Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Right to Marry, Right to Love
By visiting some of my favorite blogs today, I've become aware that I have only a couple of minutes to throw in my two cents on the subject of the right to marry, the better to contribute to the momentum on the No On 8 campaign transpiring in my home state of California.
I have been in a great relationship for the past 18 years, and we live in a state which permits civil unions. When the subject of marriage/civil unions was before our legislature, I remember the busloads of churches who convened on the grounds of the state capital to register their protests.
As if this were a matter for majority rule. There are many times in the history of the country where the government had to protect the rights of minorities from what John Stuart Mill referred to as "the tyranny of the majority."
The right to marry is a civil right. In times past mixed race couples have needed protection from the tyranny of the majority.
Now it's time to extend protections to another classification of couples needing such protection. These folks are the target of religious groups who think that civil rights should somehow be tied to their interpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Actually, civil rights shouldn't be tied to the Bible. Civil rights are to be available to people who follow the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Adventures of Superman and Lois Lane, or the Deep Thoughts of Jack Handey, among many other spiritual options.
Civil rights should exist in the civil domain. What religious groups choose to do about their implementation within their own contexts have to be left to the lights that guide them. If churches don't want to marry gay couples, they shouldn't be forced to. Here is where the separation of church and state works to the advantage of both. If some churches support gay marriage --and some do-- then their right to bring couples together should be unimpeded.
Churches need to have the opportunity to evolve --or not-- on this issue. I have watched various congregations go through some big arguments on whether or not to be welcoming, inclusive groups. But that is their call to make.
In the meantime, gay couples who want the protection of the law for the commitments they are willing to make shouldn't have to wait while ministers and congregants dither. It is interesting that a group so reviled as gays was mentioned only twice in the Bible, once in a strange little incident in the Old Testament, and once, not by Jesus, but by Paul, who wasn't all that excited about heterosexual marriage, either. Better to marry than to burn, indeed!
But civil rights go beyond or around theology. They ensure that smooth functioning of rights that belong to couples in times of crisis--in health, wealth, and peace of mind. They ensure that ghost relatives will not arise during the most difficult times in a couple's life to impose arrangements that degrade the wishes of the people most targeted by their impact. They affirm the adult nature of the relationship.
My spouse and I have not chosen to take advantage of our state's offering of civil unions. But we have protected ourselves with wills and trusts. To us, it's no damned business of the state as to how we feel about each other. But that's our choice. For other couples, our course of action would be insufficient. I respect that.
I always thought that this right was about another 20 years away. I was wrong. Thanks to the hard work of so many activists, the time is now.
When we see marriage as a civil right, rather than a chance to duke it out with recalcitrant churches, the path becomes obvious and clear.
If you are in a position to remedy this injustice, take your place in history.
And remember: any excuse for a party!