By Shawna McNally
John Kuhn is in love.
After two years of dating, Kuhn and his significant other have exchanged rings. Symbolizing their promise to remain faithful to each other, the rings represent the couple's hope of someday marrying. The problem: Kuhn's significant other is a man. Though the two are in a serious relationship, Kuhn must fight to gain the right of marrying the person he loves.
"I want to have a loving, committed relationship with my boyfriend," said Kuhn, `10, a psychology and art student. "I don't see how that differs from the values anyone else has for marriage."
Many gay couples are unwilling to accept the reality that they will never be allowed to marry. California's Proposition 8 superseded a decision made in May 2008 to allow same-sex couples the right to marry. The proposition was the first state constitutional amendment in the United States taking away the right for same-sex couples to marry rather than withholding a right that had not yet been granted.
The California Supreme Court's earlier decision to guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry had given many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgenders (GLBTs) hope for gaining equality nationwide. It was like finally accomplishing a great task and then being forced to start over again, Kuhn said. Though Proposition 8 was in late 2008, GLBTs are continuing to protest the bill.
"If I get legally married in Canada when I come home, my marriage will not be considered legitimate," Kuhn said. "It's just not fair."
Religious beliefs are a huge part of why people are opposed to same-sex marriage. The Rev. C. W. Andrews is firm in his belief that marriage consists of a man and a woman. The Calvary Baptist Church pastor believes the Bible is clear that homosexuality is an abomination. Andrews, a pastor for 35 years who also has served as a Whitworth chaplain, and says he bases his convictions solely upon what God says in Scripture. The Bible says to hate the sin, not the sinner, and Andrews says he keeps this in mind as well. But this does not mean he wants to condon same-sex marriage.
"I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, and I will not go against His word," Andrews said.
Similar sentiments are shared by Pastor Ezra Kintow, pastor of Spokane's Holy Temple Church of God in Christ. "I don't know how you could call it a marriage," Kintow said. "Marriage is between a man and a woman."
Laws constantly change around the issue of same-sex marriage. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a federal act passed by Congress in 1996 to help create some consistency between states, according to the Alliance Defense Fund. DOMA is used to protect marriage through laws that prevent states from certifying same-sex partners through a public act that could be considered a marriage.
Taylor Malone, a gay rights supporter, organized the DOMA protest January 10, 2009, in downtown Spokane. Through protesting, Malone is hoping for a change. While gathering signatures for an open letter to President Obama, Malone was careful not to be pushy or give passersby the wrong impression of the gay community of Spokane. Trying to respect those who support DOMA, Malone politely smiled to the vigorous headshakes and ended every encounter with "Jesus loves you."
"I want people to know that we're not close-minded either," Malone said. "We don't hate people who disagree with us, and I hope they don't hate us for disagreeing with them."
Genna Hibbs stopped by Spokane's DOMA protest on a whim while on her way to class at Gonzaga University. She picked up a sign stating: "Love Knows No Gender." Hibbs believes the issue of same-sex marriage is less about politics and more about equality. The gay community is not trying to take away anything from heterosexuals, Hibbs said, but rather, homosexuals just want the same chance for permanence and happiness.
Supporters of DOMA believe that allowing same-sex marriage will ruin the sanctity of marriage, the Alliance Defense Fund leaders argue. Kuhn disagrees. National divorce rates amongst heterosexuals are growing, a fact Kuhn notes has nothing to do with homosexual marriage rights. Roughly 11 percent of all American adults have ended a marriage, according to the U.S. Census.
"It's ridiculous for people to fear that same-sex couples will ruin what marriage stands for when so many married couples are cheating and quitting on their own relationship," Kuhn said. "I should be able to have the same opportunity the people divorcing had; there's really no difference."
Spokane Pastor Andy CastroLang is unopposed to same-sex marriage. She believes Christianity should be based on being open and affirming. The Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ has voted that no one should be banned from membership or staff based on sexual orientation. The church recognizes that marriage is a committed, monogamous and loving relationship, no matter the gender. God calls on his people to have such relationships and the blessing from the church and from God helps strengthen them, CastroLang said. Churches should not withhold blessings because the relationship involves people of the same sex.
Members of Westminster are working politically towards marriage equality because specific rights are given to people who marry, including tax breaks, employment benefits, and unrestricted hospital visitation. The church members believe everyone should have the same civil rights, CastroLang said.
Westminster does not have a fundamentalist way of reading scripture, CastroLang said. She believes many pastors and religious leaders take passages out of context and use it to argue against same-sex marriage. Verses from the Bible state that women should not teach in the church. As a woman pastor, CastroLang sees the discontinuity as a change in time period and culture. Likewise, the homosexual relationships portrayed in the Bible were not loving or committed; they were dominating and controlling. Today's same-sex couples want to marry for love.
"Jesus' greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor as yourself," CastroLang said. "He said nothing about sexual orientation." The Westminster congregation is not interested in changing their viewpoint on same-sex couples, CastroLang said. The Bible tells Christians to feed the hungry and help those in need; it never said to turn gay people away from your door. The congregation has agreed that their motive is to simply share the love of God with others.
"We are just trying to act on what we believe Jesus is asking of us," CastroLang said.
Kuhn wants to continue the fight for marriage equality. He does not like negativity, however, and is very selective about the protests he attends. He will not ask for signatures and rejects the idea of pushing his opinions on others.
"I want to organize peaceful protests," Kuhn said. "In order to create big change, you need to start small."