1) The conflation of ‘religious marriage’ and ‘legal marriage’.
Taking a look at heterosexual marriage, there are two typical scenarios that occur around the “ceremony”. Either you get married by a religious official, or you get married by the “justice of the peace”. In either scenario, in order to be legally recognized as a marriage, a marriage license was signed and witnessed. You can go to the courthouse and sign in front of the justice, and it has no religious significance whatsoever – and you are legally married. You can have a religious ceremony and not sign the license – and you’re not officially married by the law. In the case of religious with no license, you have legal precedence behind you for saying you’re married, but “officially” – no dice.
When a straight couple signs that marriage license, that contract is officially recognized around the world. There are laws, rights, and privileges that automatically proceed from that sheer act alone – 1049 of them, according to an analysis by the General Accounting Office in 1997. Think back about how many documents or forms you’ve filled out that refer to your ‘spouse’, ‘wife’, ‘husband’, etc. All of these definitions are due to that legal contract of ‘marriage’.
The basis of most modern legal systems can be traced back to religious laws and edicts. However, legal systems evolve. They change over time, and have evolved to be inclusive and non-discriminatory. Given the number of religions that exist underneath the same legal structure, having laws based on one over another doesn’t give the equality that is necessary.
If a church doesn’t want to allow gay couples to have a ceremony, that’s entirely up to them. I have no qualms with that whatsoever. There are churches today that will perform those ceremonies, and churches that won’t. What gay couples want are those rights that are provided under legal recognition of their union.
So why not civil unions? A couple of reasons, actually. First- in most instances, states have to create a category of ‘civil union’ and add to it all the rights that exist for marriages. This creates a class whereby rights can be added or removed at legislative whim, which leads to the second point – ‘separate but equal’. We’ve been there before, and it’s been ruled unconstitutional. There already exists a perfectly fine legal category for the union/contract that gay couples are seeking. It’s called marriage.
Fundamentally, the argument against gay marriage boils down into the religious beliefs of those who are against it, and their belief that it is ‘wrong’. That it somehow negates the concept of ‘traditional marriage’. If that’s the case, then let’s make a complete separate so that it’s clearly defined – marriage by the church can remain ‘marriage’ and marriage by the state can be ‘civil unions’ for everyone.
“Traditional” marriage is a sham to begin with. Man’s concept of marriage has changed significantly over the course of time, and undoubtedly will continue to change. We typically don’t accept arranged marriages any more, or marriages to combine land/money/ruling power. Yet take a look at Vegas – wedding chapels all over the place, and you can be married and divorced in the same week. The majority of gay couples that are seeking to get married are those that are in loving relationships that seek to take the next step and solidify their union legally.
2) The religious intolerance to homosexuality in general
I find that most religious folks that are prejudiced against gays use the excuse that ‘the Bible says it’s wrong’. This argument has galled me from the moment I’ve heard it, because it’s complete and utter bullshit. Most of these folks it would seem have never actually read the Bible, or if they have, they completely misinterpret it.
To start with, I was raised a Methodist. Overall, they’re a fairly accepting group. One of the big things I remember being taught as a child was that with the coming of Jesus, the teachings of the New Testament modified those of the Old Testament. There was less of a focus on Judaic law, and more of a focus on doing good deeds, being good towards people, and in general loving and accepting everyone – including your enemies. It bothers me to no end that in order to justify homosexuality as a sin, everyone turns to the example of Sodom and Gomorrah from the Old Testament, Genesis 19:1-13.
In newer revisions of the bible, it’s now been translated to actually include ‘homosexual acts’ or other phrases just as incendiary. In the older versions though, the appropriate line was “Bring them out so that we may know them”. In the Vulgate bible, it was: “Educ illos huc, ut cognoscamus eos.” In the Greek, the appropriate word is: συγγενώμεθα, or ‘suggenometha’ I challenge anyone with a background in word roots & etymology to find something sexual in ‘know’, ‘cognoscamus’, and ‘suggenometha’. The Hebrew word is ‘ya’da’. It’s used 943 times in the Old Testament. In only about a dozen of these is the chosen translation sexual related, and in those cases it was usually fairly obvious: Someone “knew” someone else and had a kid. In the case of a mob trying to learn about strangers in their town, it’s a stretch in the least.
If we were to take the Old Testament as the basis for what’s right or wrong, we can’t pick and choose the pieces we’d like to follow. Using it as a basis for argument that homosexuality is wrong, you’d have to then follow that the other things it prohibits are wrong, and the things it promotes are right. Therefore multiple wives, arranged marriages, etc. were all perfectly fine – and yet we can all generally agree that’s not the case.
If the Bible is to be used as the basis for argument against gay marriages, then we should really look at what it’s saying about gay marriages: what it says about monogamous, loving, committed relationships between two members of the same sex. When that criteria is used, there are exactly ZERO instances in the bible. If you look at the categorizations of other instances, you could find: prohibitions against rape, against sex in temples, prostitution, orgies, pedophilia, and bestiality. But on the basis of monogamous committed relationships? Nothing.
So what does all of this mean? How are heterosexual marriages at risk?
I’m angry. I have had it with other people thinking that they have the right to interfere in my life and defining who I should be allowed to marry based off their own fears and prejudices. Let’s call it exactly what it is: bigotry. I’m a human being, I go to work, I pay taxes, I buy my groceries, etc. There’s no reason that I shouldn’t be allowed to marry whomever I choose to fall in love with and have it legally recognized. I refuse to be treated as a second class individual. My grandparents were married for almost 70 years before my grandmother died, and I intend to get wed to the man I love and live together for as long as I’m alive too. So North Carolina better look out, because I’ve had it. I *will* find a way to get married and have it recognized in my home state, and I refuse to take ‘no’