GRAVER: The gay marriage conversation

Gravely Mistaken

Yale is a place of profound clarity and confusion, each deceptively entwined with the other. Four years well-spent here should wade in the deep end of a muddled pond, challenging faith, family and popular whim. It should come with vast divergences of opinion, equally reached in good conscience and ideally in conflict with a former version of yourself. We should kindle these moments of introspection, not suppress them in a mob of mutual assuredness.

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One of the perks of being a campus conservative is the license to take some swings at the low-hanging fruits of excess inherent in a culture of occasional homogeny. But this comes with a trade-off: being part of a political leper colony makes self-criticism immensely unappealing. Especially when a change of opinion often results in a smug “I’m glad you came around” or “At least you’re not one of the crazy ones.”

But sometimes, the hesitancy to refrain from friendly fire grows into cheap cover. Ideas have consequences, even if nurtured and harbored in the shadows. And if we are willing to adopt certain principles, we should be willing to force ourselves into the hard conversations — as President Peter Salovey urged us in the beginning of the year — that challenge them.

Our campus — both left and right — needs a better dialogue when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. It is about time those of us, especially in the latter group, to stop being so quiet about it. Here’s my part: It is time to endorse, embrace and throw flower petals down the aisle for gay marriage.

Yale is a place that simultaneously presses the tension of our intellect and intuition, which wrestle like Jacob and the angel. They struggle and jockey above one another. As we fashion ourselves for adulthood, we hopefully find a glimpse into what their stalemate looks like.

Through this, though, a picture can emerge, as fragmented perspectives begin to point in the same direction: sexual orientation is not a choice, love — created equal — is the requisite for a stable family and social norms are the province of civil society, not the lumbering arm of the law.

At the end of the day, these are our dearest friends’ lives: not exercises in political philosophy. I can grow in a religious setting that speaks to the faith afforded to me while standing as a groomsman of my friend and his husband whose conscience I know has been fashioned by the same brush.

But let’s also not be so callous as to conflate difference with malice. The notion that opposition to gay marriage is sine qua non the outgrowth of bigotry or small-mindedness is a false, intellectually shallow narrative. And it’s all too common for confident students to brush aside millennia of traditions, thinkers and multifaith theology — let alone slander peers — from the pedestal of the enlightened undergraduate. We shouldn’t be so willing to indulge in this isolation, both from the generations of great minds before us and that niche group of roughly half the country.

Additionally, let’s not be so eager to scorch the earth. It was particularly baffling last year how so many students were quick to label Mitt Romney a homophobe for a position that they voted for in 2008; that is, before Barack Obama evaluated gay marriage as politically advantageous. And it’s even more incoherent for a campus committed to a professed pluralism to immediately discard certain faiths for deeply holding a view of human flourishing that conflicts with their academically constructed system of ethics.

So if we want to have a conversation about marriage, let’s have one. The love that radiates from the steps of an increasing number of courthouses across this country also serves as a reminder for how much work there is to be done: from divorce, to the proliferation of single parents, to the sexual norms that enforce these perilous trends.

Years from now, I want my son to know that I got this right. I also want him to understand how I got here, how to strike a balance between heart and head, how to have the courage to change. These are the moments, though, lost to a campus geared towards blunt dismissiveness. It is ethos we would be better to do without. This is how things actually get better.

Harry Graver is a senior in Davenport College. Contact him at harry.graver@yale.edu.

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