3.26.2013

Marriage Equality

Someday I hope to marry.  I am a successful, reasonably attractive, educated woman.  I am also a heterosexual.  Marriage is something that not only have I never been denied, but it is even expected of me.

I have hundreds of friends who would also like to marry.  Most of them have met the person they want to share their lives with permanently.  Yet, with the exception of certain states, they cannot marry because they are gay.

Today the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments on the constitutionality of California's infamous Proposition 8, which by popular vote (barely) banned same-sex marriage.  California courts ruled it unconstitutional.  Prop 8 supporters have pushed it to the highest court in our nation.  Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act, more commonly known as DOMA.

While their rulings aren't expected until later this year -- speculation is July -- the fact that the court is hearing these cases is monumental in and of itself.  To mark this occasion, the Human Rights Campaign created a version of their logo -- the yellow equal sign on a blue background -- in the socio-stereotypical colors of red and pink for love.  People were encouraged to share it and make it their profile pictures on social media websites.  Variations involving heart shapes, the words "marriage equality" and other colors appeared.  Throughout the day, I watched my Facebook news feed turn into a sea of red and pink equal signs and rainbow hearts.

I felt so blessed.  Friends who I didn't know supported marriage equality were changing their pictures and posting other things in support of marriage equality.  Some of these people didn't surprise me.  Others, who I know for a fact hold extremely conservative views on many, many things, did shock the heck out of me.  Maybe I am guilty of stereotyping, but I'm going to be floored when a "keep your hands off my guns at all costs and quit killing unborn babies you liberal scum" person posts a rainbow and flat out says they support gay rights.

My glow of happiness for my gay friends lasted until about 6:30.  That's when I checked and saw the first two vitriolic posts against marriage equality.  "The Bible says homosexuality is a sin!  Even if a million people believe a lie, it is still a lie!" proclaimed one status.  Another friend shared one of the "share this if you believe marriage is between a man and a woman ONLY" pictures.

Although tempted, I steered clear of commenting.

I'm a Christian.  I'm a loud and proud Christian.  I'm a worship leader.  Yes, I know what Paul wrote about homosexuality.  I also know he supported slavery and treating women as property.  Going along with the cultural standards of the time, he would have supported polygamy and that sex with one's slaves wasn't considered adultery.  How about all those Jewish laws about cutting your hair, wearing garments made from more than one kind of thread, or eating unclean meats like pork and shellfish?  He would have followed those, too, since he was Jewish. 

So let me quote you what Jesus said about homosexuality.

*crickets*

How about what Jesus said about marriage?

*crickets*

I strongly believe that I am to love my neighbor as myself, as Jesus instructed, period.  I can't love my neighbor if I think they are less deserving of the same rights I have.  Jesus said in the gospel of John that "HE doesn't judge, although we judge by human standards."  

But let's put our Bibles aside and look at the legal issue at hand.  Marriage, by definition, is a legal and civil act.  After meeting certain standards -- age, currently free to marry, blood tests, etc. -- one can attain a marriage license.  Then with your betrothed, you exchange vows in front of a person with the legal ability to proclaim you married, along with a couple of witnesses.  You can do this in a court house, a love chapel in Vegas, out in a forest or on a beach, or in an enormous church.  Upon completing the legalities, you have acquired over 1100 additional rights, ranging from tax benefits to health insurance to end-of-life benefits.

Marriage is NOT a religious institution.  It was not created by the church.  It is not "sanctified."  What was created by the church is the sacrament of Holy Matrimony (also called Holy Unions).  Holy Matrimony is a ceremony performed by a clergy under the auspices of a church wherein you make your vows to your spouse "in front of God."  It is ONLY recognized by the church.  Without the legal paperwork, a service or sacrament of Holy Matrimony won't change your legal status.  It isn't recognized by the government.  You still have to file taxes as single.  You have no rights to visit your spouse in the hospital or make decisions for them should they be unable to make them for themselves. 

That is the crux of the marriage equality argument -- the difference between what is recognized by the government and what is recognized by the church.  Those who oppose marriage equality on the grounds that it is morally wrong based on their religious beliefs are not seeing the legal issue at hand.  They believe, because honestly we are poorly educated, that marriage is a religious thing, and simply put, it is not.  Holy Matrimony is.  Marriage, no.

Churches can deny anyone the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  Catholic churches do it all the time for couples that have been living together out of wedlock, couples that have borne children out of wedlock, couples where one or both has been previously married, couples that are not members of that parish, and many other reasons.  If -- actually, when -- same sex marriage becomes a legal right, churches will still have the right to deny the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.  While gay couples may not have the ceremony in the church that they love, they will have all the legal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage.

There are plenty of things that we may or may not believe are morally wrong, yet we don't make them illegal.  In case you are wondering what I could possibly mean, what about alcohol?  Plenty of religious organizations believe consuming alcohol is a sin (never mind that pesky drinking of wine at the Last Supper thing).  We overturned Prohibition almost a century ago.  How about smoking?  The Bible tells us to treat our bodies as a temple.  On that note, there are scriptures against tattoos and piercing of flesh.  There are scriptures against cutting ones hair, and working on the Sabbath (which is sundown Friday to sundown Saturday).  Jewish law forbids the eating of "unclean flesh" such as pork and shellfish -- better take those bacon-wrapped shrimp off every menu.

Marriage equality isn't a moral issue.  Morals don't determine our laws.  Marriage equality is an issue about treating people with the same respect and dignity you believe you deserve.  Don't like gay marriage?  Don't get one.  But until you can show me how a gay marriage has ruined any aspect of society, how it has destroyed your heterosexual marriage or scarred your children, I kindly ask you to take your Bible and review all the teachings of Jesus about loving your neighbor.

They significantly outweigh the ones about homosexuality.