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Local reaction to national same-sex marriage bans

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Mar 27 2013 03:26:35 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 27 2013 04:17:04 PM CDT

Pocatello residents spoke about their thoughts of gay marriage Tuesday, March 26

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments this week to appeal bans on same sex marriage, people everywhere are speaking out - for or against marriage equality.

Local News 8's Chris Cole hit the streets Tuesday to hear what local people are saying about this national debate.

Any hot topic like gay marriage stems a wide variety of opinions. Some people feel that it should be a church's decision, that anybody should be able to get a civil marriage, and that a church marriage should be an entirely different issue.  

Some feel it should be a state's decision, and with nine states already granting same-sex couples the freedom to marry, many are simply waiting for Idaho to have the issue put on a ballot.  

Some people are saying that there really are more pressing matters, with sequestration slowly having more tangible changes, the Stock Market having more ups and downs than a roller coaster and even a rising number of homeless people visible in our own Pocatello community.

"I wish on the state and national levels that they would place a little higher priority on some other factors than this right now," said Bill Vickers, owner of Vickers Western Store.

Most of the people I spoke with Tuesday said they were in support of marriage equality. But a common theme, even among those who are against gay marriage, was that they were glad the issue is being looked at from a legal standpoint, not just an emotional or religious one.

Dominee Hall, who runs counseling services, said that her therapists focus on "sex positive" help, where any LGBT person can feel sure that their therapist is someone who is not judging them, and someone they can trust.

This is especially helpful for those who feel uncomfortable seeking professional advice about any LGBT issues.

"They're arguing for gay marriage to not be allowed because marriage is supposed to be about procreation," said Hall, owner of Therapeutic Alternative LLC. "The best argument I heard just two minutes ago was, 'Then, do we not let people over the age of 55 get married?'"

One major aspect, especially in eastern Idaho, is religion.

"Maybe in the Bible it says that it's not right or whatever," said local resident Crystal Heath, "but those people that want to be in same sex marriages or whatever, they have to face that in the end, not us."

I spoke with one local Methodist pastor who says that the Bible can be interpreted several different ways.

"There's only actually four passages in the Bible that address homosexuality in any sort of form," said Craig Pesti-Strobel. "One of the passages is actually referring to an act of rape, and another one is referring to a practice that was fairly common in particularly the Ancient Greek world, of relationships between older men and boys that were sort of being initiated into the world of man. So those are some very context-specific things."

He went on to say that taking pieces out of the Bible to support your claims really isn't strong point in the gay marriage debate.

"And then, if you think (about how) that's only four, and then you look at all the parts of the Bible that talk about caring for the poor, doing justice, loving your neighbor, caring for those who are strangers - there are hundreds of those," he said. "Then you say, 'well, let's put them in the scales and see what outweighs what in terms of what seem to be central concerns of the Bible.'"

He also said that nobody is asking for more rights than others.

"It equalizes the playing field for everybody." Pesti-Strobel said. "It doesn't create a separate class of people that don't have those rights, which is what it is now. So, marriage equality then puts everybody on the same playing field."

This also leads into the legal issue of what is to be done with the current situation. Should national government step out of the marriage game completely, or should it be left to the individual states.

"I don't see where it's the federal government's right or responsibility to tell people who they can and can't marry, or tell a religion who they can and can't invite into their marriage custom," said Ben Harker, a Pre-Law student at Idaho State University.

I have done these types of interviews in the past, where I stand in a specific place and ask people questions.  Some are rushing past and don't have time, and some are just too shy to speak on camera.  But Tuesday I saw much different responses.  

People had a strong opinion, but were unwilling to speak on camera because they didn't want to be labeled as closed minded... or even a bigot.

"I've grown up around people like that my whole life," said Heath, in regards to gay and lesbian people, "and it's not for us to say it's right or wrong."

Just as it is not the place of heterosexual people to tell any LGBT person how to live their life, it's also true that immediately labeling someone a bigot and causing them to be afraid to speak their beliefs is not the right way to promote a progressive discussion.

An important thing to remember, as with any debate, that while the majority may feel one way, and LGBT people feel that more and more people are in support of same-sex marriage, it's important to treat those people who have different opinions with respect.

The high court's decision is expected in June.

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