Religion and politics — two topics that can often turn a friendly debate into an irreconcilable difference in ten minutes or less.
And in today’s politics, marriage equality sits on the political and religious nerves of many people. So it’s not easy to navigate a conversation about marriage equality with a friend who is against it on both counts.
Though it’s easier to leave the topic alone, having a conversation about marriage equality with a morally opposed friend is important. As progressives and feminists, it’s important to understand why the people we care about might vote differently than us on issues that affect human rights and stand up for the rights of LGBTQ people.
When having this conversation with your friend, remember that the goal is not to change their religious beliefs. Instead it’s to show that making laws based on religious beliefs and not on what it just and fair can be harmful to other people’s freedom and rights.
To help you navigate this potentially landmine filled conversation, below is a list of tips and distinctions to keep in mind.
1. DO express your opinion regarding marriage equality with conviction. DON’T be self-righteous about it.
Though supporting marriage equality is important, you should avoid devaluing another person’s beliefs to the contrary. Frankly, this is a tactic that people in opposition to same-sex marriage often employ themselves.
This doesn’t mean you have to say noncommittal things like “Well, that’s just your opinion,” and abandon the conversation.
Instead, argue your position by starting the conversation on common ground. For example, “Not too long ago, it was illegal for people of different races to marry each other based on a certain definition of marriage. If we’re okay with interracial marriage now, doesn’t that mean that these definitions aren’t set in stone?”
2. DO rebut false arguments or misconceptions about marriage equality. DON’T resort to false arguments yourself.
You’ve probably heard some false (and some outrageous) arguments opposing marriage equality before. One common one is “If gay people get married, then people will want to marry children and animals!” This argument succumbs to the slippery slope fallacy and are easily rebutted.
You might respond to arguments like these by saying, “Gay marriage is between consenting adults. Marrying a child would constitute rape. One doesn’t really lead to the other.”
However, if the conversation gets heated and you feel flustered or backed into a corner, it can be tempting to throw out whatever arguments – even false or irrelevant ones — to shut your friend down.
But don’t – using them will only make you look immature and unreasonable. So avoid name calling, demeaning your friend’s character, or attacking respected figures of their religion out of spite.
This will only degrade your argument.
3. DO remain critical of religious texts and arguments that you understand. DON’T criticize a religious text you know nothing about.
Especially if you belong to the same religion as your friend, you can be respectfully critical of their interpretation of scripture.
For example, you might point out that the Bible makes very little mention of homosexuality at all. A point like this criticizes human interpretations of scripture without denying the possibility of a divine source.
On the other hand, if you aren’t well read in your friend’s religious text, don’t try to base your arguments on criticisms of the religion that you’ve heard second-hand or snippets of scripture that you’ve heard out of context.
This is presumptuous and disrespects the amount of serious study that your friend may have put into their religion.
4. DO make it clear that religious beliefs should not be the driving force behind our laws. DON’T try to steer the person out of their religion.
To your religious friend, it might make all the sense in the world to have their religious beliefs turned into law for all the country’s citizens.
But the point of laws is not to cater to the beliefs of some citizens but to move the country forward so that all citizens – including LGBTQ people – have greater opportunities to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
That’s why slavery was abolished even though half of the country’s economy was built on the backs of slaves. That’s why women were given the right to vote when many people (including some women) thought their husbands know best.
At the same time, trying to convince your friend that their religion is wrong or deluded is unnecessary. If same-sex couples who want to marry shouldn’t be forced to conform to a certain set of beliefs, than everyone should be able to carry whatever beliefs they like and live their lives accordingly.
Religion in of itself is not the problem. It is the use of political systems to force religious beliefs on to people that is a problem, and that should be your focus.
There is no guarantee that you will “agree to disagree” with your friend. Keeping these suggestions in mind can help you have a rational discussion that doesn’t end in tears and anger.
Many religious people who are anti-marriage equality view sexual orientation as a lifestyle choice or homosexuality as a mortal sin. They may believe that their stance is helping others and not see their views as bigoted. If this is the case, your friend might be willing to act differently if they realize the positive impact marriage equality could have on others.
On the other hand, if your friend shows themselves to be an out and out bigot, they may not have been a friend worth keeping to begin with.
Do you have other tips to help navigate this conversation? Share below!
Jarune Uwujaren is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. A Nigerian-American recent graduate who’s stumbling towards a career in writing, Jarune can currently be found drifting around the DC metro area with a phone or a laptop nearby. When not writing for fun or profit, Jarune enjoys food, fresh air, good books, drawing, poetry, and sci-fi.
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