Like most Americans I have wrestled greatly with my feelings about gay marriage. One need only look at comments posted on social networking, media outlets and right here on theGrio over the past week to grasp how intense and how divided we are as Americans on this sensitive issue.

Much like the chasm over race in America—the issue of gays upsets, confounds, and frankly frightens us because it forces us to move outside of our comfort zone of how we see the world or believe the world should be. But I think the time has come for us to start addressing all of these issues with a little compassion, understanding and willingness to see the other person’s point of view. Only then will we come to better dialogue and civility on important matters of life and lifestyle choices.

Here on the theGrio, for example, one gay black male blogger posted:

I am a black educated church going, professional, home-owning debt free black gay male. I was born gay, and I am going to die and go to heaven gay. The archaic and misguided teaching of the black church is the reason why black people in church are stuck in spiritual nothingness.

Another heterosexual sister posted:

Listen I believe in basic human rights but do not compare the enslavement and the violation of black people to being gay! When a black person wakes up one morning he doesn’t look in the mirror and say I think I will experiment with some other nationality today and if I like it I may just become that! Gays are God’s children too! But keep their struggle separate and distinct from our civil right issue there is no comparison!

And to the heart of the matter (is gay akin to being “black in America”) one blogger broke it down like this:

Don’t fall into this trap. They have been trying to place this tag & marry the two together for quite some time and to bring it under one umbrella with African-Americans hard fought and won civil rights gains, by saying blacks and gays are one and the same and they are a oppressed people just like blacks.

Passions are inflamed on all sides, and it is once again front and center on our nation’s political and legal radar screen. Now enter California and Prop. 8, in an extraordinary court filing this past Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked that gay marriages be allowed to resume immediately in California after a federal ruling that the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The Republican governor filed his brief with U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker before a Friday deadline to submit arguments on whether to continue a stay of Walker’s decision against Proposition 8. How it will turn out nobody knows, but I suspect we will see the nation’s highest court weigh in on this subject in the very near future.

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Let me start by admitting that I know very few openly gay or lesbian people and as such my exposure to this population of Americans has been limited at best. I did, however, get to know a colleague at my former law firm who was a white gay male, in a committed partner relationship, with two adopted black children. And getting to know him dramatically shifted my view on whether or not gays should be able to adopt children. Once I saw how well he loved, cared for and nurtured those kids (who were left as infants by a drug-addicted black mother), I had to concede that those two kids were better off in a loving home, than in the cold and hapless foster care system in America. The same is true for watching the genuine love and commitment between this man and his partner.

For the record, I am a Christian and hold fast to Christian Bible orthodoxy on this subject. More troubling for me than my religious beliefs has been the notion that the gay marriage struggle is akin to the Civil Rights struggle of blacks in this country, or that of Richard & Mildred Loving here in Virginia in 1967 to be allowed to inter marry as a white man and black woman in the South. To be honest I just am not sure I see it that way.

I know that subscribing to such beliefs may seem limited, dated, and perhaps even prejudiced, but my faith is what it is, and yet, like many other Americans I get that two people who love each other and want to share their lives together should not be denied the right to do so.

Although I believe as does President Obama that marriage is between a man and a woman, I support some form of legal recognition of a committed couple’s love for each other. How can that be so you ask? Because supporting traditional marriage and adhering to timeless religious doctrine does not mean you have to be against gay people.

According to at least 10 years of polling data on this subject done by Gallup and other news agencies American opinions have shifted considerably over the last ten years, but opponents of gay marriage still outnumber its supporters. More recent polls have suggested that Americans may be more evenly split.

Bottom line: Support for allowing same sex couples to marry is slowly, but steadily, rising. Polls as of late 2009 suggest that there is majority support for some type of legal recognition for same sex couples. Less than one-third of Americans oppose any legal recognition of same sex couples.

In the final analysis folks, the issue of gay marriage will be decided in my lifetime I am sure. And as an attorney my guess is that it will be decided under the equal protections clause of the Constitution and that gays will ultimately win the argument. If that does in fact happen, I would suggest we find ways to have a civil, decent and honest discussion about what that will mean in modern American culture. To do anything less is simply un-American.