Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Let's talk about gay marriage


...I mean, why not?

when I consider what I want to write about in a blog post, I never consider my options to include gay marriage, abortion, or the death penalty (the Big Three), because... well, everyone has already made every argument known to humankind for or against all of them. We've all heard it, we've all chosen a "side." They're all tired subjects these days, when it comes to social commentary. But, who cares. Today, I'm thinking about gay marriage. It's on my mind, so I shall write:

Why does anyone oppose the idea of two men or two women getting married to one another? The only opponents thus far seem to be opposed for religious reasons. If one is concerned that gay marriage would oppose their religious beliefs, then there is a really reasonable solution to that: if you're a heterosexual religious person, then simply don't elect to marry a person of the same sex. If you're a religious official, do not elect to marry gay couples. I'm fairly certain that there's some part of our Constitution that says something along the lines of "freedom of religion" or something like that.

All right, sarcasm aside, the part of the First Amendment that discusses religion says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Which means that Congress cannot establish or maintain a religious structure to dictate the laws and lives of US citizens, and/because as US citizens, we all have the right to religious freedom and expression as we see fit. No religion shall be considered dominant or influential in our law making, and no law shall be passed that prohibits or discourages people from expressing their religious beliefs.

Now, luckily for Christians in the US, church officials are legally allowed to perform marriages. This means that you can go to the county government office like your atheist or agnostic friends, get your marriage license, and have your priest, pastor, imam, or whomever, perform the marriage, and it becomes official, according to secular US law. Luckily for non-Christian or non-religious people, there is also the option of a Justice of the Peace or otherwise secularly ordained officiant to legally marry you. In fact, it's really astonishingly easy to become legally allowed to marry people.

What I understand is that a Christian person may feel that a gay couple being married is a sin in the eyes of their god. This is understandable, and not something I'm interested in arguing about with someone who is religious. I'm not trying to debunk anyone's (usually) harmless belief systems. However, if one is married by a religious official, the marriage is blessed by God, and therefore a holy matrimony. If your local justice of the peace marries two women tomorrow afternoon, well, what does that have to do with anything? If it were a heterosexual couple being married by a JOP, you wouldn't consider it to be a holy matrimony, either, right? That would presumably be because a JOP isn't giving God's blessing to your marriage. A JOP is simply making a domestic partnership into a legally binding contract. Where are the objections to heterosexual couples being married by secular institutions? I have heard of absolutely zero complaints about non-religious heterosexual couples being married by a judge, or their rights as married people.

What I truly don't understand is why a heterosexual Christian person would find a gay marriage threatening. It doesn't change the meaning of their marriage in the eyes of God.

If heterosexual religious people object to gay marriage within their church or religious institutions, then I say, more power to them. Have at it. Discriminate all you want. Why? Because your religious beliefs don't have an effect on the secular lives of those around you. At least, they shouldn't. Likewise, allowing homosexual people to marry someone of the same sex has no impact on religious people.

I understand the implications of saying that I believe that religious institutions have the right to be discriminatory in their allowance of certain ceremonial events. It would be discriminating against gay Christians, for one. But... well, if I don't want someone's religion to dictate my life, then I'm also not willing to demand that secular practices dictate the lives of religious people in a way that undermines or negates their religious beliefs. So, men can marry men and women can marry women legally, and Christian churches (and other non-Christian religions) can decide who they want to marry under the guidelines of their religion. Seems simple enough, right? They can all be legal under US law, so... what's the problem again?

Furthermore, is there anyone out there who is not religious, Christian or otherwise, who believes that gay people should not have the right to marry a person of the same sex? I haven't heard of any.

It seems so utterly simplistic, and I can't wrap my mind around what the actual problem is. The religious right seems to think that their interpretation of what certain people said that their god said should be universal law, but that's obviously incorrect in the context of our legal system and the founding of our nation, so where is the disconnect? Why are we stalling a civil rights issue over a group's beliefs, when the solution is to simply... you know, continue separating church and state?