I was recently asked, nicely, by supporters of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment who are open to hearing different sides, why I support marriage equality. I realized then that just as we who are part of Minnesotans United for All Families have encouraged supporters to start conversations, I haven’t really done that. I’ve done a lot of drive-by preaching on facebook–and probably still will–but I’ve not taken the time to converse, to spell out my views, in a calm and rational matter with people I love, and respect, who see things differently.
So, I aim to do that. Now.
Point the first: Separate-but-equal was tried before, in matters of racial equality, and it was an abysmal failure. Brown vs. Board of Education wiped that out–far too late–and being a Constitutional fan of equality, I do not want to see it under any guise. Marriage is a civil contract (and often a religious one, but that’s later) and has been granted as a right of citizenship in the United States. If one adult has the right to marry, so does another, no matter anyone’s personal viewpoint. Rights are rights.
There is no such thing as “traditional” marriage–every culture, every time has had its own view of solemnifying romantic and family partnerships, from King Soloman’s hundreds of wives and concubines, to casual serial flings (past and present), and everything in between. In the United States, two people who marry are granted a laundry list of rights and responsibilities–whether or not they marry religiously–and it’s wrong, Constitutionally, morally, to grant those rights to some and deny them to others based solely on gender.
Separate-but-equal (e.g. civil unions, for this issue) is not the same. It’s not right. It creates second class citizenship in the country that I’m proud to say, despite all its faults, doesn’t have a royalty, doesn’t have an inborn aristocracy, doesn’t have legal boundaries between classes of people, regardless of birth or gender.
So, I don’t want to add to my state’s Constitution an amendment that *limits* freedom; all great things in history have developed by opening up freedoms, and going the other way is simply…wrong. There were many decent, loving people who, just a short time ago, fought against interracial marriage (legally, miscegenation, and also based on religious viewpoints), and I bet that if they’re still alive, they find that pretty darn silly these days. I’m afraid that many of today’s opponents of marriage equality will one day feel much the same way.
Minnesota is a kind state, a no-nonsense, pragmatic state. Just listen to A Prairie Home Companion. My own Scandinavian-American parents are no exception. When I was a little girl and saw a show on television dealing with lesbians, I asked my mother what that meant. To this day, I remember her practical response: “Well, you know how Dad and I love each other and are together? It’s the same thing, only with two women.” My response was, “Oh,” and then I went back to my Barbies or book, because it was no big deal.
Years later, when a family friend was condemning gay people in our presence, Mom, again, spoke up with her no-nonsense “Oh, Marv; there have always been gays in the military and there always will be. Who cares.” When I pressed her later, she said, “People are born the way they’re born; I don’t understand why people care so much.”
A few years ago, when her beloved ELCA chose to ordain gay and lesbian pastors, she said–and this was before the severe dementia–“Good; there’s no reason why not.”
In other words, I absolutely hate to think of Minnesota becoming a place that codifies creating second-class citizens with fewer rights. It’s incredibly sad, to me.
Point the second: The gay people I know and love, friends and family members and students and coworkers, deserve, personally, to have their families and partnerships honored in the same way mine is. In my view, there is no “gay marriage,” there is simply “marriage.” I want to honor and support all my friends who dare venture into such commitment, such love.
This second point is not a rational, Constitutional matter, but a personal, emotional flip side to my earlier point. However, it is just as important. I cannot, myself, look at these people I love who are gay and tell them that my marriage is more important than theirs. That they don’t deserve what I have. That they’re *less*. That doesn’t sit right with me.
Marriage is about forming family, and this doesn’t necessarily equate into having children at all, let alone having children via the traditional method. We don’t deny 90-year-olds the right to marry, and we all know they’re not having children! I know the Catholic viewpoint, which they’re entitled to, is that a couple must be *open* to the possibility of children, and that God can perform miracles. I might counter (again, if this were strictly a rational argument, which it’s not as we’re into religious and emotional territory now) that I don’t think they believe in a God who’s powerful enough to make a 90-year-old pregnant, or form life in the womb of a virgin, but not make it happen for a lesbian married couple. 🙂
We don’t deny, legally (although perhaps in some religions, which is their right) the right to marry to couples who never, ever plan on having children, or those who cannot, biologically. Yet, I often hear from people that because two men or two women cannot have children, they either shouldn’t want marriage or shouldn’t get marriage. I, the adopted daughter of older parents, simply scratch my head. My parents have been married for nearly 66 years now; come again?
Point the Third: While I have yet to see any non-religious arguments against marriage equality, I guess I can’t say with 100% assurance there aren’t any. In the meantime, I would like to address the common point that many religious people bring up on this issue: they do not want their churches (or houses of worship of any faith) forced to go against its precepts on what is a holy marriage.
This is perhaps the *easiest* fear to allay, and the beauty of it is that the more you support Jefferson’s separation of church and state, the more you protect your own church’s right to do what it feels is right. Seriously. Listen, here’s how:
Let’s say I, raised Protestant but not a member of any faith at this time, met and wanted to marry a nice Catholic boy. I mean, if I weren’t happily married already. Could I demand that the local Catholic church marry us, even though I’m not part of their faith? Even though I refuse to follow their tenets on marriage, or join them, or vow to be open to children, or partake of pre-marriage counseling?
No, I couldn’t demand that. Because the church (every church, synagogue, temple, mosque, coven, etc.) has the right–a right I will support, vocally and tenaciously–to require that its views be upheld by its members. No government should step in and say that just because marriage is a civil right, that Catholic church *must* perform the marriage ceremony for me and my new Catholic love.
The same will hold true under marriage equality. No government body will come in and require your church (synagogue, temple, mosque, coven, etc.) to perform a gay marriage if that’s not in your faith.
It’s the same thing. Just because I’m allowed to get married by the local Justice of the Peace, as a civil right, doesn’t mean I can demand any religious instituution to perform the marriage for me, or smile on it. If a church wanted Justin and me to wear purple, with straw hats, and recite “Jabberwocky” backwards to get hitched, then that’s something I could take or leave, and no government body would interfere.
Another tidbit on protection of church rights: What about the churches (Christian and otherwise) who *want* to bless and perform same sex marriages? Their rights are being trampled, right now. Right this minute. Don’t they deserve to have their freedom supported? If not, why not? Why shouldn’t the United Church of Christ, say, have the same rights as Bethany Lutheran?
So, even though I *personally* don’t find same-sex marriage against any Christian tenets (more on that later, and I’m not going to speak for any other faith tradition here right now), it’s perfectly rational for you–a generic, religious “you”–to vote an emphatic NO on the marriage amendment and to support marriage equality legally, yet still not have it part of your church’s tenets.
What it boils down to is this: if you want your own church’s rights upheld and protected, if you support the First Amendment, then you need to be vocal and diligent in your support of the separation of church and state. Always. Because that protection works BOTH ways. Your religion can’t dictate what others must live by, legally, AND government can’t legally force your church to change its tenets. That wall has two sides, remember.
Point the Fourth: The personal flipside to the third point. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of an upcoming wedding of a couple that you, personally (and perhaps even silently) thought should *never* get married. They were too young, or getting married for the wrong reasons, or it was an abusive relationship, or what have you. I suspect we all have our hands in the air. Here’s the thing: just because we were personally opposed, even a little, to that marriage taking place, we never even thought of getting it legally stopped. That’s crazy talk! We’d shake our heads, maybe. If we were close enough to the couple in question, we may try to talk them out of it, but that’s the extent. Even when the preacher says “If there be any here to oppose this union, speak now…” not a one of us went and got the *government* to stop the union, by law, even if we tried to talk the clergyman out of it (although I’ve never known anyone to even go that far…).
It’s the same thing here. I, personally, don’t get the concept that marriage of two men or two women is any different than my own opposite-sex marriage, but I understand that people I love and respect do, for whatever reason.
That’s still absolutely no reason to support legal denial of equal rights, rationally or personally.
Point the Fifth: The religion thing. While this has absolutely NO legal bearing on the issue–your religion beliefs (or mine) cannot infringe on others’ rights–because this is a *conversation*, I include this. At least from the Christian perspective.
Jesus never said a single word about gay marriage. Not one. While there are a tiny handful of scriptural verses that appear to speak against sexual relations between same-sex persons, Jesus never had anything to say about it. Scriptures also support many things we, today, thousands of years later, find totally abhorrent and repugnant, such as selling one’s daughters, marrying one’s rapist, and keeping slaves. We know enough to say, “Well, those were different times, and we can adjust to today’s world without keeping those things…” yet, too often, we suddenly throw out Leviticus’s laws (taken out of context) as somehow static and unchanging. Without any logical reasons why. Scriptures also prescribe things that, thousands of years later in different climates with different lives, we simply find silly (like laws keeping menstruating women separate, or rules on how to holily de-mold one’s home). Again, we’re quite able to put those things in the “times change” cupboard, but if we see a few words about what appears to be homosexuality, we tend to freak out a little.
I don’t get that.
And back to Jesus. Again, not a word about it. But–and this is important–he DID have things to say about remarriage after divorce. As in, it’s wrong. Utterly. Wrong. Yet, in nearly every case (nearly), the same religious people, and the same religious churches, who deny gay couples the same benefit of marriage *will* do this for, or support, previously-divorced folks.
Look, I’m on my second (and last) marriage. I’m divorced. By all rights, if we followed Jesus’s words, no church, no Christian clergy, should have blessed my marriage with Justin. No Christian person should support my current marriage (even if they love and support me). Yet, they do (and have), thankfully. Not because Jesus was wrong, perhaps (if you’re a Scriptural purist), but because, as Jesus said, love is what matters, and love is more important than the law.
Also, if we allow Biblical views to dictate laws (and civil rights) in the United States, the government should not recognize any second marriages (after divorce).
Again, this fifth point of mine is not intended to be a rational, Constitutional argument for marriage equality. It’s not. However, because the vast majority of people who are against marriage equality are so because of their Christian beliefs, I wanted to address this. And, because the people I love who catalyzed my making this blog entry are, indeed, Christian people (and fine, loving, generous, decent people to boot), I thought I’d include it.
Anyway, what this all boils down to is that I support marriage equality because it’s the right thing to do. Historically, constitutionally, religiously. And I hope you’ll at least entertain this a while, and I truly hope that between now and November, you’ll find it in your hearts to vote No. If not, I’ll still love you. But turn this around in your heads a bit, in your hearts, and see what happens.