Two pastors debated the merits of gay marriage Friday.
The debate, held in the Moore Hall Kiva between the Rev. Denis Heames of St. Mary’s University Parish Catholic church, 1405 S. Washington St., and the Rev. Wayne Nicholson of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 206 W. Maple St., emphasized the diverse opinions held on the subject in the Mount Pleasant community and also within a Christian context.
Heames, who represented the Catholic Church in the debate, said the church’s position, as well as his, is that gay marriage should not be accepted by society because he believes it redefines marriage in a way unaligned with God’s teachings.
He discussed his stay in California during his early adulthood, where he met and knew homosexual people and couples.
“The gospel is not something we slap on top of life; it stems from a place inside life, within life,” Heames said. “… When I looked at the homosexual community, at their commitment and their love, that was different from the commitment between my father and mother.”
Heames said gay marriage has a negative effect on children.
“To redefine the nature of marriage is to break down this bond of a child who has an absolute right to know his biological father and mother,” Heames said. “It is an absolute right.”
Nicholson, who identifies as part of the LBGTQ community, said he and the Episcopal Church support gay marriage, but the church’s and his opinion alone were not strong enough grounds to dictate the laws of the country.
“We live in a society where the church is separated from the state,” Nicholson said. “I don’t believe my faith should determine what laws you live under.”
Nicholson said gay marriage proponents are often accused of redefining marriage, and on those grounds, he said the opposition is right.
“People say we are redefining marriage; well, yes, we are,” Nicholson said. “We are redefining marriage to be based on love and fidelity.”
Nicholson said, in his opinion, the Bible is not the infallible word of God, only that it is inspired by God. He said if people were to treat the Bible as infallible, they should follow the commandments fully.
“If you want to follow that particular commandment, it dictates that if I lie with another man, you have to stone me,” Nicholson said. “Well, bring it on; you’ll have to stone me.”
The event, part of Hyde Park Day, was sponsored by the Central Michigan University student organization Communication Association. The day commemorates Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park in London.
In the mid-19th century, Speakers’ Corner began as a venue of protest for the working class against business owners and royalty and evolved into a place of free speech for people. Hyde Park Day emulates this and presents speakers and presentations on controversial subjects.
Communication Association President Meagan Mooney said the debate was a perfect representation of the spirit for Hyde Park Day.
“People are allowed to have free speech, get up on their soap box and talk issues,” the Waterford alum said. “Marriage equality has been an ongoing issue in our local community. An equality rights bill was just passed last year, and there’s still debate. Hyde Park Day allows others to see issues like this from different viewpoints.”
Kristina McCoy, a Flint sophomore, said she thought the debate was needed but was a little disappointed with the content.
“Both of them danced around questions, and I would have rather they’d talk more about their personal beliefs than their churches’,” McCoy said. “But, it was good. It was a needed discussion.”