said divorce, welfare money to poor single mothers, and feminism have greatly harmed society.
After many questions, both serious and bizarre, it was time for the concluding arguments.
Con speaker Bustria came right out and said that he believed that “homosexuality is a sin in God’s eyes,” but also said that he was trying to help homosexuals, and that he isn’t a “hater.”
Hauer said that if gays don’t want polygamy, then they are “intolerant, unfair, selfish hypocrites who only care about boosting their own self-esteem.” I think I heard some boos.
On the pro side, Landaw pointed out that divorce rates have gone down in states with marriage equality laws, and said humorously that “marriage is in trouble, but it’s not because of gays!” She also questioned why time, place, religion, race, or method didn’t make any difference in an official marriage, but for some reason sexuality was such a big deal.
Nehring, a lesbian, teared up as she told how every time she comes out, she receives hate mail.
“I got 99 problems, but being gay isn’t one of them!” joked Bradford before continuing to describe how all the LGBTQ community wants is social acceptance. He pointed out that even prisoners could get married, because the Supreme Court ruled that it was a fundamental right, and questioned why that didn’t apply to homosexuals.
More questions were posed to the speakers, but the core of the debate had finished. Although a vote wasn’t taken to determine the winner, the general consensus was pretty clear.
Both sides gave it their all, but the most compelling arguments were made by the pro side. The con’s core thesis drew directly from the Bible. This is wrong on so many levels. Such a tactic is not only exclusionary of people of different faiths, but moreover, it flies in the face of the separation of church and state. Consequently, they had no ground to stand on.
I truly think that there is no point in debating this issue. Homosexuals WILL marry; it’s just a matter of time. Here’s why:
It’s not a choice or a lifestyle. Did you just wake up one morning and decide to be heterosexual? No! They didn’t either, and there is nothing any gay marriage opponents can do to change that fact. And since there is no changing who they love, it makes no sense to deprive them of a basic civil right.
Also, they aren’t evil villains intent on destroying life as we know it. They are simply a portion of the population that wants the same basic civil rights the rest of us enjoy. What if people of different eye colors or skin colors or religions were told they weren’t allowed to marry? There would be a lot of uproar, and they would eventually get their basic rights returned to them. This issue is exactly the same, except the percentage of the population is much smaller, so they have to fight harder to be heard.
Furthermore, why is it any of our business who marries whom? If they’re happy and are good, tax-paying citizens, why should it matter? Yes, they can’t reproduce independently, but is that really such a bad thing in a world of almost 7 billion people? In fact, they tend to adopt children, which is widely viewed as socially beneficial.
People can disapprove of homosexuality all they want, but it is indefensible to argue that it is wrong to let these folks marry. What’s ironic to me is that most of the opposition is right-wing conservatives who say they hate government and value freedom, but when it comes to the grit of it – social issues – they are more than happy to expect government to step in and impose their own personal (and religious) beliefs on everyone.
It’s sad to me that it’s taking this long for homosexuals to get their rights, but I have faith (knock on wood) that justice will ultimately prevail.