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Before the battle for marriage rights was thrust onto the national stage, I maintained several fulfilling friendships with conservative Republicans who espoused a set of political beliefs that were vastly different from my own. My job as a novelist demands that I be open to a wide variety of opinions, and I saw these friendships as a wonderful opportunity to combat the hostile divisiveness the right-wing media spends millions of dollars introducing into every home across the country. But as soon as my civil rights were turned into a political football, it became clear that most of my conservative friends expected me to respect their opinion that I should be relegated to second-class citizenship. I chose to exercise a different option. I walked away.

I wasn't the only one. A close friend of mine told a childhood friend that she could not stay in his home with him and his partner after she expressed her belief that same-sex marriage was a "special right." Almost all of my gay friends have had to ask family members to stop forwarding them conservative e-mails, often resulting in vicious, tearful fights. In the gay-friendly Clinton years, many gays and lesbians developed close relationships with their political opposites. Now those friendships are being placed next to the fire, and many of them are going up in smoke.

It was not an easy decision. Did I do it to prove a point? Absolutely. Gay activists who came before me had increased my community's acceptance and visibility to such a degree that I was able to form friendships with people who were allegedly my oppressors. Along the way I discovered they were flesh-and-blood human beings who sometimes provoked me to look at things in a different way. Now I hope my former friends will be able to recognize that our ruined friendship and the sense of loss that accompanies it are the only measurable results that would come from a nationwide ban on marriage equality.

I was taken aback when many of them accused me of choosing politics over friendship. They were convinced that their beliefs simply protected a status quo that truly benefited everyone, including me. Surely I didn't want their version of marriage. Surely we gays would come up with some alternative that was so fabulous that it wouldn't need any pesky legal recognition. They fail to comprehend that all I truly want is for gay people to be the only ones who decide whether gay people are going to get married.

Recently California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom I did not vote for but endorsed as a hopeful alternative to the radical conservatives in his party, decided to hand off the civil rights of California's gays and lesbians to "the will of the people." In other words, the future of gays and lesbians will be decided by a majority that does not love as we do and does not face the challenges we do. This is the fate of children and felons. The fact that it has been thrust on fully grown contributing members of society is appalling. My conservative friends refuse to accept this, regardless of the contributions that I, a gay man, may have made to their lives. So for me the debate is over.

A hallmark of emotional maturity is being able to detach from those who refuse to recognize how conditional and limited their love for you truly is. My right to legalized recognition may be in danger, but my right to free and spirited debate with those who feel I do not deserve equal protection under the law has already been taken from me.

Sadly, my former friends think I'm punishing them. Unfortunately, they've got the wrong guy.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Christopher Rice