Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The law of the land: considering same-sex marriage

Today my facebook wall is covered with these:

Today the Supreme Court will decide whether same sex marriage is legal in this country.

In recent years, the equals symbol has been used by the marriage equality movement and those who support it. I am told that representing it in red is indicative of this movement being about love.

I have been raised my entire life with the teaching that homosexual behavior is wrong. That is a moral stance adopted by more than a few religions, and I believe that these religions are entitled to it.

I also believe there is a reason for the separation of church and state. Our founding fathers were spiritual men and I think they were inspired men, but most were not actually religious. They objected to state religion because they saw how it had been abused in Europe. They felt strongly that government and religion need to operate independently. I agree with them.

There are times when government and religion agree on issues (such as murder), and there are times when they disagree. When they disagree, each should function in their own sphere. Government establishes what is legal in the temporal world, while religion declares what is acceptable in the spiritual one. In this imperfect world, it is inevitable that they will not always be in perfect alignment. Marriage equality is one such issue. I believe that government has a duty to interfere with things like underage marriages (because by legal definition the underage party is not able to give consent). I believe that government has a duty to interfere in cases of abuse of spouse or child. I do not believe that government has a duty--or even a right--to legislate or vote on the non-abusive relationships of consenting adults.

Ironically, just over a century ago my religion fought hard for the right to polygamous marriages. Sixty years ago many states had laws against interracial marriages. I do not think it was right for the government to interfere at those times. I do not think it is right for them to interfere now. The constitution says that people should have equal rights under the law. The only logical constitutional conclusion that I see for the Supreme Court today is to legalize marriage for any pair of consenting adults. No religious group will be obligated to perform religious rites for these couples unless they want to (and I'm sure that many will not). No religious group even has to allow these couples to be part of their sects (and again, I'm sure that many will not). But I also think that no group (religious or otherwise) has a right to overrule the constitutional rights of anyone else. (Writing as someone from within a faith group that has had our rights stomped on, I feel very very strongly about this.)

As my friend eloquently put it:
As homosexuals couldn't possibly do anything to desecrate the institution of marriage that hetereosexuals haven't been doing for millenia, I cannot support the notion that marriage equality is going to destroy it.
As "traditional marriage" has very often historically meant as a transfer of property from one man (the bride's father) to another (the groom), sometimes based on affection but often based on convenience, politics, economics, or the need for another generation, I cannot support the notion that our modern ideal of marriage union largely based on love should exclude consenting adults.
I think the rift between the exclusive and the inclusive will cause more damage to society than marriage equality.
I can't support that it's bad for children when lesbian homes have a 0% rate of reported abuse, where 1 in 4 children in heterosexual homes report abuse. http://bit.ly/aOkzC3 I cannot look at my friends' long-sought daughter and think she will be disadvantaged for having two amazing mothers.
I hope that when Justices go to make a decision, the Constitution alone becomes their Bible.
I am a straight ally.
I have heard people speak with great emotion on this issue. I have heard appeals about love, about physical ambiguity, about moral imperatives... Ultimately, the thing that speaks the most loudly to me is logic. And while I do feel some conflict over how to reconcile these opinions personally in my religious context, I do not feel any conflict over what I think the law of the land should be.

I know these statements will probably be troubling for some of those nearest me (particularly my family). I hope they can be understanding of my attempts to reconcile my thoughts on this matter. Honestly, I hadn't planned to say anything about this today. As I said, my facebook wall is covered with little red equals, but I had no intention of joining them because I simply did not want to engage in the conflict. I was going to stand quietly on the side. But Thomas Jefferson put it well when he noted that "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

This is my conscience. I will speak it.


Aliy Hurd said...

I love it. I was thinking the very same thing today, but just hadn't gotten around to writing yet today

Michele said...

You tell it, Jenni!

Morgan Hagey said...

This is WONDERFUL. Thank you.

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I loved this post, and so I started writing a comment, that ended up being way to long for a comment. Instead I posted it on my blog, with a link back to this post (and a couple others), so my readers can understand the different posts that I was reading that then prompted me to writing. Thank you!


Kristy said...

This is lovely, Jenni. My mind has been changed about this whole thing recently, too. The line from the Declaration of Independence has been playing in my mind for weeks as I've tried to figure out exactly what my position is: "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

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