People in conversation

A Better Question: Same-Sex Marriage

Essential Partners

Our nation has been deeply engaged in conversation around the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

The courts and legislatures around the country have made a critical decision. But after that, regardless of the outcomes of their votes, we as the public have the job of living together.

Beyond the question of Constitution is the question of community. In the wake of monumental decisions like this—whether the issue is same-sex marriage, abortion, or immigration—we still have to figure out how to be together: working together, worshipping together, volunteering for community efforts in our cities and towns, sharing the playground and play-dates.

The task at hand is undeniably, but not impossibly, difficult. We must acknowledge that there are very real, deeply felt differences in the way people approach the questions of marriage, family, sexual orientation and child-rearing, all of which come into play in this particular conversation. The higher the stakes, the more critical it is that we are able to speak openly about these issues, and able to hear each other.

Alongside the passionate advocacy for our positions must come an equal measure of our curiosity; and from that we must ask a better question.

Here are some questions that can frame more constructive conversations about same-sex marriage, and help communities navigate the inevitable aftermath of whatever decision may come from the courts. If you find yourself in conversation with someone who believes differently from you, you might lead with one of these:

  • Can you share an experience that has led you to your present understanding of and beliefs about same-sex marriage?
  • What are the core values or commitments that frame your views on same-sex marriage?
  • As you imagine making a commitment of marriage to another person, what are some of the fundamental values that guide you?
  • Have you ever had conversations about this issue with those whose opinions differ from yours? Has there been a time when you were able to express yourself well, listen well and communicate respectfully? What you think made this possible? For context, here are the other questions from our blog on vaccination:
    • What have you heard said about your views that leaves you feeling mischaracterized?
    • What do you want folks on the other side of this issue to most understand about your thinking and motivations?
    • Where, if at all, do you feel pulled in different directions, have mixed feelings, areas of less certainty, etc.?
    • How have you learned about those whose viewpoints differ from yours? What else might you want to find out about them?
    • What do you think the media, government or others could do to help or hurt this current situation?

What other questions would you add? Let us know and join the conversation.