January 24, 2010

A Word (Or Many) About Gay Marriage

In both the wedding world and politics, gay marriage is a very hot topic.  First, there was a the passing of Proposition 8 in California, which had banned gay marriage in the state. Then, Martha Stewart Weddings featured its first ever gay wedding in their magazine. Next, in the world of blogging brides, came a post by The Barefoot Bride denouncing gay marriage and the Martha Stewart Weddings feature of the gay couple due to her Christian beliefs, which sparked a firestorm of over 300 comments to the post!  And recently, the Perry versus Schwarzenegger trial began, to determine whether Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage violates U.S. constitutional rights of equal protection and due process. This is an unprecedented court case on the issue, and the ramifications will surely be historical, whatever the final verdict. 

Since creating this blog, I have quietly shown my support for gay marriage by displaying a badge from WhiteKnot.org to embrace marriage equality. 




But now, I've decided to join the ranks and speak out about this issue.  I come from the first state to legalize gay marriage. I have an aunt who is a lesbian. I was raised to believe that all humans are created equal, and discrimination against others is simply intolerable. But that being said, I do not want to make this an argument based on emotion. Just because I was raised in this environment does not mean I have not considered alternative perspectives, or failed to analyze my own beliefs. I have spent a great deal of time pondering, debating, studying, researching, and educating others on this topic. I truly strive to understand the beliefs of both sides. And I am against either side engaging in immature name calling. 

I think at the heart of this issue there is a failure on both sides to understand the other, because in America there appears to be a movement towards what I would describe as belief equaling fact. When one side is arguing based on fact and the other on personal beliefs, neither side is going to understand each other, because it's like trying to compare apples and oranges, so to speak.

To elucidate this trend, on the liberal/pro-marriage equality/Democrat (pick one) side you have individuals who cite the fact that the Constitution guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law, and that the Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. According to this argument, homosexuals are being unfairly discriminated against by being denied the right to marry, since the fact is that they are guaranteed equal protection under the law.  


The Left's Stance on Gay Marriage in a Nutshell

However, the conservative/Christian/Republican stance tends to gravitate towards the belief that homosexuality is immoral and wrong. The problem here is not necessarily the Right's belief that homosexuality is wrong (everyone is entitled to their beliefs, even if we vehemently disagree with them). The issue is that the Right is taking their beliefs and attempting to morph them into facts. By that, I mean that they are stating that because they believe marriage between same sex couples is immoral, they then (usually) claim it is a fact that marriage is an institution between to unite one man and one woman. I also often hear the argument that homosexual marriages will threaten the quality and validity of heterosexual marriage. The Family Research Council, a Christian organization, claims:

  "Homosexual marriage is an empty pretense that lacks the fundamental sexual complementariness of male and female. And like all counterfeits, it cheapens and degrades the real thing. The destructive effects may not be immediately apparent, but the cumulative damage is inescapable. The eminent Harvard sociologist, Pitirim Sorokin, analyzed cultures spanning several thousand years on several continents, and found that virtually no society has ceased to regulate sexuality within marriage as defined as the union of a man and a woman, and survived."

The problem here is that again, the FRC is taking historical observation and trying to pass it off as valid research, or fact. Basically they are saying that societies that stopped defining marriage (which ones, btw?) as between a man and a woman did not survive, so if we allow gay marriage our society will also end. They are calling this research and trying to pretend it is fact. But as all researchers know, correlation does not equal causation. That means that just because there is a correlation between societies ending and liberal sexual attitudes (assuming this is even a valid correlation) does NOT mean that liberal sexual attitudes caused the destruction of these societies. There could be numerous other explanations, such as war, for the demise of these societies. There are also a myriad of other reasons that people oppose same-sex marriage that I am not going to debate here. I just wanted to make the point with a couple of examples that this side does not view their beliefs as mere opinion, they have elevated them to facts, and fail to see the important distinction between the two.  



In more extreme cases, and I am certainly not saying this is the belief held by all anti-equality individuals, religious conservatives make statements that the other side would view as hate or bigotry as though they are facts. But again, these "facts" cannot be proven through science, and they are really just opinions. Please refer to the image below for a good example of a man who has tried to pass his personal belief off as a fact. In this case the man believes that homosexuals are possessed by demons. However his poster makes it appear that this is a fact, when indeed it clearly is not (though I know he and some others would disagree with me).



To summarize, the issue between those who support same-sex marriage and those who do not is that one side is arguing on the basis of fact, while the other is arguing on the basis of belief.  The key is that individuals who oppose marriage equality do not believe they are arguing on the basis of belief; they feel that the Bible and its teachings are facts, which to them are just as valid as legitimate research studies or tangible evidence. We cannot dispute this belief, because we cannot and will not prove to them they are wrong, just as they cannot prove to us that the Bible is actually fact. To do so would be like trying to convince people that grass is really purple, when they have viewed it as green throughout their lives. It's just not going to happen. Thus, neither side is ever going to compromise or really understand the other side.  

However, history has shown that when we discriminate against groups on the basis of belief, in violation of the Constitution, that eventually, the majority of this country will come to the consensus that there does need to be a separation between personal beliefs and facts. And that we have to run the country on the basis of facts (the laws outlined in the Constitution), because to do otherwise is unfair, since all humans deserve to be treated equally. This has certainly been the case for women and African Americans. 

I remember asking my parents when I was younger what it was like to grow up with Jim Crow laws or be apart of the feminist movement, and why discrimination was so tolerated in society. They said that really, there was no good answer for why society tolerated such bigotry, and that fortunately, these groups succeeded in attaining their Constitutional rights to freedom and equality.  Someday, I know I will be able to tell my children the same answer when they ask me why when I was growing up homosexuals did not have the right to marry. I have faith that that day will come.

21 comments:

  1. Hear hear! Thank you for a wonderful post -- I still cannot fathom those who think it's *wrong*. Gay marriage is about love. Simple as that.

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  2. Well said! I agree with you, and thank you for this great post. I too hope we’ll see that day. And I’ll be adding that marriage equality badge to my blog.

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  3. Thank you for this Article. Fathers’ right to be a meaningful part of their childrens’ lives, have been eroded to the point of non-existence. My research suggests that this is a phenomenon consistent throughout the industrialized nations. Children who are alienated from their fathers are more likely later in life to have emotional/behavioral problems, suffer from depression, drop out of school, fail in their jobs, and suffer from other social problems. I invite you to visit my site devoted to raising awareness on this growing problem: http://fathersprivilege.blogspot.com/

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  4. Cheers to you!

    Sometimes I forget how much of an issue the legal portion of the marriage is, as it's been legal in Canada for five or so years.

    So here's to the rest of the world catching up to our laws in Canada, giving everyone the right to wed.

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  5. Amen sista.

    It still amazes me that there are people OK with not giving other people basic rights. Simply because Marriage is a word used by both the church and the state, it creates a situation in which the church wants to interfere with the state's use of legal union through "Marriage". If "legal unions" were recognized by insurance companies in all states, we could just make sure everyone signed a legal union agreement with the state before they chose to celebrate their union (aka Marriage) in whatever religion or tradition they chose. This would be a true separation of church and state.

    However, since our westernized society has been so closely tied to the belief that a dude who died 2010 years was the one and only supreme being to ever exist in the billions years of our planet's life and evolution, we can't seem to shake the antiquated allegories that were scribed and poorly translated into English and then retranslated to whatever a more modern theologian wanted to convey at the time of translation. Give us another 1000 years and we may have a completely different interpretation of the bible than the one we know today.

    In any case - the argument always seems to come back to the idea of children. Gay marriage doesn't threaten a father or a mother's right to be a part of their child's life. While David shares a sad story, it has nothing to do with Gay rights. If anything, gay marriage opens the door to more adoptions. A child who is adopted into a gay marriage is going to be more safe, secure, loved, and likely to lead a productive life in our society than a child who has been abandoned or mistreated by irresponsible, addicted, and impoverished parents. And since most gay households make quite a bit more than the average straight household, that child is likely to have many more opportunities for development as a well rounded citizen.

    On a completely superfluous and blatantly stereotypical note, who would we turn to for such fabulous renovations of historically ruined areas without our beloved gay community living in a two income household?! ;-) This can't all be serious, right?!

    Live and let live. If it is truly "God's will" to have anything done, than God, and God alone, will take care of it. We step into very dangerous territory when we assume and try to force our interpretation of God's will on other people. "God" "Allah" "Mother Earth" "whatever name you choose" will keep the balance in the world as is needed. Our only human task is to love and care for each other (which is the opposite of hating or hurting anyone) and to take care of the beautiful world that we have been given.

    If people are truly believers of Jesus Christ - than they will follow his lead and love all people regardless of their "sins" "irregularities" and "uncleanliness". It disgusts me to even use those words in this context, but people who truly believe in Jesus, also believe in loving their fellow human beings no matter what. Only God, not humankind, is capable of placing the ultimate judgement on what is right or wrong.

    Wow. I really didn't mean to write that much, but it's definitely a topic that triggers me. Off to do something loving for another person in order to shake this sick feeling of discrimination.

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  6. YES. Thanks for writing a great post. As you said, looking back on history and seeing how African Americans and women were in the same boat, I'm just hoping one day soon the government will realize they are repeating history and make homosexuals equal to everyone else as well. All beliefs and morals aside, you would think the government could at least be swayed by how much legalizing same sex marraige would boost the economy! Weddings provide a huge influx of funds into communities (I know - I'm planning one right now!) Again, thanks for a great post!

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  7. thank you, thank you, thank you. what a wonderful post.

    i don't know if you read this quote from the actress Jane Lynch but i thought she also phrased it well:

    “Shouldn’t there be safeguards against the majority voting on the rights of a minority,” she asked. “If people voted on civil rights in the ’60s, it would have never happened. It took somebody like (U.S. President) Lyndon Johnson going, ‘F all of you! I’m going to do this.’

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  8. Interesting post, although I feel turning it into fact vs. belief is a little simplistic. After all, the Constitution never directly addresses gay marriage, and that leaves it subject to interpretation (e.g., "separate but equal" was used to perpetuate segregation). I think the real misunderstanding is about what marriage is and how it originated. If marriage was an institution that originated in Christianity/Judaism, I think there would be evidence to allow something similar but with a title that wasn't directly tied to the religious institution (i.e., civil unions). However, as far as I can tell this isn't the case- marriage predated the religions that are trying to regulate it, therefore they can't claim it as their own. So that's my take as a Christian anyway- I believe that Christians are misguided in turning marriage into the cornerstone of the religion (that's supposed to be Christ), and if a pastor feels that gay marriage is wrong, he should be allowed to refuse to marry the couple but not turn this into a political fight. Something to discuss on a Lost night, perhaps? :P

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  9. Thanks you everyone for your feedback!

    And thank you Abby for commenting on my blog for the first time! You make a really good point about the fact that Judeo-Christian religions claim marriage as their own institution when in fact it is not. I also agree that pastors should not be forced to marry gay couples if it goes against their beliefs, but gay couples can have the right to get married without forcing particular churches to perform these marriages.

    I still disagree that the Constitution leaves room for interpretation of this issue because although it does not specifically discuss gay marriage, it does state all humans have equal protection under the law, and clearly discrimination of any sort (whether it be against, minorities, women, disabled individuals etc) is a violation of this amendment.

    The reason I wanted to simplify the argument to the fact vs. belief issue is because I feel like in my discussion with conservatives who are against gay marriage (regardless of their religious beliefs), their primary argument has always been that they do not believe it is right, whether that is a personal moral or a religious one. There are plenty of other reasons that I did not state for why I support of gay marriage (which I wrote I did not want to go into at length), and yours is a really good example.

    I guess my whole point is that the reasons I personally support gay marriage do not really matter, just as the reasons that people might oppose it don't really matter. The primary issue is that gay couples should be able to marry due to the rights outlined in the Constitution for all tax paying legal citizens, even if this is not explicitly stated, and as a result, personal ideologies should not factor into the law.

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  10. Sorry to post again, but I think it's very easy to oversimplify the views on this topic because of people like the guy in your picture. Plus. I can't sleep and could go for a good debate :)

    While it is a fact that the Constitution provides for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all tax-paying legal citizens, the exact meaning of this is very much up to interpretation. The pursuit of happiness for a serial killer would involve allowing him to kill people; however, this obviously infringes on other people's right to life and therefore is not a right a serial killer has. I'm not implying in any way that this is analogous to gay marriage, but it illustrates the point that the meaning of "the pursuit of happiness" is limited by the amount that it infringes on the rights of others.

    So then the question becomes does gay marriage infringe on the rights of those who believe it's a sin? And while it's easy to say that it doesn't directly impact them, I think this is not entirely true. After all, marriage is a sacrament in Catholicism, and there is a lot of religious meaning behind it. Often, churches require that couples undergo counseling before getting married due to its sacred nature, and it's pretty typical that religious figures are present to bless the marriage. So in a way it is impacting what their marriage means, since it would be given freely to people who didn't have to undergo the same things and don't see the same meaning in the word.

    I think the easiest way for me to view this would be through the term "psychologist" and the qualifications that are necessary to call yourself a psychologist. This term is protected because it's meant to show that a person has done the appropriate work and has an adequate understanding of what being a psychologist means. If a person with absolutely no training calls himself a psychologist, I would be angry as it lessens the meaning of what being a psychologist entails and devalues the training I have received and the skills that I have gained through that training. So in a way, although this random person has the right to the pursuit of happiness, his pursuit in this manner infringes on my pursuit because I am going by it in the "correct" way (as defined by the APA).

    Now, I guess this is where the origin of marriage comes in for me. If marriage was something that was solely practiced in a religious context, it would be devaluing the meaning of a religious institution by allowing people who don't follow that religion to still partake in the practice. However, even though it is a part of Judeo-Christian religions, I really don't think they can claim it as only their practice. Plus, it's not like gay marriage would be the only thing to weaken the meaning of the institution of marriage at this point- a lot of celebrities have done a good job at that :P

    Anyway, my main point here is that there's belief on both sides of this issue. With some of the fanatics out there it's easy to oversimplify it, but I think it's important to recognize that it's really the personal ideologies on both sides that define the issue: you don't view it as a religious practice, while many other people do. And while there are legal rights associated with it, these legal rights could be conferred in a way that didn't base itself on the religious practice (i.e., civil unions).

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  11. I'm a new follower and I just wanted to say that this is a fantastic post and I couldn't agree with you more. I think I should add that white knot to my blog too. :)

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  12. Well, techically, the origins of marraige is really a business deal. Way back when, it was pretty common for brother to marry sister, cousin to marry cousin all the in the name of keeping estates within the family.

    Since we are arguing between church and state I also want to point out that I live in countries where church and state were not separated and the state ordained church was not my own. It was not pleasant living. I cannot imagine doing that to others. I am not muslim, I don't care to wear a 'habib' I cannot imagine if the state denied me my union because I did not happen to be of their faith.

    Actually, now, that we are on the topic of faith. I am a Christian. The two biggest "laws" that Christ gave me is "love God and love people" (paraphasing of course ;) ) There is nothing loving about banning people from marriage.

    Secondly, in a world where the institution of marriage is failing as a whole (between men and women no less), how many times have we heard "I don't believe in marriage"? Bring on the people who do believe in love, who do believe in marriage. I see no hurt but only good. Maybe a reminder to us all what love is all about (and not homosexuality).

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  13. Wow, you have to graduate soon. The college(s) are making you so liberal that you even debate like them. Let's see, if I am single without children then I am taxed more than a married person with children. Is that unconstitutional as well? It is under your definition of "fact".

    Then, you find people that believe that gays are possessed by demons and use them as one of your examples of "belief" groups. Really? Is California so filled with these types of people that they rejected gay marriage? If so, then you had better add Democrats to your list of "conservatives, Christians and Republicans", because if every last one of those three groups voted "no" it would not have been enough to defeat gay marriage.

    I know that it makes it more satisfying to make an argument when one can make themselves feel morally superior, but it doesn't make it an actual argument. It just makes the arguer and his readers feel good about themselves.

    But, just to be in the spirit of things, let me make a brief argument for the boors on the other side.

    The "fact" is that support for the full rights of marriage for gay people is as high as 80% in polls of the American people. What most Americans don't want is for the state to call it marriage. That is not to say that gay people, their family, their friends and everyone that they know can't call it marriage (or rose petals for all we care). It's just that out of respect for the differences of opinion, most prominantly among our more religious neighbors, most Americans would prefer to call it someting else, such as civil unions.

    On the "belief" side of the argument are Transgender organizations, communists and Democrats who don't have any "facts" but have very strong feelings on the issue. What they are fighting for is the belief that the state should call something by a particular name. They often equate this with the civil rights movement. Outside of being a bit creepy, it also has no basis in fact, but it is emotionally satisfying. To point out that comparing lynchings of black people by Democrats in the South to the "fact" that most states would prefer to call it civil unions, is ridiculous will get one no where. The "belief" people will not be convinced no matter what you say. (right here I show a picture of a Democrat wearing a Che t-shirt or Mao or some other mass murderer).

    Oh, and those Christian "believers" that you seem to have such disdain for, are a huge part of what caused the civil rights movement to succeed.

    BTW, as a libertarian leaning person, I don't really care who wins the argument. It's just that to win you have to convince people why the polls want equal rights, but they don't want it called marriage. Are you just fighting for the name? If so, then why is that important to you and more importantly why should it be important to other Americans? Are you offended if the state identifies you as a male? Do you want that to be a more neutral name like citizen or something?

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  14. The bottom line on this issue is this. People have a perfect right to believe that gay marriage is immoral according to their religious beliefs, however, because they believe it does not give them the right to impose that belief on the lives of others.

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  15. @Johnny B: I appreciate you speaking out about your opposing views, but like I said, I don't condone name calling and insults (i.e. calling fellow Americans "Communists.") When you engage in this type of immature and inaccurate rhetoric, no one will take what you have to say seriously. Just an FYI.

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  16. @Abby I understand that Judeo-Christian religions view marriage as sacred and a specific practice according to their particular rules and thus want to protect the term, however I don't think we can compare that to protecting the term psychologist.

    Psychologists must fulfill certain requirements because they are in a position of power over their patients. In this case, the job is protected to ensure the physical, mental and emotional safety and well-being of the patient. I don't think you could make the same argument about marriage.

    Furthermore, like you said, other things have devalued marriage according to the Judeo-Christian perspective of it (i.e. shows like Who Wants to Marry a Midget?). Furthermore, the Bible mandates that people have children, but spouses who decide not to have children are still allowed to get married legally in this country.

    Additionally, people are allowed to get married and call it marriage even when they are not Judeo-Christians. Atheists, Agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists etc are all legally allowed to get married - so long as they are not homosexual, even though they may not have the same views on marriage as a Christian. I don't see the church trying to prevent any of these groups from getting married or forcing them to call their marriages "civil unions," so it seems unfair to single out a particular group. When a group is singled out and denied their basic rights, then it does become a matter of simple discrimination, which is supposed to be something our country does not tolerate (at least I would hope).

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  17. I still, after so many years, cannot believe people think gay marriage is wrong. I think I'm the only one in my family who is not against it. Pretty sad if you ask me.

    I really wish people would get their heads out of their over-religious ass's and accept it. Everyone has the right to be happy.

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  18. I know I am WAY LATE, but I found this post on seeded buzz. Thank you. I don't know what else to say. You are simply awesome, and you DO GET IT.

    I devoted a blog post to you, and I am going to follow you. Hey, if I find a bride, I am coming straight to you to plan my wedding!

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