With the Supreme Court reviewing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the stage is set for more conflict between gay rights supporters and traditional marriage defenders here in Kansas and in places.

Kansas’ 2005 constitutional amendment barring gay marriage is at stake. That was a divisive issue for the state at the time. And gay rights have continued to be a source of friction in cities, like Hutchinson, that have attempted to extend housing and employment discrimination protection to gays and lesbians.

Whenever such severe disagreement exists, it is always healthy to work toward mutual understanding.

First, for those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds: Gay rights supporters need to reconsider some of the stereotypes about Christians. They aren’t hateful. Quite the opposite, for most Christians their beliefs come out of core belief in unconditional love and service.

Most everyone is intelligent enough not to associate all Christians with the hate message of Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church. But when stories of local Christian churches shunning gay members surface, no doubt stereotypes are formed. Even those anecdotes don’t represent all Christian churches. Most Christians at least believe they can “hate the sin but love the sinner.”

But now let’s look at the other side, because, unfortunately, that statement isn’t necessarily helpful. Calling a lifestyle a “sin” still implies the practitioner is a sinner. And it goes to the core disagreement — the belief that homosexuality is just about the behavior, a lifestyle that is chosen.

First, being gay or lesbian isn’t generally a choice. After all, who would choose to be considered in, let’s face it, often low regard in society’s eyes? Second, many same-sex couples share a deeper love and more enduring partnerships than “traditional” marriages — half of which end in divorce nowadays. And they can create family units that are far more healthy and supportive of children in the household than many of today’s dysfunctional but traditional family situations and single-parent households.

How about both sides agree on this: Traditional marriage indeed is in crisis. We do need healthy family units in which to raise our children.

But the irony is that traditional marriage as an institution is crumbling around heterosexual couples even as homosexual couples yearn to be able call their unions marriages.

The cultural rift over same-sex marriage and gay rights in general is another example of the destructive effect that extreme viewpoints and labels has had on the American people. No matter what happens with the Defense of Marriage Act, it is time to put down the pitchforks with this issue. Socially conservative Christians aren’t all hateful bigots any more than all gays and lesbians are all promiscuous heathens.

We’re all just people — human beings — trying to make sense of the world. It would do both sides a world of good to remember that.

— The Hutchinson News