By Elliot Kwon, 16, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS
Print This Post
Elliot says that without more civil discussions about controversial topics, we'll never find solutions.

The day after the elections, I was happy. Happy that Proposition 8 had passed. But I’ve got to admit, I also just felt plain relieved that the Proposition 8 controversy—and the arguments with my friends—was finally over.

Before I go on, I would like to emphasize that I am just trying to share my point of view and not force my beliefs on anyone. I want to help people from both sides to be more understanding toward one another.

I have always opposed marriage for same-sex couples because I was taught that it was immoral. Growing up in South Korea, where people often carry inflexible opinions about controversial topics, I was always told that heterosexuality is the “correct” sexual orientation to have. Even my teachers taught me that in school. Being a Christian has also played a huge role in shaping my opinion. My pastor in Korea would always talk about how we all must follow the word of God, and God says a man must marry a woman. God considers homosexuality a sin. Being devout Christians, my parents also strictly opposed homosexuality.

So it was upsetting for me to hear that the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage this past summer. It was mostly because I was taught to oppose gay marriage, but also because in 2000, 61 percent of California voters passed Proposition 22, which stated that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” The judges ignored the popular vote.

Illustration by Brian Lopez-Santos, 17, Marshall HS

When Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in California, was put on the ballot my initial reaction was to support it. But as I talked with more people about the issue of same-sex marriage I was able to see both sides of the issue. Hearing the reasons to oppose Proposition 8 seemed to make my own reasons to support it weaker. For example, I’ve heard many people talk about the separation of church and state, meaning that the government shouldn’t use religious beliefs to make decisions. In this case, people argued that just because some groups believe God disapproves of homosexuality doesn’t mean that the government should prohibit same-sex marriage.

I knew that I felt strongly against same-sex marriage. But why? I couldn’t find a good enough reason to feel so firmly opposed to it. I don’t have a problem with civil unions or guaranteeing other rights, like hospital visitation to gay couples; I just didn’t want the civil unions to be called a “marriage” because marriage carried a sacred connotation for me.

In the month before the election, I looked for more solid reasons to support the proposition. My mother cited the Bible and explained that God clearly opposes same-sex marriage, but I already knew that. Besides, how can that counter the separation of church and state argument? So our conversations didn’t give me better reasons to support it.

I began to ask my friends in school, both Christian and non-Christian, what they thought about the proposition and gay marriage in general. Not surprisingly, my Christian friends supported the proposition, using God and the Bible for their reasons, while my other friends opposed it.

It wasn’t always easy to talk about the subject in school, though. I was discussing it with a friend before class one day when several people who I didn’t know well gradually clustered around us. Eventually, I was defending my position to at least five other people who were trying to prove that I was wrong and they were right. They would interrupt me and would talk in an annoyed, scornful tone. It felt like they were trying to put me down as much as they could. I just wanted to exchange opinions peacefully but I was forced to argue.

But it was an even bigger mistake to talk about the topic with one particular friend of mine. When I told him I supported Proposition 8 he immediately pounced on my words. “You’re messed up!” he started shouting, his face turning red. “Stop segregating them! You’re probably a racist, too, huh? What, do you hate blacks too because they’re not like you? What the hell!”

I didn’t retaliate, because I knew it would get uglier if I said anything. But I was furious. How dare he call me a racist? People can’t simply compare race with sexual orientation. You are born with a race, while I believe homosexuality is a person’s preference and choice. I made a mental note to myself, never to bring up the topic so openly in school.

In the end, I simply could not get around the fact that same-sex marriage is against my religious belief because I have always put my priority in being a good Christian in everything I do. I pray before all my meals and before I go to sleep. I almost never miss Sunday sermons at my church. I would even read the Bible to find comfort. My religion plays a huge role in my life and this was no exception.

The First Amendment may call for the separation of church and state but it also guarantees the right to express and base my opinions on my own religion. Nevertheless people antagonized me for my view. I became the discriminator.

People who supported Proposition 8 took pride in defending the rights of gays and lesbians. But I found that very hypocritical because at the same time some of them tried to belittle those who oppose their views. How could they call me “intolerant” while they themselves are not tolerant to my opinion?

In the month before Election Day, people have tried to put me down by calling me names like “homophobe” and yelled at me for having the opinion I have. But I’ve also seen it the other way around from signs like, “God Hates Gays!” and “Gays will go to hell!” These signs angered me because they completely misrepresented the Bible. The Bible does state that homosexuality is a sin. But it also says that God’s love extends toward everyone, that he is willing to forgive our sins if we repent and truly believe His Word.

My point is, people simply could not talk about the issue without attacking other’s viewpoints. All I ever wanted to do was to have a discussion so that I can gain awareness of other people’s stance on the topic and avoid bias. 

I was disappointed that people just could not understand that it was not about winning arguments and changing other people’s views by force. It was about learning from other people’s thoughts and opinions. Homosexuality is just one out of many controversial topics which exist today. We need to learn how to accept and share different ideas to gain more understanding between people to maintain diversity while forming a stronger union. This could have been the perfect chance to do so. I feel that by arguing we’ve missed the point, the chance to share insight.

Click here to read why Stephany saw this as a civil rights issue and came to oppose Propsition 8 even though her father supported it.

Click here to read what teens had to say last spring when California first allowed marriages for same-sex couples.