"I don't agree with him on gay marriage, but overall, I agree with his values."
"Gay rights is just one issue; I'm looking at the whole picture."
Each time I hear a statement like this, it irks me anew. But why? Do I really think my right to get married is more important than homelessness, health care, or the economy? Geez, I don't think so. But even if I didn't disagree with Romney on these issues, I'd have a hard time voting for him.
The crux of the problem is that for me, gay rights isn't "another issue," but a prior question--that is, a question that has to be answered before another one can be asked. For example, if I ask, "What kind of cookies should we make?" I've already answered (or implied the answer to) the prior question of: "are we going to make cookies?"
To discuss issues with someone, I have prior questions. A central one is: are we equals? I am using "equals" in the sense of people who see each other as people, discussing and exchanging ideas--in the "all people are created equal" sense. Does the person value me and consider me valid as a human?
To me, someone who does not believe in equal rights for gays and lesbians sees me (and/or my behavior) as subhuman. They do not believe that my full, real self is equal to their full, real self. They do not see me and my life the same way they see themselves and their lives. For this reason, the answer to the prior question of whether this is a person with whom I can engage in rational debate is "no." If you don't see me as your equal in terms of the human rights I deserve, it's very, very difficult for me to think you're worthwhile to engage with about anything else.
This doesn't mean that someone needs to think I'm awesome, or love my choices. I think some people make terrible choices or are cruel people. But this doesn't mean I think they deserve fewer rights than I do. I dislike people who objectify women, but I would not favor a constitutional amendment that denied them the right to get married or prevented their partners from getting health care.
And this, dear readers, is why gay rights isn't "just another issue" for me. Is it for you? Have you ever heard people say the things I quoted at the beginning of this post? How did you respond?