El Paso has been characterized by some national media outlets as a battleground for gay marriage. National Public Radio did a story over the weekend in which they interviewed Mayor John Cook and Word of Life Pastor Tom Brown about the lengthy domestic partner benefits debate.
"El Paso is a battleground because we're having that dialogue and that debate, out loud in places that matter," said Antonio Williams, a young lawyer, on Tuesday. Williams recently served in the committee that pushed for the non-discrimination clause in the city charter. It's supposed to make sure everyone, including gay people and their partners have equal benefits at the city. Like many, he is anxious to see what the supreme court decides.
"It's not the only civil rights issue of the century but it's one of the most important one that we're resolving at this time," said Williams.
Jesus Chapel Pastor Warren Hoyt helped with the efforts to recall elected leaders who voted to provide health insurance for gay and unmarried partners. He has a fundamentally different belief. "I don't accept that at all (that gay rights is a civil rights issue). I have black friends who don't accept that either. They don't want this equated with that. You choose your behaviors. This is a sexual behavior. Not who you are."
Hoyt believes gay marriage can't really even be marriage. "It just doesn't exist. There is no such thing. Marriage is the union of two parts that fit together to produce something. To produce children."
Williams respectfully disagrees. "The person who may believe that marriage is only for procreation purposes is entitled to believe that and the can choose to get married for those reasons. But we shouldn't allow those very interpretations of why the institution of marriage exists to govern how the rest of society chooses to engage one another and commit themselves in a meaningful and loving relationship."
Hoyt is especially troubled by the system which allows justices to decide on matters that affect all of American society. "If you have 5 or 6 men or women who decide something and then it's just passed, there's no higher authority - that's a danger." For Williams, a Supreme Court ruling for gay marriage would not affect churches. "When the government makes a decision to support same sex marriage, they are not mandating that every church has to recognize same sex marriage. That is why we have an important separation of church and state."