Now that we've had time to digest the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage, maybe we can discuss the ruling a tad less emotionally.
When the justices handed down their decision on June 26, those who support gay rights went ecstatic. They cried. They took to the streets to celebrate.
Social and religious conservatives displayed distress in inverse proportion to the pro-gay celebrations. They also cried. They wrung their hands over the nation's future.
I have friends on both sides.
In the tiny corner of the world where I live, there seemed to be no definitive "Christian" position among religious folks whose musings pop up in my Facebook news feed. Some were appalled, but many others applauded the court.
There wasn't a consensus among the members of my own congregation, either. I heard several discuss the ruling at a church cookout. Two or three appeared mildly pleased, and no one seemed notably upset. But I know that some parishioners do object to gay marriage, which is fine, too. To each his or her opinion.
My take is that, whether you love or loathe the court's ruling, the legalization of gay marriage is not, in practical terms, as big a deal as you might assume, given the media's saturation coverage.
Unless, of course, you happen to be a gay person who wanted to get married and now can. Then it's a very big deal.
For the great majority of citizens, though, it'll be life as usual.
The Supreme Court's decision doesn't have any impact either on my personal faith in God or religious practices.
Here are some additional thoughts:
State-sanctioned marriage is a civil matter, not a religious rite. You get a marriage license like you get a fishing license, a driver's license or a business license. Basically, the Supreme Court said people who are gay are as entitled to purchase a wedding license as everyone else.
Is there anyone who thinks gay people should be barred from fishing or driving or opening coffee shops? When the state sells you a license to fish, it's not endorsing your gifts as a fisherman or commenting on your morality or demanding that you believe God created those fish you hope to catch. If you pay your fee, you can fish. Period.
Gay marriage doesn't threaten the institution of traditional marriage between men and women. I'm straight. I'm married to a woman. How does a gay couple getting married affect my marriage? I can't see a connection. I really can't.
Estimates of the number of gay people vary widely, from 1 percent to 10 percent of the population. The more credible studies indicate it's about 2 percent to 3 percent.
If half those folks decide to marry, that means 1 percent to 1.5 percent of adults will be involved in gay marriages.
That's not enough to change much of anything, pro or con, for the larger society. It will mean a difference in how companies and the government administer benefits. But again, even there, the numbers involved are comparatively small.
The chief threat to the institution of marriage is the instability of relationships and explosion of out-of-wedlock births among poorer and working-class heterosexuals. I've written about this before, so I won't belabor it. But that's the tsunami preparing to swamp the republic. Wring your hands over that.
Among the freedoms the nation's founders guaranteed us in the Bill of Rights are the freedoms of religion and speech. I absolutely favor religious and cultural conservatives' rights to express — and live out — their beliefs.
No sect — Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim — should be coerced to violate its tenets, unless those tenets require members to kill their neighbors, commit treason or abuse children.
Within their own walls, the religious can criticize, exclude or offend whomever they choose, just as gays, atheists or socialists possess the right to privately criticize, exclude or offend them.
Churches must remain free to preach against gay marriage, refuse to ordain gay ministers, decline to hire gay workers for the congregation's Sunday morning childcare.
Those on every side have a constitutional right to be as strident as they choose. I'm not suggesting they should be strident. But they can be if they want.
These rights to discriminate become less absolute when religious people journey outside their sanctuaries to serve the public, especially in for-profit enterprises.
If, say, a Christian owns a muffler shop that's meant to earn him a buck and is available to the general public, then he should serve the public without distinction: black, white, brown, gay, straight, atheist, fundamentalist, emo, preppy, fat, skinny.
By the same measure, secular business people shouldn't discriminate against customers or employees who are, say, conservative Christians.
For a civil society, it's better when all parties endeavor to be civil. You don't have to like a person's views — on the left, on the right or in the center — and you don't have to personally endorse his or her lifestyle, to remain fair, kind and gracious.
Truly, it's not that hard.
You just treat others as you'd want to be treated if the roles were reversed.