For the last many years there has been a huge fight in America about marriage equality. How do I know about this? Because I've seen people scream about it on Facebook since at least 2008.

In recent weeks the issue of marriage equality has been at the forefront of everyone's attention in Utah. This is because in December a federal judge in Salt Lake City struck down Utah's ban on "same sex marriage" as unconstitutional.

Since then, all of the gay people in Utah have gotten married and divorced at least 46 times. Because they can.

And my personal belief on this? That's awesome for them. And for everyone else. Because it means that we are moving in the direction of getting better about putting ourselves in other people's shoes.

I've never really made Stranger a place for political rants. And besides threatening to slap your children in the grocery store (and then repeatedly bringing it up) I don't tend to talk about controversial topics here. Today, I don't really plan to rant about marriage equality. And you would die of boredom if you heard my thoughts on the courts' role in it all anyway.

And I guess that's appropriate, because I don't spend much of my time thinking or arguing about marriage equality in my non-blogging life. This might be shameful, but I've never really been able to care that much about the topic. I've tried to care! Believe me, I've tried! But every time I do, this happens:

[Looking in the mirror]

Eli: Ok, Eli. Marriage equality is an important topic. It's time to become an activist. You need to care about this so your plant's grandchildren will one day be proud of you and--oh my gosh! I should eat some ice cream!

[End scene]

Over the years whenever I've heard people start arguing about the topic I find myself tuning out the whole thing. Recently I've been really thinking about why it is that I seem to feel apathy over the issue. I have felt some guilt over this. Because this is a real issue with really important consequences for a lot of people. And it seems like I shouldn't feel anything close to apathy about this.

As to why I haven't been able to get myself to want to become very involved, I hadn't come up with a real answer until just a week or two ago. And it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I had engaged in a conversation about the way we (society) treat and have treated gay people. The person on the other end of the conversation said some things that sounded so close-minded and uncaring to me.

I got home after that conversation and just kept thinking and thinking and thinking about it. And I felt myself getting upset about the kind of attitude I had just witnessed. And I found myself thinking about some of my gay friends who have felt shame, and loneliness, and sadness, and have felt like nobody was listening because of that very attitude.

I thought about one friend who told me several years ago that he actually started praying to just die because it would be so much easier than continuing to try to live among so many people who go about their lives with smiles on their faces and stones in their hands. People who have been regarded for generations as standing up for what's right because of the way they have launched those stones. People who had convinced my friend that what he had felt since childhood was shameful and made him less of a person.

I thought about the teenage boys and girls who have spent countless nights sobbing themselves to sleep because they feel they have no one to turn to about this big thing they don't understand. No one to turn to because their whole lives they've heard their friends and families mock gay people and talk as though one's worth is directly tied to their sexual orientation.

I thought about the young boys and girls who have hated themselves over something they couldn't control.

I thought about the young boys and girls who have been alienated for feeling something they never wanted to feel.

I thought about the men and women who have been abandoned by their families.

I thought about the young people who have killed themselves. WHO HAVE FREAKING KILLED THEMSELVES. Let alone, the ones who have just prayed to die.

And that's when it hit me. As I sat in my apartment feeling so much anger and frustration over this, it finally occurred to me that the reason I haven't become passionate about marriage equality is because it feels like an empty victory when we are SO failing at a much more basic task:

Treating people like they are worth something.

Who cares if people can go to the alter if we're alienating them on the way?

We have failed.

And we are still failing. At least where I live, we are still failing.

Probably not intentionally, but we are doing a terrible job of making people feel comfortable talking about something that they can't control but that affects every single aspect of their life from start to finish.

This may be a terrible excuse to not wave the flag of justice on the legal issue of marriage equality. I didn't say it was a good excuse. It was just interesting to finally identify the reason behind my supposed apathy.

And I've been thinking about that a lot in the past several days. I've been thinking about how I haven't really helped much in this area. I've been thinking about how I'm failing by not taking the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in. And how I have a forum here and could at least share my thoughts and hope that it helps in some small way to move people in the direction of kindness and understanding.

So that's what I want to do. Truthfully, if not bluntly.

Maybe this will come across as too aggressive and too preachy and too self-righteous. But if it gets one person to treat another person a little more like a person, then the social implications are totally worth it to me:

If you are doing anything in your life that would make your gay friend or child or sibling feel like they would be mocked or judged or condemned if they came to you to talk about their sexual orientation, then shame on you.

If you are acting in any way that makes another person feel like they are broken or diseased or disturbed because of their sexual orientation, then shame on you.

I don't care if you think you are fulfilling some great and noble purpose. I don't care if you think you are just loyally following the tenants of your inspired religion. Nobody has any business making someone feel less about themselves because of their sexual orientation. And if your religion is the same as mine, I can tell you for certain that mistreating gay people is not what we believe.

If you want a religious explanation for why that kind of behavior is ungodly, I'll give you this: the Great Commandment is to love others. This is because loving others is the ultimate selfless act. And selflessness sets you free. Every other commandment and teaching only makes sense inasmuch as it allows us to fulfill the Great One. And if some teaching or policy or doctrine has caused you to make another person feel bad about something they can't control--something that terrifies them--then either the policy is misguided or you aren't correctly following it.

And now, a quick word to the person who has ever felt inadequate because of his or her sexual orientation:

You are not worth less than anyone else.

You are not broken.

You are not a mistake.

You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

Never ever ever let anyone convince you otherwise. Anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself over this is wrong. The issue is complicated, but that point is simple. You are no more inadequate than anyone else.

Maybe some of you out there feel like you need to fight against same-sex marriage. By all means, go right ahead. And I will defend you when others assume that your stance means that you hate. Because I know you probably don't hate. And maybe God really does want you to speak out the way you are speaking out. And maybe you really are doing some good. I don't claim to know everything.

But keep in mind that while you fight your holy war, you may be doing unspeakable damage to some very hurt people around you. People who can't figure out why others who don't know what it's like to walk in their shoes are expending so much energy to fight against this and expending so little energy to help the hurt feel safe and loved.

[Steps off the soapbox. Retreats to eat some ice cream.]

~It Just Gets Stranger