I’m back in the Northwest after a very relaxing vacation to visit my family in Southern California. Our trip was fantastic! Paul and I had a great time visiting with our families, and even spent a night in Las Vegas with our parents (in case I haven’t mentioned it before, I looooove Vegas!).
While I was on vacation, something very important was happening in the country: the Supreme Court was hearing arguments for same-sex marriage. Since I avidly support the right of consenting adults to marry, regardless of gender, I was hopeful. Last fall I was among the majority in Washington state that voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and I felt strongly that while my state was making progress, the country as a whole was not. This week’s proceedings may pave the way to changing that.
I was surprised and excited to find that several of my Christian friends support the movement to legalize same-sex marriage and have spoken out for it on Facebook and other social media sites. I genuinely believe that most people recognize this for what it is: a civil rights issue. The trouble is, a few religious people get the issue of ‘marriage’ in the current context confused with the holy matrimony they seek in their churches.
What I don’t understand about those who don’t support gay marriage for religious reasons is that they ought to be able to see that we are talking about a government issue, not a religious one. No one is advocating to make an amendment to the Bible. We’re advocating to make an amendment to the United States Constitution. There are other things, such as divorce, that the Bible says you’re not supposed to do….yet they’re legal in our society. I believe this is because we enjoy freedom of religion (or freedom from it, in my case) and that just because one religious sect believes divorce is wrong, doesn’t mean it should be outlawed in our society.
How is gay marriage any different?
Now, I understand that part of the problem is that the word “marriage” is used in this country to represent two completely different sets of ideas. The one in question is the legal term marriage, the contract between two consenting adults that allows said consenting adults benefits under the law. The other idea of marriage, the one that you are tying yourself to another person in the eyes of your god, is an entirely different thing altogether and we are not discussing that one. If the church one was called ‘marriage’ and the legal was called ‘bibbidy-bobbidy-boo’ or ‘civil union’ or really ANY other title, I don’t think we’d even be having a debate here. But alas, we use one word to identify two completely different things, one of church and one of state, and this has led to, well, a mess.
Well, then what if we let gay people get married, but don’t CALL it marriage? I’ve heard this suggestion – give gay couples equal rights but call THEIR union a ‘bibbidy-bobbidy-boo’ or a ‘civil union’, and let the heterosexual couples be ‘married’. This to me is close, but not close enough. See, during the civil rights movements, black people were allowed to ride the bus – in the back. They were allowed to get drinks of water – from their own fountains. If you’re going to change the name from ‘marriage’ to ‘civil union’ (which I am not opposed to), then you need to change it for all couples, regardless of gender. A name change for all really would simplify things, in my opinion. You want a civil union, with all the legal rights and benefits? Go to the government. You want a marriage recognized by the god of your choice that affords you absolutely zero legal rights or benefits? Go to the church. You want both? Have at it.
I’ve heard the same-sex marriage opposed people declaring that we cannot “redefine marriage”. But I think that in society, we redefine things all the time. Back when the Founding Fathers wrote out the Constitution, black people were only considered two-thirds of a person (oh yeah, remember that?) and were property to be owned, bought, and sold. Women were barely more than property. Over the years, slowly women and minorities have fought their way to equal rights. If you had asked Ben Franklin what he would have thought of a female Supreme Court Justice hearing a gay marriage argument while the black President urged support of said gay marriage, he probably would’ve thought you were insane. And yet, that very thing has happened. Things change. People and ideas evolve. I’d like to think we get smarter as time passes.
I don’t go around telling people that I don’t think their religions are right. I embrace diversity and if you want to believe in something that’s different from what I believe in, good for you. But your religious beliefs have no place in our legal system, and this is not a religious issue. This is an issue of civil rights, of equality in our country, of discrimination based on sexual preference. We should not be basing legal rights on what one religion believes.
I hope we in the United States legalize and embrace same-sex marriage. To those who oppose it based on religion, fear not: you will survive this, as you have survived the legality of abortions and divorces. It will be all right. No plagues have struck Washington since the legalization of gay marriage. Nothing in your world will change. According to a pastor friend of mine, all human beings are sinners, and no one sin is greater or less than any other. Since it says in the Bible “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, and since you are not without sin, how about you worry about your own self and let the same-sex couples do what they wish and be happy.