The question you pose is difficult to answer. I will give it a try.
First off, I think you have to understand how those of us feel who are hoping we will be allowed by law to be legally married. We look at this issue as one of civil rights, right up there with blacks being allowed to sit anywhere on the bus or to be able to eat at a lunch counter marked "whites only." To us, this is no different than Mr. & Mrs. Loving in Virginia in 1967. He was white, she black. Virginia did not recognize their marriage at the State level because of it being inter-racial. Today, this seems just preposterous but it was the law of the land in many states. I was all of 12 years old then. I saw this prejudice and intolerance (and many others) in my own lifetime. My grandmother was 16 years old when women earned the right to vote. Can you imagine being 16 years old and your male counterparts were allowed to vote and you were not, simply because of your gender? Again, it was ludicrous.
For everyone, all marriages consist of two parts - a civil, secular part (the state-issued marriage license) and an optional religious ceremony. Can you at least agree that if a man and a woman couple go to city hall, get a marriage license, and get married by a Notary Public, that the couple is actually "married?" Are they legally married? If not, there is not much more I can explain. I might mention the ceremony by the Notary Public makes no mention of God or anything of the sort. It is completely non-religious. Some people do not believe this couple is really "married," because they did not have some kind of church-related ceremony. Certainly, that is their right to believe that but from a legal standpoint, it is inaccurate. That couple, married by a Notary Public, has their marriage recognized by the State in which it was performed, ALL other States, the Federal government, and all other countries. This is not true of "civil unions," of course, which are hardly recognized beyond their own state borders.
So, if you will concede that the Notary Public married couple are actually legally married, then I can tell you emphatically, that is all we want - the same legal marriage that others can have. Whether your church agrees or not, really is a matter for your church, but it is not an issue for many, many other churches. The anti-SSM crowd also wishes to deny the rights of other churches to perform SSM in their particular churches. Hardly seems like "religious freedom" to me.
We look at SSM as a civil right that is being unconstitutionally discriminated against. Discrimination is legal in those cases where some kind of "harm" is perceived either to the individuals, the public, or the country. For example, we discriminate against blind people by not allowing them to possess a driver's license because they could harm themselves, others, and property. However, in case after case, there has been no proven harm in SSM. None. Now, you can talk about kids and families and all that, but that has little to do with SSM. You see, my partner of 15 years and our 12 year old daughter will continue to be a family, whether or not we are allowed to hold a piece of paper called a marriage license. We are not going away. Other couples will not be prevented from being families. There will be no more, and no less gay couples on the planet. They only question is whether these couples can have the same protections and rights as other legally married couples. That is it in a nutshell.
Now, will I remain tolerant if the vote for SSM fails in November? Yes, I will, because I have watched over the decades how long the battle takes for civil rights to become law. Leaving the rights of a minority to the whims of the majority does not have a good track record. This November may be different as people become more aware, they meet actual gay couples, and they begin to realize we are just regular people who are friends and family members.
I think most of us understand that other people do not yet understand. They mix religious marriage with secular marriage and they fall victim to charlatans purporting to speak for God and/or Jesus while cherry-picking quotes from the OT to justify their fear of the unknown.
As far as Ron Emanuel and others go (I assume you are referring to the Chick-fil-A matter), the anti-SSM crowd believes they are following a religious tenet. Those of us on the pro-SSM side look at people like CEO Dan Cathy in the same way we looked at those people who stood there and denied blacks access to the buses, the theaters, the lunch counter, and the water fountains during the 1950's. Those people, too, often used biblical quotes about the "evils of mixing races" to justify their position. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. In another 50 years, SSM will be as ordinary as inter-racial marriage is today. Certainly, we see the young people as very accepting of SSM and the older people who are less so, dying off. It will take time but it will come.
Piper - thank you for your well-worded statement. Let us hope your message of fairness, equality, and tolerance for all is taken to heart this November.
I agree with you on the points of club exclusions. I trust you are not saying that SSM should remain banned because the risk to the Catholic Church is that they will be forced to perform a SSM? That would hardly be a justification to disallow SSM.
But, let's talk about club exclusions. I am not familiar with the Boston case. I can cite an example called the August National Golf Club in Georgia where the Masters tournament is held annually. They still restrict club membership to men only. No women are allowed. Another example is the Boy Scouts and gay Scout Masters. This restriction also is allowed to stand.
There are distinctions between what discrimination is legally permitted and what is not. There are plenty of clubs in the USA where membership is restricted. It seems to be that if a private club serves almost no public function, that discrimination is allowed to stand. However, if it is a business and generally open to all, then discrimination is not allowed. Here is a pretty good explanation (see link). I recall a similar problem with some club that had a public liquor license. They were open to the public and thus could not discriminate. Here's the link:
But, this club discrimination vis-a-vis the church does not apply nor could I ever see how is could be. Right now, any church is allowed to discriminate against performing any ceremony with which it disagrees. You have never heard of a lawsuit or civil rights violation against a church because it declined to perform a marriage ceremony between two people who are of different races, or who were previously married and now are divorced, or who are from different faiths. This never happens. That is because in the eyes of the Constitution, religion does not even exist (First Amendment). Churches do not pay taxes any more than foreign embassies pay taxes because our government has no jurisdiction over churches. Some leeway is given if criminal acts are done against innocent people obviously, but in general, churches are "hands off" by the government, as it should be. The recent debacle of forcing the church to pay for contraception for those parishioners who wanted it was in error, in my opinion. However, the problem was easily resolved by making contraceptive care optional and to be paid for by the insurance companies, not the religious institutions. Both sides "saved face" in this situation. The reality, of course, is that 98% of the Catholics use artificial birth control so it really was a ridiculous point. But, it's resolved. Done.
The problem with any religious institution being forced to do anything is just how much they delve into the secular world. Similar to the private club being "public" problem mentioned before, when you see a religious organization hang out a shingle and start renting out their halls for profit and advertise it to the general public, this is where you are going to have problems. Once a group does that, they then are subject to the anti-discrimination laws. I personally think this is absolutely fair. Suppose the Methodist church opens a weekend breakfast brunch for the hunters (and everyone else) in Maine and charges a fee. Two black hunters show up and they are turned away because they are black? Is that right? What about two gay hunters? Is that right?
Suppose those two gay hunters walk in with a newspaper ad and say they want to rent the hall for their wedding reception. The minister tells them he does not approve of SSM so "go away." Is that fair? I do not think so.
Once the sectarian crowd dips its toes into the secular world they must comply with the secular laws. It is that simple.
Reality is this is never going to happen. Even the proposed law added this extraneous religious protection bit, but it is totally unnecessary. Above all, it is no justification to disallow the legalization of SSM.