Let me start by saying that I believe these are three, separate issues that should not be further complicated by intertwining them, because they are each so simple, yet seem to be made utterly complex in today’s society.
Personally, I don’t understand the confusion. Since I live in the United States of America, I will address the issues of marriage, equality and gay rights as they relate to the laws of our land. But bear in mind that I feel these rights apply to our very humanity, so in that sense, should not alter from one country to another, but should be instead be universal in their application.
Allow me to address each issue, individually:
1. Equality – The most famous sentence from The Declaration of Independence is found in it’s second paragraph and reads: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (see http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html) So, according to the law of the land, there really is no debate here. “All men (humans) are created equal”. Period.
2. Marriage – The loudest complaint I hear on this issue comes from the Religious Right/Conservative community, claiming that it is imperative that “the sanctity” of marriage be protected. Their defense normally goes something like this: “Marriage is a sacred covenant between one man and one woman.” And they base this assertion on passages of scripture, most specifically; Genesis 2: 22-24, which reads: “Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ‘ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” But I also hear people quoting a similar verse; Matthew 19: 4-6, which reads – “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
So, I want to be completely clear on something that I haven’t heard anyone else really focusing on. My position is this – Ok. Fine. I agree with them. Let MARRIAGE remain a “sacred union” between one man and one woman. But before you get defensive, hear me out.
Marriage _SHOULD_ be ONLY a sacred union. Between God (thus the designation “sacred”, ie; related to God) and His (I specify gender here because we are discussing marriage, which is primarily a religious convention/tradition of the Abrahamic faiths…whose god is male) followers. I find it kind of interesting that we hear so much talk about division of church and state…but somehow marriage is not really addressed in those conversations. My point is this – IF there is going to be a “sacred ritual” involving covenants and agreements between a deity and it’s worshippers, then I’m ok with that. BUT, but, but…it absolutely SHOULD be confined to the realm of religion and we should NEVER assign LEGAL BENEFITS to those who choose to participate in a religious ritual. Why society ever decided people should have to receive a “license” from the state in order to participate in, and more importantly, validate, such a religious ritual is baffling to me. The only rational explanation in my mind is that the state saw it as a means of revenue generation.
If you do some research into the origins of marriage you will find some pretty interesting stuff. According to Barbara G. Walker’s comprehensive work, “The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”, ‘The word marriage came from Latin maritare, union under the auspices of the Goddess Aphrodite-Mari. Because the Goddess’s patronage was constantly invoked in every aspect of marriage, Christian fathers were opposed to the institution. Origen declared, “Matrimony is impure and unholy, a means of sexual passion.” St. Jerome said the primary purpose of a man was to “cut down with an ax of Virginity the wood of Marriage.” St. Ambrose said marriage was a crime against God, because it changed the state of virginity that God gave every man and woman at birth. Tertulian said marriage was a moral crime “more dreadful than any punishment or death.” It was spurcitiae, “obscenity”, or “filth.” St. Augustine flatly stated that marriage is a sin. Tatian said marriage is corruption, “a polluted and foul way of life.” Influenced by him, Syrian churches ruled that no person could become Christian except celibate men, and no man who had ever been married could be baptized. Saturninus said God made only two kinds of people, good men and evil women. Marriage perpetuated the deviltry of women, who dominated men through the magic of sex. Centuries later, St. Bernard still proclaimed that it was easier for a man to bring the dead back to life than to live with a woman without endangering his soul.” Ms. Walker goes on to explain, in well documented detail, the history and evolution of the institution of marriage, and it’s really very insightful reading! I won’t quote all of what she has to say here, but will share two other pertinent points; 1. According to William J. Fielding’s Strange Customs of Courtship and Marriage, New York: Garden City Publishing, Co. 1942, “There was no Christian sacrament of marriage until the 16th century.” And 2. According to W. Carew Hazlitt’s Faiths and Folklore of the British Isles (2 vols.) New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1965, “The Anglican marriage service came from the Anglo-Saxon deeds used to transfer a woman’s land to the stewardship of her “houseman”(husband).
So, it all comes back to money, possessions, and control of them. And, of course, the government could not pass up the opportunity to get it’s share of the action.
But back to my opinion, which is this: Keep religion OUT of the legal system. And let’s not assign certain tax, medical insurance, or other legal benefits to those who have chosen to participate in this (what should be a purely) religious institution.
3. Gay Rights – I really think this one is easy and a no-brainer. I’ll just refer you back to my comments above in item #1 and the fact that humans are (all) endowed with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Nothing is mentioned about sexual preference, race, nationality, culture, etc. Everyone deserves equal treatment. And especially so when it comes to legal benefits.
So, IF marriage is going to go outside the confines of a purely religious ritual and instead, carries with it certain benefits and privileges bestowed by the government and our legal system, then ALL PEOPLE should be able to participate in these benefits…because THE LAW and THE GOVERNMENT should not be in the business of religion.