Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My thoughts on gay marriage

I was extremely disappointed when Proposition 8 passed in California last week. This was the proposition to change the California Constitution to ban marriage between same-sex couples. It was a very close race, but it passed with 52 percent of voters saying yes.

I voted no because I think it is wrong to selectively deny legal rights to certain people. These are my thoughts and opinions on the topic. You can agree or disagree with me and that's okay.

The Yes on Prop 8 campaign was well run and very successful. Those of you who don't live in California didn't get to see all the commercials. If you are interested, you can find their information here - Yes on 8. They played to people's fears that certain terrible things would happen if gay marriage were legal. The funny thing is that gay marriage WAS LEGAL in California until this proposition was passed a couple of weeks ago. Were any of these terrible things happening?

CLAIM: If gay marriage is allowed, churches will lose their tax exempt status.

Marriage in the Catholic Church is a sacrament. People cannot walk in from the street and demand to be given Communion. Nor can they demand to be confirmed or baptised. In the same way, no person can demand to be married in the Catholic Church, whether heterosexual or gay. These are sacred rites and blessings which the Catholic Church has the power and responsibility to administer according to deeply held religious beliefs and hundreds of years of tradition.

Some members of the church are trying to have women ordained as priests. The Catholic Church gets to say no. Some members think that priests should be allowed to marry. The Catholic Church gets to say no. People will continue to fight for these issues. The Catholic Church still gets to say no.

If gay couples want to be married by a priest in the church, the Catholic Church gets to say no. Just as the Mormon Church gets to say no and the Evangelical Christian Churches get to say no. Despite what the proponents of Prop 8 tried to make us believe, it was NEVER about forcing churches to marry anyone. It was about the state recognizing the legal union of marriage between people. LEGAL. Not religious, not sacramental - legal.

If your church and your religion tells you that marriage is only between a man and a woman and you believe strongly in that idea - wonderful. Isn't it great that we live in a country where you can believe and worship as you wish and your church can administer its sacred traditions as it sees fit. If the state of California recognizes the legal marriage between gay people, those religious freedoms do not go away.

For more on this issue: Churches Will Not Lose Tax Exemptions for Performing Same Sex Marriages

CLAIM: If gay marriage is allowed, they will teach our children in schools about gay marriage.

This was another misrepresentation of facts. The case about the Massachusetts father who was arrested was used as an example of what would happen in schools. It was used to scare parents. There is much more to this case than was presented. Click here to read about the case and decide for yourself. The two links that I've listed at the bottom of this post have specific information about this issue and some of the other misleading claims made by the Yes on 8 campaign.

The real fear behind this argument is that someone will tell your children that gay men and woman exist and that you won't be standing over their shoulders to tell them your point of view. If you are going to let your children live in this world, they are going to encounter ideas, opinions and maybe even facts that run counter to your beliefs. It is YOUR responsibility as a parent to see that your belief system is passed on to your children. You are the primary influence in the lives of your growing children and you have ample opportunity to shape their thinking, correct misunderstandings and guide them towards the values that you cherish.

CLAIM: But if we let gay couples marry, what's next? I can marry my daughter or my pet?

Really? Is that really an intelligent argument that you can stand behind? Do you honestly think that two adults choosing to marry puts us one step away from legalizing incest or bestiality? Similar arguments were put forth by people who were opposed to interracial marriage. There were also many imagined catastrophes waiting for us when we gave - gasp! - women the right to vote.

It is human nature to be wary of change. We can all come up with ridiculous scenarios to scare each other into keeping everything the same. I'd rather not make my decisions based on fear.

CLAIM: If gay marriage is allowed, it will destroy the institution of marriage.

If two people love each other and want to commit their lives to each other and form a family, I see that as strengthening marriage and beneficial to society as a whole. The definition of marriage has evolved over the years. In the past, the woman was considered property of her husband and had no legal rights within the marriage. We have dispensed with that part of the tradition and society has not come crumbling down around us.

Some people believe that one of the main purposes of a marriage is for procreation. Since gay couples cannot naturally procreate, their union should not be considered a marriage. Should infertile couples not be allowed to marry? What about older men and women past childbearing age whose spouses have died? Let's tell these couples that their relationships are not worthy of the designation of Marriage. Let's give them a Domestic Partnership or a Civil Union and tell them to shut up and be happy about it.

We say yes to these MARRIAGES because we see people who love each other, want to commit themselves to each other and build a loving family for a lifetime. Families don't always follow the "traditional" mold - there are single parent families, blended families, multi-generational families. They look different, but they all share the same powerful bond of love and deep commitment to one another that is found in the "traditional" family. Gay couples feel that same deep love and commitment and deserve to have their relationships legally recognized as Marriages.

If we really want to protect and defend the institution of marriage why don't we pass a law to make marriage counseling tax deductible? Build family crisis centers on every street corner to provide free and immediate assistance for families in need. Encourage pre-marital counseling by providing free classes and paying couples to attend. How about just flat out paying people to stay married - for every year you stay married, you get a $1000 check from the federal government.

We should be using our legislative powers to provide resources to support marriage in a positive way. Banning marriage for a select group of people doesn't do a damn thing to strengthen my marriage or anyone else's. The divorce rate in this country is 50%. What are we doing about THAT?

Millions of dollars were spent by the campaign to put this proposition on the ballot and millions more was spent fighting it. Our country is still at war, the economy is falling apart, people are losing their jobs and their homes and THIS is what we focus our efforts on? THIS is the issue that gets Americans off our butts and motivates us to participate in our electoral process?

I don't believe that banning gay marriage has made our country any stronger or improved the lives of any of its people. It has only created more divisions between us, fueled fear and hatred (on both sides) and distracted us from working on the issues that would really make our country a better place for all Americans.

Okay, I am done now. If you feel like doing some more reading on this topic:

Constitutional Law Professors’ Statement About Proposition 8

Mormon Scholar Morris A. Thurston Memo


Bethany said...

Wow. I wasn't expecting this. You are an amazing writer and thinker. I love the way you clearly presented this. I am awed and proud. Also I am bawling my eyes out. Thank you for being you. Thank you for writing this.

Bobby said...

Sing it sister.....Seperation of Church and State my Ass!!!

Tracy said...

Bethany sent me your way...
This was excellent. And now I get to add you to my BLOG "must check" list.