Friday, November 7, 2008

What Gay Marriage Bans are Really About

While most of us were focused on the history-making election of Barack Obama as President on Tuesday, another interesting vote took place that day. Californians narrowly approved Proposition 8 to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry, overturning a California court decision from earlier this year. This, of course, is headed for a long legal battle but I want to share some thoughts I have behind the motivation for gay marriage bans... Read on...

Gay Marriage bans are consistently put forward by Christian-affiliated religious and political groups. The reasoning usually goes something like, "protecting the institution of marriage" or "protecting the family unit" and it is based on a few passages of biblical scripture that condemn homosexual behavior and describe the unity of man and woman. Different people can argue all day on that issue alone but I want to go somewhere different with it.

Why is it that these same groups have not made an effort to ban common law marriage? It seems to me that a man and woman living together, having sexual relations without the public marriage commitment before God and man could be condemned for the same reasons by these groups. It seems to me that if the 'Anti-Gay Marriage' movement was really about protecting the institutions of marriage and family, that we would see just as much effort to ban common law marriage.

So maybe this is not about protecting marriage and family as much as it is about discrimination against homosexuals. If we really believe homosexuality is a sin and that these souls will eventually have to face God with that sin, is it really a good idea to do all that we can to isolate them, condemn them, and make them hate Christianity here in this life. That seems to correlate well with Jesus' statement to the Adulteress in the book of John... (sarcasm intended).

"But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

I would like any of my fellow Christians to please explain how a legal ban on gay marriage is a Christ-like, loving, non-condemning way of challenging people to examine, recognize, and leave their sin. Again, I am not going to state definitively whether homosexuality is or is not a sin because that is not the point of this blog.

Maybe before we go around banning gay marriage, throwing stones, we should focus on taking care of the sin and struggles in our own hearts and lives. That seems to be what Jesus is saying to me.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


Taylorbriguy said...

Homosexuals are God’s children too. And like you, Rick, I hate to see them suffer over what they feel is a civil right.
Unfortunately neither gays nor the government created the institution of marriage. God created marriage. He created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Many gays don’t want that God. Many people want a more tolerant God, one who doesn’t condemn them for breaking commandments or committing sin. The face of sin today often wears the mask of tolerance. It reminds me of when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai and found his people worshiping a new God. How did he react to that? He still loved them, but he definitely didn’t join them in their lasciviousness.
Personally, I am totally okay with people living their lives (and destroying them) as they choose. But I’m not okay with others forcing their wayward ways onto me and my family. Thomas Jefferson, who helped frame the constitution, said in his first inaugural address, March 4th, 1801: "A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
Proposition 8 protects Christians from being injured by homosexual agendas. Its passage safeguarded the rights of churches to perform marriages between heterosexual couples. It protected parents who wish not to have homosexual doctrines forced onto their children at school.
We know that this issue is not over. Homosexual campaigns will continue to wear down the will of the people. Proposition 8 was sort of a litmus test for the inroads gays have made since coming out of the closet. And just maybe it was also a chance for God to test the faith of his people. Would they defend his commandments? Would they live as examples of righteousness for others to follow? I voted YES on 8 [absentee].
And just for fun, since the LDS church is being credited for the passage of Prop 8, here’s a link to an address given by the Prophet himself back in May. His talk was directed towards the men in his church. It’s as if he was preparing his people for this months ago…


Lainie said...

I agree with you, Rick. I think that Proposition 8 represents nothing more than a method by which to openly discriminate against homosexuals. It is ironic that proponents of Prop 8 are concerned about "protecting the institution of marriage" when the divorce rate in this country is 50%. Wouldn't energy be better spent addressing the reasons behind that alarming statistic? Also, those calling for a ban on gay marriage use many of the EXACT SAME arguments that were used in the not-so-distance past to justify bans on interracial marriage. Gay couples will be able to legally marry in the United States eventually. It will not be an easy battle, but I believe that institutionalized discrimination cannot last.

Mark said...

In california, gay and lesbian couples already are protected in the domestic partnership act, affording them all the rights that they claim they are lacking under marriage.

So this then begs the question, "what is gay marriage really about?"

I am 100% against taking away rights of individuals. But if their legal rights of joint property, hospital visits, etc are already protected under law, then what are they still fighting for?

I am also a strong proponent for civil rights, but strongly against reparations payments, which seems to tip the scales past the point of equality to another further inequality.

Likewise, if the rights of gay and lesbian couples are already protected, then what is the reason for bringing up something that has been brought before the public twice, and twice been affirmed?

If it is to assert the acceptance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle on society, that would be a counter injustice. Almost every show I can think of has prominent gay or lesbian characters - including the currently popular Gray's Anatomy and House, and there's Desperate Housewives, Will and Grace, etc. I think their existence is pretty commonplace and accepted.

However, if an included goal is to incorporate lifestyle education into public schools, I think this is a waste of time and an infringement on others like taylorbriguy who don't agree. We don't force elementary kids to include things into the curriculum just because they're legal (no lessons on selling used cars, online stock investing, or the choice to be celibate). If public schools spent more time learning their math and science, instead of catering to every special interest group there is (creationism, King and King, etc), our country would be in a much better position.

Lainie said...

We learned a very simple yet profound lesson during the Jim Crow era. "Separate but equal" is never equal.

Mark said...

Lainie, I agree, and that's not what I'm advocating.
Say your friend is an MD and there was a law in 1880 (made up year) that said you have to be an MD to practice medicine. Say you are a DO but there was a law that was passed much much later in 1970 (made up year) that allows DO's to practice medicne. You both practice medicine. Different laws, same result. Are there lingering biases, maybe but who cares because you are granted equal rights to practice under the law.
I'm not saying that there should be separate but equal hospitals for DO's only and MD's only. So that imperfect analogy was just to illustrate that if the laws of domestic partnership are on the books, and protect the rights that they were previously discriminated against, then they are equal.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

My point is that once parties are brought to equality under law and the scales are balanced, you don't throw in extra weight on the other side, just because it has been lighter for so long.

Rick mentioned common law marriage, which also is another form of domestic partnership that is legally binding in jurisdictions where it is recognized, just as a traditional M+W marriage. There is no government liscense, and there is no religious or other ceremony. If any group should be up in arms about their lack of governmental recognition or lack of pomp and circumstance, it should be them. But they chose a different lifestyle and prefer to commit to each other in other ways. Due to the fact that it takes usually 7yrs to claim common law marriage, I don't think I would doubt the permenance of such relations. The lifestyles are different, and how they enter into their domestic contract differs, but once it is recorded it has the same legal import and if it is dissolved, they go through divorce. Different lifestyles, different ways of forming the union, yet once established, the same rights protected (again being joint property rights, etc etc). Heterosexual couples can also choose differences - to be married at the court house, or have a religious ceremony, etc. How they form the union is varied, but once their rights are protected under law it is the same (refer to the medical analogy).

What is interesting to me though is that why does it keep getting brought up? What rights are they adding by changing the name? (and I don't know). It just seems to me that they are trying to promote an agenda rather than get on with their lives. If that is the case, and if the agenda then will be to insert it's precepts into public education (and I use this example as parallel with people with a creationist agenda who want to impose religious views into a science classroom), then I must question the purpose. I oppose pushing such agendas on schoolkids, which is entirely different from other PR campaigns of their organizations. If common law couples were making such a campaign, there would probably be issues there too from groups who feel that marriage is more than the social contract and has religious importance. That is what they are trying to preserve.

Again, once the scales are even, let's get on with life. If there is legal discrimination, let's correct it. In the case of marriage, there are separate forms or names, but as long as the rights are articulated, legally they are the same. DO's and MD's are both physicians.

Lainie said...

The Human Rights Campaign can articulate much better than I can why Civil Unions ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT EQUAL to marriage:

Q:Why aren’t civil unions enough?

A:Comparing marriage to civil unions is a bit like comparing diamonds to rhinestones. One is, quite simply, the real deal; the other is not. Consider:

Couples eligible to marry may have their marriage performed in any state and have it recognized in every other state in the nation and every country in the world.

Couples who are joined in a civil union in Vermont (or other state recognizing civil unions or domestic partnerships) have no guarantee that its protections will even travel with them to neighboring New York – let alone Texas or any other state.

Moreover, even couples who have a civil union and remain in Vermont receive only second-class protections in comparison to their married friends and neighbors. While they receive state-level protections, they do not receive any of the more than 1,000 federal benefits and protections of marriage.

In short, civil unions are not separate but equal – they are separate and unequal. And our society has tried separate before. It just doesn’t work.


* State grants marriage licenses to couples.
* Couples receive legal protections and rights under state and federal law.
* Couples are recognized as being married by the federal government and all state governments.
* Religious institutions are not required to recognize marriages or perform marriage ceremonies.

-Civil Unions

* State would grant civil union licenses to couples
* Couples receive legal protections and rights under state law only.
* Civil unions are not recognized by other states or federal government.
* Religious institutions are not required to recognize civil unions or perform civil union ceremonies

Taylorbriguy said...

Lainie intrigued me. I read up on Loving v. Virginia and she is correct. Many of the same arguments opposing interracial marriage are being used today to ban gay marriage. So then why doesn’t the federal Due Process Clause extend to gay couples? I am no law student, but this is what I could come up with:

“Majority Opinion of the New York Court of Appeals in Hernandez v. Robles rejected any reliance upon the Loving case as controlling upon the issue of same-sex marriage, holding that:

'[T]he historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case. Racism has been recognized for centuries — at first by a few people, and later by many more — as a revolting moral evil. This country fought a civil war to eliminate racism's worst manifestation, slavery, and passed three constitutional amendments to eliminate that curse and its vestiges. Loving was part of the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, the triumph of a cause for which many heroes and many ordinary people had struggled since our nation began. It is true that there has been serious injustice in the treatment of homosexuals also, a wrong that has been widely recognized only in the relatively recent past, and one our Legislature tried to address when it enacted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act four years ago (L 2002, ch 2). But the traditional definition of marriage is not merely a by-product of historical injustice. Its history is of a different kind. The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one. Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude.’

…Footnote 4: Four years after Loving, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld Minnesota's marriage laws in the face of a challenge brought by same-sex couples (Baker v Nelson, 291 Minn 310, 191 NW2d 185 [1971], appeal dismissed 409 US 810 [1972]). The court rejected the argument that the federal Due Process Clause encompassed a right to marry that extended to same-sex couples, noting that in Loving and its other privacy cases the US Supreme Court had recognized that ‘[t]he institution of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis’.”

Sorry about the length of that quote, but the actual article was much much longer!

What I got out of that was that marriage between a man and a woman has been recognized universally for thousands of years. To dump that definition in favor of a radically new one would be inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

Marriage is no more from god than it is from a box of Cracker Jacks, like most things that churches claim as theirs it has come from customs other than the religion that claims it. From a brief history of marriage:

"The Catholic Church got involved around 1215 and defined marriage as a sacrament. Even then, though, the rules of the church were fuzzy because folks used the "private consent" option, which created problems in the ecclesiastical courts. So Protestants required that marriage would no longer be a private institution. It became one that was done publicly with a ceremony, priest, witnesses, and parental consent. They also started registering births, deaths and marriages. In the 1500's, different governments and nation-states started controlling the legality of marriage.

1525 - Zurich required that a marriage have two "pious, honorable, and incontestable witnesses."

1537 - Augsburg and Nuremberg fined or jailed those who had pre-nuptial sex.

1563 - Catholic Council of Trent declared that any marriage not performed by a parish priest was invalid.

1753 - English Parliament passed a law about marriage regulations that involved licensing with signed and dated registries and when and where public and daylight ceremonies could occur.
Marriage had become a legal contract between a man and a wife.

Common law marriage was the norm in most of the U.S. in its early history. In the 1870's this created a lot of concern and a marriage reform movement began. They called for publicity, formal ceremonies, licensing, and registration. As the 20th century began, marriage in the U.S. was regulated by the states. The system of fees, licenses, requirements, and witnesses that we deal with today came into being."

Whenever I hear someone say that there is a gay agenda to promote "their" lifestyle, I have a wish for the writer/speaker to tell me what is that lifestyle? I have the same feeling about Taylorbriguy saying, "But I’m not okay with others forcing their wayward ways onto me and my family." Do you think that gay men and women wish to come into your house and teach you how they have sex? Here's a surprise, sex is sex is sex, the only difference is who men choose.

"Proposition 8 protects Christians from being injured by homosexual agendas. Its passage safeguarded the rights of churches to perform marriages between heterosexual couples."

Churches always have the right to deny marriage to whomever they want. Prop 8 denied marriage period, which harms marriage.