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Holy kowtow: Can society please grow up and stop bowing to theological straw men?!

by Jeremy Hooper

If one who is lobbying against lowering the voting age were to do so on the basis of their personal belief that casting a civil ballot is ungodly, that person would be laughed out of American politics.

If a person fighting healthcare reform suggested that their resistance was due to their support for faith healers as the only means of medication, their voice in the debate would be muted faster than you can say, "pass the peyote."

If the head of the FDA wanted to set the nation's dietary policy based on her own faith-based distaste for shellfish and other treif, the nation's Christians would surely revolt.

So why is it that when it comes to CIVIL marriage equality, the sole form of marital parity that LGBT activists are seeking from the government, that a majority of people still accept lines like this as an acceptable basis for shutting out tax-paying gay couples:

We need to be ready to flood Albany and Trenton with phone calls and emails from people who understand: Marriage matters. It is God’s idea, and He saw that it was good.
NOM PAC New York Marriage News [NOM]

Sure, a large portion of marriage participants have a religious ceremony that invokes some sort of God or Gods. Sure, our government confers the power of the state onto faith leaders for the purposes of solemnizing marriage. Sure, there are some people who don't consider anyone, LGBT or S, married unless a Bible is present. But none of this changes the reality of civil marriage. None of this changes the fact -- THE FACT! -- that religious ceremony is a wholly optional, completely ancillary component of the kinds of marriages for which gay folks and their allies are fighting!!

We could not have more respect for this country's commitment to religious freedom. We have zero problem with anyone choosing to see us as unmarried or even immoral in the "eyes of God." But what we ask for demand in exchange is for people of all faiths to start addressing this civil marriage debate in the terms that accurately encapsulate what's on the table. These "protect marriage" folks are the ones who need to start protecting true religious freedom, which allows for non-belief, gay-accepting belief, interfaith belief, varying degrees of agnosticism, etc. And they need to must start acknowledging that when it comes to the civil recognition of their own different-gendered marriages, their ceremonies (no matter how glorious or godly) are the elective component of the whole process. The civil marriage license is not!!

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It also ignores the fact that thousands of gay people DO marry with all sorts of religious trappings, within faiths and churches/synagogues/shrine, etc. I was married, in front of witnesses with every requirement Jewish marriage usually has - the contract, the ring, the chuppah, even (though NOT required) a rabbi. Oh, and the rabbi is legally able to perform marriages in my state, so that even matches the civil requirements.

Where is MY religious freedom? Where is the religious freedom of Quakers, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, liberal styles of Christianity? (Especially the Quakers - could you imagine saying Quakers weren't a part of the founding and establishment of this nation?)

I find it odd that more attention isn't paid to asking those questions to the religious objectors. I'd love to have them on the record as saying that Reform Rabbis aren't "real" Jews, or even better, that what Jews do isn't as good as what their narrow brand of Christianist thinking allows. It's just that they have discovered it's much easier to demonize the gays than it is to admit they find non-christians and liberal christians to be frauds and imperfect and, oh, yeah - not able to enter heaven.

Posted by: Laura | Jul 24, 2009 8:55:00 AM

Oh, absolutely, Laura. That's why I made the note about gay-accepting belief being a part of true religious freedom. I didn't want to make it so much about that, because the ancillary nature of religion/religious customs is the main focus. But yes, there are scores of LGBT people who invoke religion in their ceremonies, and scores of people of faith who are happy to do oblige.

Heck, at my wedding, I had a nun (in full habit) watching my husband and I dance the horah! The far-right evangelicals wouldn't have known who to condemn first.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 24, 2009 8:59:59 AM

As a long time Catholic who believes in Jesus but no longer the catholic church - what was always said and very, very frequently by priests - - - "You see them when the are baptized when they are married and when they die" - - - that, I'm sure, is "the way it is" in many of these high-toned christian denominations! But those are the people who are on the street chanting "Save Marriage".

Posted by: tom | Jul 24, 2009 9:57:25 AM

I'm always curious how cross-faith alliances (e.g. Mormon LDS + pretty much every other pro-Prop 8 group) don't get called out everywhere as the ultimate expressions of faith-centric hypocrisy.

> Take one group who profess to have dedicated their lives to the all encompassing truths of their religion.

> Take another group who profess to have dedicated their lives to another set of all encompassing truths.

> Mix them together and... hey presto, out pops a universal truth - just please don't mention religion (and ignore the little man behind the curtain).

They cannot even be seen together behind the same pulpit, share the same communion or bow before the same altar - but give them a picket-line or a press conference and suddenly they are as one?

It's so abundantly clear where religion ends and unelected old men wanting to rule the world begin, I don't know how they get away with it.

Posted by: PM | Jul 24, 2009 10:44:14 AM

Most of the big wigs on the anti-equality side of this debate know enough to avoid using religious arguments, but I've found that 99.99999% of laypeople who oppose my right to marry base their arguments on religious dogma, saying that marriage is a "Godly" institution. Upon which I politely remind them that marriage is a civil institution, and neither is it Christian because an atheist man can be legally married to a barren Satanist woman.

As you said, the main misunderstanding in this debate is the convolution of the concepts of civil marriage and religious marriage. What if the word "marriage" was struck from law altogether, replacing the institution of marriage with an instutition of universal civil unions for both gay and straight couples? Only the name would change, and equality could be had in a much more peaceful fashion.

It's just a thought, even if an idyllic and unobtainable one.

Posted by: Princess Diamond Lollipop Cupcakes | Jul 24, 2009 11:10:28 AM

Morons like this don't even take into consideration two things:

1. Civil marriage in this country (and many like it) don't even require religious affiliation. In California, I know for a fact, you can get married by ANYONE as long as you pay your fee and register them far enough in advance, regardless of their civil or religious status. Thousands of people are married by judges, politicians, county clerks and justices of the peace every day. Religion is NOT a requirement for marriage, period.

2. Why do they keep forgetting that there are other religions out there BESIDES Judeo-Christian religions? I, personally, am a Pagan. We are a valid, recognized Church by all definitions of the United States and the State of California. 16 years ago I asked the official "head" of our church if he would have a problem performing a same sex wedding ceremony withing the Church, and his answer was "Why not? Is it your will? If so, who could say otherwise?"

Christians may be the majority in this country but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to bow down to their version of what is "correct" in how we live our lives for everything when it comes to civil laws. Why they can't get it through their heads that their archaic rules of what constitutes "marriage" (especially when they can't even interpret their own Bible correctly) don't apply to everyone, I'll never figure out.

Posted by: Gay Marriage Truth | Jul 24, 2009 5:51:34 PM

Well yea, that's the basic gist of the post, GMT. Also the argument G-A-Y has been carrying since day one.

We have GOT to teach Americans the difference between civil marriage equality and religious ceremony. The church-bride image is so ingrained in folks' heads, it's sometimes hard for even well-intentioned people to break free from it.

That was a major beef that I had with Obama during the primary. I felt that his marriage stance was far too willing to hand the word marriage over to churches, a suggestion that I think muddies that waters of the debate much more than other politicians' "pragmatic" approaches to our equality. It emboldens the far-right conservatives to say, "See -- even Obama thinks marriage is for churches."

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jul 24, 2009 6:21:20 PM

Why hasn't anyone (yet) challenged the validity of Prop H8 (and other same-sex marriage bans) on the basis that it is a violation of religious freedom. The constitution clearly states that:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

That should also ensure that no one religion's religious belief should be implemented as law which arbitrarily impinges on any other religion's religious belief. The courts have ruled that some religious exercises not above legal statutes, but only in cases where the the state has a clear interest. In our case, there is no clear state's interest in denying marriage to same-sex couples. Even if that suit was not successful, at least the court would end up ruling that marriage is a civil institution irrespective of religion.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Jul 24, 2009 7:01:49 PM

> That was a major beef that I had with Obama during the primary.

Indeed. Sadly, I have heard very few politicians (and brave ones at that) who have stood up and proudly said "I personally do not believe gay marriage is correct according to my religious teachings, HOWEVER the law applies to civil marriages and that's what we're talking about here so my beliefs don't matter."

Unfortunately, pandering to the conservatives and the weak-minded will garner more votes and support, so they will continue to do so as long as it is popularly acceptable. Our Constitution may SAY that there are no religious tests, but we all know that reality is much different as evidenced by all the BS rumors about Obama being a Muslim during the election. The Right will stop at nothing to get their way, whether it is honest and ethical or not, as long as it gets the results they want.

Posted by: Gay Marriage Truth | Jul 24, 2009 10:53:08 PM

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