One of my facebook friends shared a link on her feed today from the website United Church of God, offering a ‘respectful discussion’ (read: rejection) of the gay marriage debate, written by their contributor Heather Disher.
Heather, allow me to respectfully disagree with every single word you wrote.
Rhetorical questions such as “Why shouldn’t two people be able to spend their lives together if they love each other?” pull our heartstrings, but do not speak at all to the actual issue.
You state, quite rightly, that the law in most (western) nations does not impinge on same-sex couples living together if they love each other. That, however, is a very recent development – as recent as 2003 for some US states (Lawrence v Texas) and even that’s not the full story: Montana’s sodomy law, despite being declared unconstitutional for a decade, was only repealed last week. I doubt there’s many straight couples who fear that law enforcement will come bursting into their bedroom to arrest them for making love.
And that does not even begin to address the numerous countries around the world which criminalise homosexuality and impose penalties up to and including death on those found ‘guilty’. So the question you refute as irrelevant to the equal marriage debate is in fact the most pertinent one of all, at least where gay ‘activists’ (as you deem us) are concerned. It certainly isn’t rhetorical.
A marriage is a covenant between a man, a woman, and God. A Civil Union is a contract between two adults and a civil authority. So already, by definition, even the term “gay marriage” is indefensible. Asking the government to let you get married is like asking the Post Office for a library card: You are asking the wrong authority, it’s not even within their power to grant your request.
If one desires to get married in any nation in the west one needs a licence from the state, not the church. An ordained religious official can perform the ceremony, but without that piece of paper from the state it’s only so many pretty words. You are not married unless the state allows it. Indeed, your religious official cannot perform a marriage unless the state licences them to do so. At every stage and level of creating a marriage as that term is understood in its official capacity it needs the sanction of the government in order to be valid. So when I read that the government does not even have it “within their power to grant your request” I’m afraid I fell about laughing. It is solely within the government’s power to grant that request.
Furthermore, there is a vast, vast difference between a marriage and a civil union. More than 1,100 differences, actually. They’re all the automatic federal rights granted to (American) heterosexual married partners but denied to gay couples – even those legitimately married in the eyes of their state. Maybe you didn’t pay attention when DOMA was being debated in the Supreme Court, but it has come about because the US government is suing a little old lady called Edie Windsor for $363,000 in estate taxes it claims she owes because under DOMA the US government does not recognise her lawful marriage as a lawful marriage. Were Edie’s partner of almost fifty years a man, she would not have owed that money.
A person can change his own beliefs and his own behavior, but cannot force his expectations on others.
This point, forgive me, was a little convoluted. I think in essence what you were saying is that it’s irrelevant how visible homosexuality becomes in society, we cannot make you accept it. You perceive the ongoing battle for marriage equality to be part of some grander scheme to ‘normalise’ gay relationships and because – as you think – it won’t work we should just stop bothering. Right?
Firstly, I refer you to the above United States v. Windsor case. Honestly, we couldn’t care less what our neighbours think of us. You are free to hold your own position based on your religion, your personal beliefs, and for all I know the simple fact that you find what we get up to a bit squicky. No-one wants to change your mind. But because you disapprove or dislike something doesn’t mean that you can sanction everyone else who disagrees with you. You cannot deny us basic civil rights simply because of some vague, ill-defined unease at how we live our lives. That’s like outlawing the sale of donuts because you’re on a diet. Don’t be the dog in the manger.
Many will muddy this issue by linking it to violence, discrimination, or other crimes against gay people. This is also not a valid argument. Gay people already have rights. They are already citizens. If those rights are not respected, there are already laws in place to protect them and punish the guilty parties. If these laws are not upheld, that is an issue of enforcement, not legislation.
You’re quite right when you say that acts of physical violence are sanctioned under law, as are all crimes against the body. But do you know in how many states you can be lawfully fired from your job simply for being gay? Twenty-nine. Twenty-nine. You can also be evicted for being gay in the same number of states. And yet you maintain that we have rights and are protected under law; that we are citizens. Maybe we are, in the loosest sense of the word. Full and equal citizens we most assuredly are not.
And, for that matter, we even have lesser rights when it comes to acts of physical violence. Homophobia is not, in many states, considered motivation for a hate crime. Moreover, ‘gay panic’ is still considered a legitimate defence in cases of physical assault, as seen in the recent case of the murder of Marcus McMillian.
Activists want churches and synagogues—and by extension, God—to proclaim acceptance of the gay lifestyle as a moral imperative…God’s love for us is a selfless love, and when He defines an action as sin, it is because it is harmful. God can love a person without accepting their actions.
You claim this is an argument ‘at the core of the issue’ – that acceptance and love are synonymous and what we’re really after, when we say we want to be able to marry, is God’s endorsement. You argue this is not the case, that you can, as it were, love the sinner but hate the sin. While in that you’re right, I’m afraid it is you who has missed the point. You’re equating marriage with God – specifically, a Christian god – when marriage is not the sole domain of Christianity. Marriage predates all the major world religions (and Christianity, for the record, is the youngest of them) by centuries. You do not have to be Christian to be married in America or anywhere else. You are entitled to a religious ceremony if you so choose, but it is not necessary to validate any marriage. Being married does not, therefore, automatically assume the blessing of a benevolent God upon the union.
And here we come to the crux of it: cold, hard, cash.
The only practical discussion about “gay marriage” would be this: Should the government recognize Civil Unions as it does marriage: with tax credits, next of kin rights, and other laws governing money and property?
Some would say yes, because our government should represent its people, and protect their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We live in a carnal world, and even if the law stayed as it is, our government and our population is already far from righteous.
On the other hand, history is made up of critical moments that can turn future events on their heads. Is this debate on “gay marriage” such a critical moment? Is it possible that if enough people learned God’s truth and sought Him that America as a whole could turn and repent?
What you’re saying – and I’m not sure you even recognise this yourself – is you recognise that gay couples are being penalised in matters monetary and legal. That we pay more taxes and have less rights than your average American citizen. You even accept that some people see this as unjust and – whatever their personal feelings about homosexuality – think this should be rectified. You, however, do not. You see the movement towards marriage equality as some ‘critical moment’ in the history of the US; a chance for national redemption and salvation. All you have to do is stamp on the gays to get through the pearly gates.
Forgive me, but that seems the least Christian response of all. What you’re endorsing is the perpetuation of the oppression of an already-marginalised segment of society in hopes that when Judgement Day comes, America will be found deserving.
Reality Check 101:
- Not all Americans are Christian.
- Judgement is not bound up with national identity. If it were, you need to move to the Middle East sharpish if you want to be considered one of God’s people. (Not bombing said people would also help.)
- The Rapture has been predicted multiple times in the last 2,000 years. If we go back to Scripture you’ll see that in Revelations, John predicted it would be heralded by the fall of the ‘Whore of Babylon’. The Whore, FYI, was Rome. While Nero fiddled, Christians everywhere prepared to be Raptured. It didn’t happen. It hasn’t happened any year since, either. By this point, it might be a safe bet that it isn’t gonna happen.
But let’s assume Christian mythology has it essentially right: that Judgement Day is coming and one day the righteous will be Raptured. Firstly, we will all be judged on our own actions. Not those of our state or nation or race or socio-economic peers. Get your own house in order and let me worry about mine. I am inclined to believe that a benevolent God who made me in His image will be more than happy with my life. I do not judge others for that is His place and I do not presume to know His mind. I do not cast stones as I am not without sin (as, indeed, none of us are). I accept all of His creatures with an open and loving heart. I stand up for injustice even in the face of adversity. I am the voice crying in the wilderness.
If I am going to hell for that, so be it.