With great trepidation, I am dipping my toe into the huge debate surrounding marriage equality. Before we get into it, however, I would like to put forth several disclaimers:

1. I have a degree in television, not theology.
2. …Or constitutional law.
3. I’m stepping away from the discussion of whether homosexuality is a sin or not, and speaking strictly about the legal aspect of marriage equality.
4. If I get any facts or laws incorrect, especially in regard to the Constitution, please see #2 and feel free to correct me in the comments (kindly, I hope!)

Ready? Take a deep breath (I know I just did) and jump in with me! I hope everyone will still love and respect me the same amount at the end of this post as you do at the beginning.

Here’s the thing: I’m a big fan of the Separation of Church and State. I know that’s a strange thing to be a fan of, especially since I’m a member of the Church that I so desperately want to be separate from the State. The bottom line is that I believe what I believe, but not everyone in the US agrees with me–religiously, morally or ethically. Hell, not all of my friends agree with me religiously, morally or ethically. But we have enough other things in common that it doesn’t really matter.

I recently read a blog post that posited that since marriage is, in and of itself, a religious institution, it should not be legislated at all–heterosexually or homosexually. According to the author (who goes by the Tumblr handle muhsocialissues):

In a perfect world, there would be no legal system of marriage. Rather, you go to whichever celebrant you wish (be they a priest, humanist, pagan, or whatever) and if they are willing to marry you they do. There is no signing of a legal document, just a declaration of love before the eyes of your chosen deity.

Let me be perfectly clear: I have no issue with marriage as a legal institution. In fact, I like it quite a bit. I also believe that abolishing the legal system of marriage in favor of a strictly religious one would be roughly as difficult and expensive as the United States making the transition to the metric system like the rest of the freaking world. However, the original poster has a point: if marriage is a religious institution, what purpose does the government have mucking around in religion?

I’d like to take that point and, in a sense, reverse it. In our world marriage is more than just a religious contract–it’s a legal one. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the way our society currently operates. In a sense, if marriage is a legal institution, what purpose does the Church have mucking around in legislature? Because the reality is that marriage is more than just a religious institution. Not everyone gets married in a church, or even by a religious leader. People get married in courthouses, by Justices of the Peace (or is it Justice of the Peaces? No, it’s Justices of the Peace, like culs-de-sac).

Think about it: if someone made a law that forced everyone in the US to keep kosher, or to not eat beef, or pork, or forcing women to cover their hair in public, how would you feel? Chances are unless you’re Muslim, Hindi or a kosher-keeping Jewish person, you wouldn’t welcome those laws. I know that I, personally, would be hurt and angry, because I don’t follow those religious guidelines. In the same way it is not fair, legal, or Constitutional for me (or my fellow Christian brethren) to impose Christian morals in a legal way onto people who have a different moral code.

The bottom line is that America isn’t a theocracy. It doesn’t matter whether or not this country was founded under God, or by Christians, or by people who happen to ascribe to Christian morals regardless of their personal faith. If the Founding Fathers wanted to require everyone to follow Christian morals, then they would have created a country and a government with a national religion, but they didn’t. This country was founded on the basis of freedom–freedom of religion, speech, press, right to bear arms… the works.

If we had a national religion, this would be an entirely different conversation, but we don’t, so religious beliefs should not be the basis for laws. I believe that it should be 100% in the power of a church to decide who to marry (or who not to marry). But I do not believe that it should be in the power of a courthouse to turn someone away.

American Christians have tried fighting same-sex marriage on a legal level, and while it is having legal success, it’s not endearing us to the public. Before you say it–I know that part of being a Christian is to be persecuted, but there has to be a better way. There has to be a way to reach people without making them feel like they’re being attacked. That’s the impression I get from my homosexual friends and classmates: that we hate them. That we’re attacking them. That we want to deny them the right to live their lives as they see fit. Is homosexuality a sin? Many Christians believe that, but the LGBTQ community and their supporters don’t. And if we, as Christians, judge them, or if we try to deny them equal rights, or if all we talk about is how they’re “deviants,” then we lose the opportunity to foster relationships with the LGBTQ community and their supporters.

It seems strange to end this post with a quote by a man who opposes same-sex marriage, but I truly believe Billy Graham when he says “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”

So let’s stop trying to pass laws that alienate and enrage a large portion of the American public and focus on loving them instead.