During every cultural war, people of this country use religion to legitimize and re-affirm their pre-existing political, moral and psychological agendas.

Such is the case with gay marriage. Conservatives and liberals — the “rites” vs. “rights” groups — each cite various religious texts and values to support their own views.

Each side sincerely believes that by legitimizing their views with religious sources, they wield the ultimate trump card. However, this tactic merely renders religion irrelevant and ensures it does not contribute desperately needed wisdom to the public conversation. Neither side of this debate has been true to their professed values.

The “rites people” do not really care about the sanctity of marriage and the unconditional love and commitment to family values that such rites express and witness.

They are “freaked out” by the love shared by two people of the same gender, so they offer a hysterical, angry view that gay marriages will somehow undermine heterosexual marriages and family values.

If the “rites people” really believed society was better off when people committed to stay together, they would celebrate that more people in this country want to be in binding monogamous relationships. On the other hand, the “rights people” are equally hypocritical.

Rather than worry about the label of marriage, which evokes fiery opposition, the “rights people” should concentrate on ensuring that every single legal right straight married couples share is mandated for similarly committed gay couples. But as much as they care about rights, they are really “freaked out” by not having the affirmation of those who oppose them. They believe this affirmation will come with obtaining the legal right to call their relationship “marriage.”

Instead of fixating on the rhetorical victory of the “marriage” label, they should focus on emptying the label of its content. Progress on human rights is always too fast for some and too slow for others.

Ultimately, equality comes not simply by fighting against each other, but from living together as family and friends and inevitably realizing that our differences are merely the mystery of life unfolding in all its variety. This movement is unstoppable, and paradoxically the rights and rites that now divide us will, in the end, bind us as a nation.