Dogma as a Smokescreen and Weapon Against Marriage Equality

As predicted, and feared, foes of marriage equality in the great state of Washington have filed more than enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot.  The Washington secretary of state office recommends those seeking to put an initiative on the ballot collect at least 150,000 signatures.  The anti-marriage equality folks gathered over 200,000.  Their actions will also delay any gay marriages from taking place until after the election, assuming the initiative does not pass.

NPR’s Morning Edition aired a report which focussed on the Catholic church’s role in the initiative drive to rescind marriage rights for lesbians and gay men.  The Church has upped its efforts nationwide to curb marriage equality, but not all are down with the cause.  One priest interviewed for the story, Father John Whitney, says that “civil marriage” should be available to all and anything less is “a denial of civil rights.”

Bingo!  See?  Father Whitney made the distinction between marriages as viewed by the Church, or any religion, and marriages as viewed by the state.  All marriages in the eyes of the law are civil marriages.  His religion forbids him from performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.  But that didn’t stop him from taking a public stand during Sunday worship against the drive to deny civil marriage rights to lesbians and gay men.  NPR reported that about another dozen or so priests did the same thing.  Bravo for them.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have parishioners like Bruce Carr, who opined,

I haven’t actually really ever felt the need to become politically active until the state or the federal government has started to push more and more into my faith. And if they want to do that, then we’ll push back.

Mr. Carr has led the petition drive in his area with enthusiasm and élan.  Mr. Carr apparently sees marriage equality as a threat to Catholicism.  Mr. Carr doesn’t get it.

If the government told his church which priests to hire, that would be pushing into his faith.  If the government told his church to ordain women into the priesthood, that would be pushing into his faith.  If the government told his church, “Look, have marriage ceremonies for lesbians and gay men at your churches now, or else,” that would be pushing into his faith.  The government hasn’t done these things nor is it seem inclined to do so.  Something about the First Amendment getting in the way.

But allowing lesbian couples and gay male couples the right to go to the county clerk’s office to fill out the necessary paperwork and pay the necessary fees to secure a marriage license does not push into his faith.  It just doesn’t.  Plenty of straight folks get married outside of a religious ceremony.  That’s a matter of personal choice.  To take advantage of all the rights and benefits that marriage offers, a couple need not subscribe to any faith at all.  All they need is a marriage license.  Churches don’t issue those.  The county clerk does.

So as I’ve said before, the religious argument against marriage equality does not hold any water, which is probably why it hasn’t held sway in the courts too well lately.  Frankly, I think it’s a smokescreen for the real reason some people get so exercised about letting gay folks marry.  And Greg Magnoni, spokesman for the Seattle Archdiocese, spilled the beans during the NPR story:

Our voice is a credible and valid voice in the public square regarding an issue of so much importance to our culture and our society and to the children of our culture and society. [Emphasis added.]

Ah, yes.  But what about the children.  In the minds of those who oppose marriage equality, or gay rights in general, there cannot be anything, no law, no class, no TV show, no radio show, no blog, no article, no novel, no textbook, no nothing, that makes being gay OK.  Why?  Because they do not want their children to think that it’s OK to be gay.  They do not want their children to “turn” gay.  What was the logo for the Yes on 8 campaign?  A silhouette drawing of the perfect, nuclear family:  mom, dad, older brother, younger sister.  There it is.

Two cultural pillars of our society which one could say are as American as apple pie have recently been touched by “the gay”:  marriage and the military.  For some, this is cause for celebration.  Yay!  Rights are expanding, and all that.  For others, clinging to an Ozzie and Harriet past that never really existed, it’s a call to arms.  Nothing is more disturbing to me than when a religion uses its dogma as a weapon with which to bludgeon others.  Just as some might pass on a so-called chick flick for a movie with more guts and glory, some prefer a kick-ass God that takes no prisoners to a mushy, kumbaya God that says love your neighbor.  In the realm of cinematic fantasy, that’s fine.  But in the real world with real people whose real lives are impacted by public policy, love your neighbor is always the way to go.

The good news is that young folks by increasing majorities aren’t falling for the “but what about the children” spiel when it comes to equal rights for LGBT people.  This was demonstrated in the NPR report by Clare Martin, a recently confirmed, 16 year old Catholic.  About the petition drive that occurred at her church, she said,

I don’t like that they have their defending marriage thing out there. You’re not defending marriage. You’re breaking it up.

And she added,

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And I don’t think any of the people signing the petitions would want to be denied the right to marry.

I like the Golden Rule.  Works for me.  Thanks, Ms. Martin.

© 2012, gar. All rights reserved.

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