In their latest column for the religion-friendly Deseret News, Michael and Jenet Erickson — an attorney and former assistant professor at Brigham Young University, respectively – argued that being for “traditional marriage” does not mean being against gays and lesbians:

Contrary to popular portrayals, supporters of traditional marriage are not the angry, hate-filled bigots they have been stereotyped to be. Utahns have shown in word and deed that you do not have to be against anyone to affirm the purpose of marriage — to unite children with the man and woman who made them. As one Utahn told the LA Times, “we have a message to the gay and lesbian people who live among us — we don’t hate you, it’s nothing like that. But we believe what we believe. And our conviction is strong.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this argument before: Christians don’t necessarily hate gays and lesbians, they just take a different view on love and marriage.

In one sense, this argument has merit. Christians are not required to hate gays and lesbians. Indeed, a sizable number of Christians, perhaps even most, do not hate gays and lesbians.

Furthermore, there is no reason why Christians cannot adhere to their worldview  personally without seeking to force it on others in society. This happens all the time, on a range of issues. For  example, consider Vice President Joe Biden’s position on abortion. Applied to the marriage debate, the Ericksons might then believe in traditional marriage in their own lives, but accept gays and lesbians as equal humans before the law, and reject that their religion should rule others’ live. Of course, this is not terribly supportive of gays and lesbians, but it’s a middle ground position I think many supporters of marriage equality are willing to accept at this point in human history.

Yet this is not the case for the Ericksons and many other Christians. The Ericksons don’t simply want traditional marriage to rule their lives; they want traditional marriage to rule other peoples’ lives, too. And that’s the problem with their argument: when you say that the government should only recognize a sectarian religious version of love and marriage, you are by definition against the people who believe in a different — and more inclusive — conception of love and marriage.

It’s worth noting the Ericksons are not forced to be against anyone. They could adapt their faith to a changing culture, though that seems unlikely. Or, they could take Biden’s “my religion is for me, yours is for you” path mentioned above. Indeed, I suspect opponents of marriage equality will increasingly take this approach as society becomes more accepting of same-sex marriage.

But whatever the Ericksons do, the fact remains this: when you advocate for traditional marriage as the law of the land, you are against gays and lesbians.