The concept of truth is a weapon that the foes of equal rights for gays have been quick to employ. The Catholic Church, for example, in its proclamation last year attacking gay marriage, said that "The Church's teaching on marriage and on the complementarity of the sexes reiterates a truth that is evident to right reason and recognized as such by all the major cultures of the world."
The most common reply to such claims is that such claims are not supported by a cross-cultural analysis of marriage and childraising institutions. The American Anthropological Association stated last year:
"The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies."
What's great about this statement is that it starts from an acknowledgement of pluralism that undermines the arguments of religious conservatives, yet its conclusion "a vast array of family types...can contribute to stable and human societies" does seem to side-step troubling questions regarding truth. If the anthropologists hold that all cultural values are equally valid, then why should we prefer a pluralism of family arrangements to an exclusively heterosexual arrangements for marriage? Isn't the statement actually articulating a value (pluralism of family types) that is supposed to be cross-culturally and universally valid?
I believe that anthropologists are correct in asserting a superiority of a value for a pluralism of family types (that is, I agree with their conclusions) even though such legal arrangements are relatively new and innovative. But how can this conclusion be justified, when it seems to fly in the face of thousands of years of cultural traditions of many different cultures? In other words, how can the truth that gay marriage is a positive value in society, one that is objectively and universally valid, be affirmed?
Unfortunately, these are questions that very few proponents of gay marriage have adequately addressed, in my opinion. Most conservatives, even those who support gay marriage, want to argue for the existence of a truth about gay marriage on the basis of tradition. However, they are climbing a steep uphill battle that is doomed to failure. I believe that the best, most convincing argument for a universal, cross-cultural truth about the positive value for gay marriage must take into account a genealogy of cultural values of marriage and sexuality, and show the evolution of such views over time. Furthermore, seeing such views as the embodiment of a transcendent source of value, called Spirit or God, is the best way to ground the universality of the truth claims. The movement for gay marriage rights is universally good, because it is a manifestation of the action of Spirit itself in history, bringing about a fuller and more complete liberation of all people.
What these arguments about gay marriage reveal is that our opponents argue against us claim to have the "truth," yet very few advocates for gay marriage rights are willing to respond with claims that their views are universally and cross-culturally true. We get wrapped up in the deconstruction of the horrible crime of metanarratives, and suppose that we can accomplish our political objectives merely by tearing down the false pretenses of our opponents' views. If we show, for instance, that there is a plurality of marriage types, then we have demolished the basis for universal truths about marriage. So our opponents are revealed to be emperors without clothes, and surely we can get what we want by shouting loudly enough.
Few are willing to press beyond the falsehoods of the religious conservatives to actually articulating the positive "truth" about the value gay marriage, a truth that is willing to make the necessary claims of universal and cross-cultural validity. And this is not a problem limited simply to discussions of gay marriage. It is a problem with the current state of gay discourse around religion and homosexuality more generally. The gay spirituality field has been infected with a hesitancy or refusal to seek the truth beyond our own limited experiences and narcissism. We are more inclined to believe that gay is good "because I say so," or "because I create my own reality," than because of the nature of reality itself.
The most pressing need in the spiritual arena today among the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is for us to begin talking once again about truth about sexuality and spirituality. Let us refuse to sell ourselves short, by not making the connections between the mysteries in our lives and the evolution of the cultures and religions of the world.
When we reject the worst excesses of postmodern relativism, we need not adopt the arrogance or literalism of conservative religionists. We can proceed in our search for truth as pilgrims on a journey, asking questions along the way, fumbling at times, but always seeking in a spirit of honesty towards greater wholeness and integrity. The truth, and only the truth, will set us free.