Why “it doesn’t affect me” isn’t good enough anymore

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By Michael d’Oliveira

Part of the reason public support for gay marriage has increased so dramatically over the last 15 years is because, unlike abortion, many people view it as something that doesn’t affect them or others.

According to the Pew Research Center, support for gay marriage was 35 percent in 2001. In 2017, it was 62 percent.

But while “it doesn’t affect me” was probably good enough to sway public opinion in favor of gay marriage, and possibly even influence the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in 2015, as a society, we need to do better.

“It doesn’t affect me” accurately describes the private relationship of two consenting adults. What two gay men or two lesbians do as a couple is nobody’s business but their own. Their love and commitment to each other is not going to negatively impact the ability of any heterosexual couple to have a happy marriage or raise healthy children.

But “it doesn’t affect me” also has a certain negative connotation to it. It implies that the only reason to grant someone rights is because it won’t impact yours. There’s an implied idea that one depends on the other. Nobody says, “Christians should be allowed to worship freely because it doesn’t impact Sunday football.” Christians are allowed to worship freely in this country because we all believe they have the right to do so. The same view needs to become predominant when it comes to thinking about gay marriage and other LGBT rights.

To be clear: nobody should be forced or shamed into exposing the belief that LGBT couples have the right to be married. No one should be called a homophobe or a bigot just because they say, “it doesn’t affect me.” If we’re truly going to get people to change their minds, courteous and open conversation is the only way to go.

The way to change people’s minds is to highlight the humanity of the LGBT community and hope the thinking progresses in the right direction. As open homosexuality becomes more accepted by society, that will probably be the case. But it’s not something that can be taken for granted. History shows that it is possible for societies to backslide and regress.

LGBT individuals deserve the right to get married because they are human beings. They have the same hopes, dreams, fears, foibles, flaws, and potential as everyone else. They want to love, be loved, and be accepted by their friends and family for who they are. No one chooses to be gay because, for many people, that choice means being ostracized from their friends and family.

Nobody chooses to be discarded in that way. Most human beings, if they truly could choose, would make the choice that doesn’t involve negative social consequences or the physical harm and death that befalls many homosexuals, especially in countries where being openly gay is dangerous.

It’s a lesson in humanity that has its most recent example in the lesbian couple who proposed to each other at the same exact time in Memphis.

You can see the joy and happiness on display, just as you would when you see a man propose to a woman. That’s because we’re all human beings who experience the same emotions. We’re not really different, not in the ways that really count.

I see two lesbians but, what I really see is two human beings who are in love. I wish them a long and happy life together.

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