For the first time, a new poll shows more Americans “strongly support” same-sex marriage than “strongly oppose” it, a finding that could be attributed to changes occurring within organized religions, says a Presbyterian elder and lay preacher.
“For 2,000 years, religion has been the genesis of antipathy toward homosexuals, but now, three major American denominations have approved ordination of openly gay clergy,” says Paul Hartman, a retired PBS/NPR station executive and author of The Kairos (www.CarpeKairos.com), a novel that imagines Jesus as gay.
“Gay has become the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” he says.
The May survey of more than 1,000 adults found a dramatic reversal from earlier surveys: more adults now “strongly support” same-sex marriage rights (39 percent) than “strongly oppose” them (32 percent). Over all, Langer Research Associates says, 53 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legalized – up from only 36 percent just six years ago.
“Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations have overturned centuries of tradition in welcoming openly gay clergy,” Hartman says. “There’s a growing realization that religion can and should help lead us all toward a more mature understanding and acceptance of minority sexual orientations.”
In 2012, he says, there is a new human rights landscape in the United States. He cites these additional recent developments:
• The U.S. military joined 43 other countries when it repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowed openly-gay service members.
• Same-sex marriages are now legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Three other states — Washington, Maryland and California — have same-sex marriage under active consideration. Eleven more offer “civil union”-type status for same-sex couples.
• A federal appeals court in Boston recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as “one man, one woman”), making consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain.
• Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the last nationally-respected scholars whose studies lent credence to “gay reparative” therapies, recently offered a retraction and apology to the gay community.
“Unfortunately, the occasionally hateful crowd still resonates with a very small group of people, including those headed by preacher Fred Phelps and congregants, who continue to make news as they picket the funerals of soldiers and celebrities,” Hartman says.
Western cultures’ condemnation of same-sex love appears to have originated from Judeo-Christian scriptures, but contemporary biblical scholarship amends old interpretations, he says.
“That’s why I wanted to tell a religion-based suspense story about homophobia,” Hartman says. “It addresses fear of all kinds, because in passage after biblical passage, scripture tells humans who are facing change, sickness, alienation, death, and everything else: ‘fear not.’ It applies to homophobia, as well.”
About Paul Hartman
Paul Hartman is a retired PBS/NPR station executive with a passion for biblical history. He is a Presbyterian elder, a lay preacher and a Dead Sea Scrolls aficionado. Hartman, a father and grandfather, confesses he is a lifelong fear-fighter.