Last updated: August 25. 2013 4:18AM - 30 Views

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Bobby is unsure about his wedding. He's thinking that intimate might be the way to go — family and some close friends in a small celebration. Or maybe a bigger bash with everyone they know, a chance to look out on all those faces smiling back at you.He's the last in our family who's unmarried. My sister was the first to take the plunge, more than 20 years ago in New Hampshire. A little more than a decade later, I brought everyone south to my bride's Alabama church.Now Bobby, my older brother, is thinking of having us join him in New York, where lawmakers voted this summer to legalize same-sex marriage.Last week, North Carolina legislators dug in harder on keeping the wedding day away from gays, approving a constitutional amendment outlawing homosexual marriage that will go before voters next May. The state already has a law against gay marriage, of course, but a constitutional amendment is harder to change than a simple law. Gay marriage opponents know it's their best chance at defending an institution they believe is under attack.That's a word — attack — that sneaks often into this gay marriage debate. And also this word: agenda. It's how those who fear homosexuality separate gays from the rest of us, by painting them as “others,” as an occupying force that wants to diminish the things we hold important.Some of us, maybe most of us, know something different — that gays are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They grew up in the same households we did, grounded in the same values and appreciating the same institutions, then keeping or discarding those lessons as we all do when we move into adulthood. There is no gay filter through which they process all of life's issues. It's part, not the entirety, of who they are.In my house, those values and institutions were brought to us by parents who are approaching 50 years together, with the delights and bumpiness that so many marriages traverse. Now, says Bobby, he looks around and is sometimes troubled that marriage isn't valued the way he thinks it should be. That might surprise you if you believe, as many do, that gays don't bring the same depth of commitment to their relationships. But Bobby, who's been with his partner for 15 years, wants to participate in marriage for the same reason others don't want him to — because it says something important.He understands, too, that such importance is what tangles marriage with legislation. As much as homosexuals and their advocates would like a clean break between our laws and our religion, our laws are a reflection of our values, and those values are often grounded in faith.And this is where I confess. I've long struggled with what my Bible says about my brother. I know Leviticus, along with the other Scripture spread before us as evidence against homosexuality. But scholars I respect tell me the Bible isn't as certain about gays as some think. They also tell me to be cautious about selective literalism — holding up the passage condemning homosexuality yet ignoring the one that says it's shameful for a woman to speak at church.What they don't have to tell me is this: We should all think hard before declaring ourselves God's proxy on determining what makes for a big sin — and who is a sinner.Yes, that's an easier spot to land intellectually when you have a brother who's gay, but polls are showing that time is bringing more of us to the same place. We live in a country that moves slowly in allowing rights to its minorities, but eventually it gets there, and eventually we will.That's a good thing not only for the oft-stated and significant reasons — that gay marriage laws discriminate and fuel hostility, and that gays deserve the rights and benefits that come with marriage. It's good because my brother and Osvaldo, and all our brothers and sisters, get to do the same thing we did — stand in front of a large or intimate gathering, wear a tux or a dress or a ring or none of those, but announce a commitment we believe will endure.Bobby isn't sure about his wedding's particulars, but with it he'll get to appreciate all those things big and small. In time, that's coming here, too, no matter what happened last week or happens in May. It's coming not because we're finally willing to accept people who are different, but because we understand that they're not.

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