In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes: “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” (1 Corinthians: 7, 7-9)

Although it goes without saying that Paul was talking about men and women, the spiritual principle of his epistle is applicable to those who burn with passion for members of the same sex as well. Like Paul, modern religious conservatives may wish for everyone to be as they are— heterosexual. However, we all know that that is not the case.

Most young people who experience same-sex attractions are deeply conflicted by feelings of guilt and despair and initially resist this most unwelcome news. A few, following Paul's advice and seeing no viable alternative, will enter the priesthood and maintain lives of celibacy. The vast majority, however, will solve their cognitive dissonance in other ways. Some will commit suicide. Many will turn to drugs and alcohol and lead lives of prodigious promiscuity. Some will enter understandably unhappy heterosexual marriages and a fortunate few will, over time, manage to accept themselves and form stable relationships without divorcing themselves from the larger social structures of heterosexual family, friends, and colleagues.

Have you ever stopped to consider the moral courage it takes for gays and lesbians to refuse to let their pariah social status push them into lives of debauchery, shame and self-destruction in the face of religious and social forces that seek to exile them to the underbelly of society? The desire of same-sex couples to be included in the institution of marriage is not an assault on family values; it is an embrace of those values.

Social structures and forms change, but the spirit of the law forever bends towards love, charity and mercy. Religious conservatives need to rethink their strategy of shutting the gay community out of the very institutions—family, church, and marriage—that bring all communities into closer alignment with God’s will.

For far too long, some religious conservatives, in their zeal for the letter of the law, have overlooked the spirit of the law and unwittingly followed the example of the Pharisees that Jesus warned about:

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger… But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23: 4 and 13).

Don’t be like the Pharisees.

You are being presented with the opportunity to ease the heavy burden of social stigma placed upon the shoulders of the gay community. You are being presented with an opportunity to extend, rather than hoard your values – just as Jesus and Paul extended the reach of the Hebrew God beyond the Jews and into the Gentile community. Voting No on Proposition 8 is a demonstration that you love your gay neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let us marry, even as you can marry, for it is better to marry than to burn. Extend Paul's concession of marriage to your gay brothers and sisters.

Don’t be like the Pharisees.

“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)