Gay Marriage is about Religious Freedom

Marriage is an interesting institution that despite what some TV screamers say, has evolved a great deal over the years.  The most recent debate about who can marry was given rocket fuel propulsion this week when President Obama said he thought gay men and lesbians should have the right to get married after Vice-President Biden and later Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan both said they were for the right.  So for 4 days I have heard a great deal about the issue with a widely diverse group of politicians showing varied levels of agreement with the President and many on the right finding ways to demonize the same man.  One of the largest voices of opposition to gay marriage comes from the far right evangelical community.  To be clear, this group of people in our population want the government to limit the rights of a minority based solely on their understanding of their faith tradition.  Even if another segment of their faith tradition or another faith tradition sees the marriage of two people of the same sex as a sacred trust that is the small of a marriage between a man and a woman.  In fact I see this as a government making it illegal for religion to practice its expression of faith.

Now before I go on, marriage is a two-fold institution.  One is the sacred blessing of a faith tradition on the union of two (and sometimes more) people.  Like other rituals in faith communities they are defined by that religions understanding of their God, how to express that as a religious culture.  The other part of marriage is a legal one, one where the government extends family rights to a spouse.  Rights that are extended without question to a man and a woman who marry.  Let me be clear the government should not be involved in any way in the rules a religion uses to determine who they will bless with their marriage ritual.  If the Southern Baptists want to ban gays and lesbians from their churches that is not a government issue and if the United Church of Christ wants to bless the marriage of two men or two women the government should also not be involved.  That is not their role.

What the government can do however is to not try to determine who should marry and allow for those people married by clergy who happen to be the same-sex couples to be extended the same rights as opposite-sex couples.  Think about it, a man could meet a woman at the bar in the MGM in Vegas at 8pm, have 3 drinks with her, go dancing and wind up at a drive through chapel, get married and will have dozens of rights from the government, immediately.  However two women I know who have been together for more than 20 years can't even get some of those rights through civil unions, contract law etc.  How is that not discrimination and religious discrimination as their clergy blessed the union they have.

Now I understand that a religion or a denomination wants to be a gate keeper to their own sacred laws. I support that.  I would fight against the government coming in to tell clergy they must marry gay men and women to each other.  But that is not the point.  However, specific to Christianity I think the argument that their faith tradition has always held marriage as one man and one woman is not only inaccurate it is not Christ like.

As early as the 1970s historians have found references to Christian rituals to join in marriage two men including a story of two Catholic Saints, St. Serge and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who converted to Christianity and were martyred.  Read here.

If this is true and there were gay unions blessed by the church as late as the 18th century the argument of marriage being a static thing in at least the last 2000 years is simply wrong.  It takes a number of arrows out of the quivers of the far right.

I wish government didn't have to be involved in marriage.  But the role of family is so important in our society that government must be.  So why should government define who can be married if consenting adults share a vision to build a life together?  One can make good arguments for the public good to keep close relatives from getting married.  One could even make a public good argument about multiple marriages, but I know I can't.  But if you can legally enter into a contract you should be able to and when you peel back the religion of marriage it is a contract, why shouldn't you be able to marry?  I don't understand the arguments against that.  Can someone help?


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