Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Religious Case Against Proposition 8

Next Tuesday, when California voters head to the polls to pick the next president, they will also be deciding on Proposition 8, which seeks to amend the state constitution and thereby nullify the state supreme court's ruling from earlier this year, which found that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

Supporters of the proposition claim to be protecting "traditional" marriage from a threat that is clearly non-existent. Their entire campaign is based on lies, distortions and the absolutely preposterous notion that heterosexuals will opt for non-procreative same-sex relationships leading to the extinction of the human race, simply because the law says they can, as if homosexuality is contagious and can be legislated out of existence, rather than a biological phenomenon affecting a tiny percentage of the population.

One of the myths being pushed by supporters of the proposition is that a "no" vote would have a profoundly adverse effect on First Amendment guarantees of free speech and religious expression; in fact, the opposite is true.

Anti-gay forces are claiming that legalized gay marriage somehow gives the state the power to force clergy to perform same-sex marriages and would ban religious speech against homosexuality. These accusations are utterly without merit.

There is a difference in this country between civil marriage and religious marriage, whatever the protestations of the extreme right wing, that is very clearly illustrated: no state in the union requires the religious solemnization of a marriage nor recognizes a religious marriage without a civil license. Same-sex marriage does not change this.

The argument that churches would be "forced" to perform a marriage that was against their religious beliefs is utterly unfounded. For example, there is no limit to how many times a person can be legally married and divorced in the United States, but the Catholic church does not recognize the re-marriage of divorced persons. You can trot down to city hall and get your third, fourth, eighth license, whatever. But the government is absolutely powerless to require a Catholic priest to officiate at a marriage ceremony for you.

Most churches require couples counseling with a minister before a marriage ceremony; it's rare, but clergy have the pastoral right to decide a couple should not be married for whatever reason and decline to officiate. That can't stop them from obtaining a civil license.

Similarly, Catholics, Mormons and Orthodox and Conservative Jews oppose interfaith marriages. A Mormon can legally marry a Jew, but no church or synagogue can be compelled to host the ceremony or recognize the relationship. The plain truth is that federal and local governments already recognize the marriages of couples whose unions are opposed by various longstanding religious traditions.

Ask the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston how many same-sex marriages they have been forced to perform since 2003.

Far from protecting first amendment guarantees about the freedom of religion, Proposition 8 actually imperils them. One of the many bogus assumptions supporters of the proposition make is that to be "religious" means to be anti-gay. Some religious groups openly oppose Proposition 8.

Furthermore, religious groups including Unitarian Universalists, the Metropolitan Community Church, the United Church of Christ and Conservative and Reform Jewish synagogues routinely bless same-sex unions. While the practice remains controversial in many other denominations, individual churches within mainline traditions (especially the Episcopal and Lutheran churches) often welcome and bless same-sex couples.

Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, recently had this to say: "Performing and blessing [same-sex] marriages is not simply theoretical. There are real people in congregations large and small who have waited sometimes for many years for this opportunity, and the witness of their faithful love has been an inspiration to me....While no one in this Diocese will be forced to move beyond what his or her conscience allows, we seek to provide that gracious space for those whose conscience compels them to bless the marriages of all faithful people as together we discern the work of the Holy Spirit who continues to lead us into all truth."

Thus, Proposition 8 does not protect religious expression at all but rather threatens the legitimate diversity of opinion on this issue among people of faith in the name of a narrow, fundamentalist orthodoxy. Legal recognition and protection of same-sex unions threatens no one and enhances freedom of religious expression in the State of California.


This post is written in support of Write to Marry Day.

5 comments:

pdxbassoon said...

Hi Andy,

I hope you don't mind, I used a quote from your excellent post on my blog for "Write to Marry Day."
http://alreadyfooledonce.wordpress.com (It's the early post against Prop 8. I've been reading your blog for a couple years now, and have been looking for a chance to post a link to yours.

JB aka Already Fooled Once

P.S. My wife and I are avid opera lovers. Maybe we'll run into you at Portland Opera sometime!

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