Friday, October 31, 2008

Gay Marriage

There are a few measures on state ballots regarding same-sex marriage and there’s still a desire by the Religious Right to pass a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage. This is a touchy subject that I’ve so far avoided. But in light of these initiatives, I want to offer some thoughts.

I’m not going to judge the morality of homosexuality here. I think citing Leviticus is a tenuous argument in light of the New Covenant and also that eating shellfish is also an “abomination.” There’s plenty in the New Testament however, that one can refer to if so inclined. Instead I want to focus on the marriage issue itself, and rely on history, the Bible and reason to make my case.

First, this is not a Civil Rights issue. I understand the “Separate But Not Equal” case being made relative to Civil Unions, but I disagree with that premise. There’s a difference between being afforded the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, but under a different name, and having separate bathrooms, restaurants, schools, and buses. The only “separation” is in name only. There is no physical separation as was the case in the Civil Rights Movement. And that physical separation resulted in a risk to welfare and safety, which is also not the case with this issue. There’s nothing stopping a City Hall from officiating a “civil union” and even calling it a marriage. Just as there’s nothing stopping churches from having “marriage ceremonies” for civil unions. Both of these have happened and will likely continue to happen. The only “separation” in this issue is being able to get a “marriage” license and to be able to check a box that says “married” on official forms. Where civil unions are present, that’s it. That’s what this fight is over. There is no Separate But Not Equal.

Second, even if you assume that homosexuality is ok according to the Bible (based on condemnations against homosexuality being motivated by pagan practices), allowing divine marriage calls into question the very nature of God. (Note, despite this being argued by the religious community, marriage is not a religious institution. It is a civil recognition of being able to share property, name, and responsibility. If this was all there is to it, I wouldn’t oppose gay marriage so long as churches were protected from having to recognize them.) Even if you don’t take Adam and Eve as literal, few argue the fundamental point from those passages that we’re created, man and woman, in God’s image. Marriage is then later defined as, “for this reason…they will become one flesh”. (Gen 2:24) Feminine qualities of God unite with the masculine qualities of God (refer to the books Captivating and Wild at Heart, respectively) to create a complete reflection of God’s character. “This is a profound mystery.” (Eph 5:32) This is impossible in same-sex marriage. Also, the metaphors of God and the nation of Israel and of Jesus and the Church break down if same-sex marriage can be “blessed” by God via a religious ceremony. In that case, you might as well throw out the whole book of Hosea.

Now, you could argue from that point that churches don’t have to recognize gay marriage. Fine, but my third point is a legal one. Many on the Religious Right like to point to the “slippery slope” allowing same-sex marriage could create. This is based on the motivation for gay marriage being able to marry who you want and that preventing two people in love from marrying is denying them fundamental rights protected by the Constitution. But where do you draw the line? The Mormon Church outlawed the practice of polygamy in order for Utah to be admitted to the Union over a hundred years ago. To this day, polygamy is still illegal despite offshoots of the Mormon Church openly practicing it. Such a blatant violation of the law opens up the possibility of legal action, as was the case in Texas and the trial and conviction or Warren Jeffs earlier this year. Aren’t their rights being infringed upon by not allowing them to marry who they choose? The legal argument however, is to protect the welfare of minors, but the age of consent varies state by state and the present definition of “adult” is relatively modern, coming about in the last century in response to child labor and the industrial revolution. The definition is also very inconsistent when you consider the ages of being able to drive, vote, enlist/be drafted into the military, smoke, work full time, drink alcohol, and even graduate college (the youngest person to earn a Ph.D. was 14). Isn’t preventing one from marrying a minor, even if older than the age of consent, infringing on these same rights? You can see where this is going.

Taking it even further, some commentators have even made the leap in logic to apply this to being able to marry animals, as if such hyperbole would strengthen their point. While this sounds ridiculous, it’s not too far off. Spain’s parliament granted the human rights of “life and freedom” to apes last June. Note the absence of “pursuit of happiness” as stated by the Declaration of Independence, but with this legal precedence, can that be too far behind? After all, apes can learn language, use tools, problem solve, and build so with legal rights, there’s nothing preventing them from positively contributing to society. And if they have the legal rights to life and liberty, can they be legally prevented from marrying? And if not, what would legally prevent cross-species marriages? Again, the argument for same-sex marriage is that being able to marry the person you love falls under the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The catch is you can’t marry an ape if you limit this to “persons”. But that legally requires you to define “person” and that then gets you back to the issue of minors but now also wades into the abortion debate. So where does it end?

Semantics. That’s what this is really over, the definition of a word. A word, not defined by religion, but by cultures over the course of thousands of years. I hate that we even have to consider this on the ballot, it is so stupid to me. I’m not opposed to civil unions despite being opposed to the lifestyle. I am opposed to what legally and culturally approving gay marriage could lead to. I am sickened that we live in a world where this is even an issue. And I’m angered by the foolish debate comparing this to Civil Rights Movement and calling opponents “homophobes” as if opposition is equal to racism or anti-Semitism. You can then guess which way I’m going to vote.


Anonymous said...

You're a bigger man than I am for saying it. I feel the same way, and I'm just too scared to put it out there. The collective sum of my family on political issues is straight down the middle and I would never want to alienate any of them.

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks for the comment. It's not too hard to put out there when it's a semi-anonymous blog that doesn't get much traffic, j/k. But I see where you're coming from. I consider myself middle of the road too, that's why I don't oppose Civil Unions, because I understand the motivation there. But this debate has nothing to do with rights, which is what makes it so frustrating. And sin is still sin.