Thursday, July 13, 2006

Civil Rights is Civil Rights

This is a comment from my co-"Cue blogger Jeff in response to another comment at a Pesky Fly post on racism, and it got me to thinking...

I want the candidate to support gay rights, for one thing. But supporting gay rights is just a part of a larger and more important issue, and that is religion. If the candidate is religious, that's fine, as long as he or she keeps his or her religion out of his or her politics.

Gay marriage is the litmus test on this. As an issue of civil law, purely and simply there is no question that gay people should have be allowed to marry. You can't argue otherwise without quoting the Bible. If a candidate is against it, it's either because they're afraid to offend certain pastors, or they themselves believe that gay marriage is an affront to GAWD.

If you believe gay marriage is an affront to GAWD, then you are letting your religious beliefs determine how you will make civil law, and that puts you right out, in my book. Sorry. I don't want theologians writing the laws of this land.

Ok then. This has been on my mind for a while, and I wanted to get this out before I take off for an undisclosed location for a long weekend. One of the most frustrating things for me occurs when African-Americans recoil at the (correct) notion that to reject civil rights for homosexuals is to reject ALL civil rights.

I am deeply aware that the major theistic religions of Earth have documented prohibitions against homosexuality. This is because when their major scriptures were written (all by human beings, by the way), there were far fewer humans on Earth than their are today. Not only that, if you were sleeping with someone of your own gender, you weren't producing future members of your religion, and those dirty (fill in the blank) would overrun your religion, which was obviously God's own religion, or you wouldn't be in it. Right?

Well, a couple of millennia later, the Earth is overpopulated to its seams, resources are tighter than ever (Peak Oil is just the start) and the major theistic religions of Earth still have the same beliefs as they did in 3 BC.

If you have gay friends (if you read this blog, you probably do) and you have spoken with them for any length of time, you have been told that they KNEW, in the deepest recesses of their hearts, that something was different when they were in the single digits of age. When you're seven or eight years old, you don't wake up one morning and decide to be a member of arguably the world's most oppressd minority; that just doesn't happen.

Science has yet to be able to figure out why they are as they are, but we all have a sneaking suspicion that it doesn't have a damn thing to do with choice.

Therefore, if we are to grant full civil rights to homosexual adults, marriage has to be there. Here's the thing, though: even if the US Supreme court were to rule tomorrow that gay marriage could not be prohibited by the states, all it would mean is that gay couples could march proudly to their local County Clerk's office, and as long as they were of the age of consent and not related (at least no closer than second cousin), they could receive a marraiage license.

Now, especially if you're gay and live in a rural community, have fun trying to find anyone to perform the ceremony! The point is this: the right to a marriage license does not include the right to force religious institutions to perform these ceremonies, because that would be an infringement of their religious freedom.

And, frankly, that's fair.

However, when I think of a gay couple that are friends of mine, I am grateful that their parents are supportive, so that there won't be a problem if one became critically ill or died. For most, this would be a serious problem because of legal prohibitions that prevent gay couples from having any legal rights as straight married couples do with regard to property and the ability to make decisions on the partner's behalf.

This, I believe is IMMORAL.

So, even though I'm just a boring straight white guy, I believe in civil rights for ALL people, regardless of RACE, CREED, COLOR, RELIGION, or SEXUAL ORIENTATION.

If you don't believe in Civil Rights for all, then at heart you're really no different than Bull Connor.

Have a great weekend, I'm outta here!


Brassmask said...

I can't add anything to that. It's right and I agree with it in every way.

If African-Americans can't understand that when they don't support gay marriage they are treading on the same path as the racists in the 50s and 60s, then they don't deserve elected office.

dwayneearl said...

Great post, Steve. Either the high-sounding rights spelled out in our Constitution apply to EVERYONE, or they are meaningless. Besides, didn't some guy once say, Judge not, or you will be judged."

Admin said...

All well and good, but what's being omitted from this discussion is the one thing that trumps all reasion and understanding:


ConcernedAdult said...

I think the intended purpose of marriage has been lost in decades of hollywood fantasy and centuries of bible-thumping religious rhetoric, and that it is really USEFUL only for certain kinds of relationships, and gays normally don't have the kind of relationship that makes marriage necessary for them. Is that unfair to them? I don't think so. Heteros are equally likely to have relationships that marriage should not be applied to, in my opinion. Look at the two day Spears marriage.

I believe the true (and VITAL) function of marriage is to give a MOTHER and FATHER the same kind of connection with EACH OTHER as they EACH have with THEIR CHILDREN. It's an artificial blood bond. It makes them a FAMILY. Marriage was permanent because a family doesn't stop being a family if one member offends, betrays, annoys, ignores or hurts another, it doesn't stop if you're high-maintenance or lose your job or develop bad habits. This is why the vows specify 'for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, for long as you both shall live'. It's the only reason marriage has had any enduring social value, and it's the only reason for it's enduring sacredness.

A family NEEDS this kind of legal and social status to help them through tough times, but there is no earthly reason for society to compel CHILDLESS couples to abide by the same conditions. If we allow them to make vows of eternal love and monogamy with a wink and a nod, without requiring them to mean it, the vows become a joke. We make marriage impotent as a mechanism for protecting family structure, while giving them little of real value in exchange.

Cohesive families are a greater treasure than most of us give them credit for, and weakening them this way sets us back in virtually every way that it's possible to measure.

David Holt said...

However, I know several homosexual couples who have been committed to each other for double-digit years and raise children together. They are exactly the situation that you spoke of meriting marriage the only difference is the genders involved. Truth be told, they are better parents than a huge number of tradional parents I know.

I do agree with you, that marriage and love have been idealized in our society too much and that a large number of people probably really aren't cut out or in need of marriage.

That fact of the matter is though, that marriage has been thought to mean more than childrearing in our society. The government gives a host of benefits to hetersexual married couples even without children that they deny gay couples with children. For example, inheritance issues, visitation issues, insurance coverage, etc. Giving the benefits preferentially is in my mind discrimination. Why is Brittney Spear's two day marriage valued more than my gay friends 20 year committed relationship that has raised two children?

David Holt said...

I agree that disintegration of families is a bad thing for a society. However, I see no way in which a committed homosexual relationship does anything to weaken families. If anything, I think it could strengthen those families and have at worst NO effect on heterosexual families. At best, it could help put the homophobia directed towards gay people, often by their own family, behind us slowly.

Mike said...

I think ConcernedAdult's comment is interesting, but misses the real point of legal recognition of gay unions.

A few years agao there was an HBO drama consisting of three gay-themed short stories. I can't remember the name, I vaguely recall something about "Fly on the Wall." One of them, about two elderly lesbians, one of whom had just died, was probably the most affecting piece of television I have ever watched...and I'm not gay. To all the world, these "spinsters" had been merely roommates; to each other, it had been a permanent union.

One died. The children and grandchildren (from an earlier marriage I suppose) showed up and carted everything away, asking the survivor to find another place, and leaving her with nothing - not even the memories, e.g. scrapbooks. I can't do the story justice, but if you ever have a chance to see it, I promise that it will affect you, too.

In truth there are many, many such relationships, more than anyone knows. They are mostly unprotected and exposed to the thoughtlessness (or cruelties) of the rest of us. Yes: Younger, more worldly and wealthy gay men and women can find ways to partially mitigate the problems, using wills, trusts, and ownerships. But there can never be equality or justice until we all recognize a gay union is the very same terms as we recognize a marriage of a man and woman. It is so simple and straightforward.

Priests and pastors, and hypocrites like Harold Ford Jr, would prefer to make that simple justice forever impossible.

Mike said...

I think it might have been called "If Walls Could Listen."

Mike said...

Okay, I found it. It's called, If These Walls Could Talk. It starred Vannessa Redgrave as the surviving lesbian.

Mike said...

I agree with LeftWingCracker that there's not a chance in the world (if gay unions are legalized) that Christian Churches and other sects would be forced to perform gay sacraments. That would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment. But ant-gay-marriage advocates try to foster that misconception. Churches will continue to be able to perform gay marriagees -- or not -- as it suits them. I imagine it may be another couple centuries before some of the dinosaurs do.

I would also argue that it's a misconception that the Christian Bible prohibits homosexuality. Jesus was never directly quoted as saying a even cross word about gays. There's one point were he talked-up marriage as an institution but it's a huge stretch to interpret that as dissing gay marriage. If gay marrieage wasn't important enough for him to have been quoted on the subject, then it can't be very important, can it? All the Biblical references come from either the Old Testament or from post-era interpreters like Paul. Well, if we took the Old Testament literally we'd be performing animal sacrifices and eating our food a certain way, wouldn't we?

I believe that the black pastors who rail against homosexuality are simply reflecting back to them the homophobias of their flocks, and "fixing the intelligence around the policy." The same goes for the white pastors, for that matter.

Senacle said...

Uhm, why are you singling out African-Americans? There are plenty of people who are opposed and support gay marriage. If anything, I think what makes black people, myself included, nervous is that gay folks try to draw serious connections between their movement and the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement. There are some similarities, but it's apples and oranges.

And for the record, I have no problems with gay marriage. They'll likely can get divorced like everybody else.

ConcernedAdult said...

Thank you for your insights everyone. To begin, I should say I did not mean to imply that gays should not be allowed to marry, only that marriage deserves to be permanent (or nearly permanent, barring criminally dangerous behavior by a spouse, or similar extreme circumstances) and it NEEDS to be this way.

David: Why is Brittney Spear's two day marriage valued more than my gay friends 20 year committed relationship that has raised two children?

It isn't. That 'marriage' was contemptible.

David: I see no way in which a committed homosexual relationship does anything to weaken families.

Agreed. If they are committed they strengthen the institution of marriage. If they are not, and allowed to marry on a whim only to divorce over a quibble, they weaken it. It's the same for heteros.

Mike: But there can never be equality or justice until we all recognize a gay union is the very same terms as we recognize a marriage of a man and woman.

Yes Mike, but which terms? Brittney's terms? Or the terms that hold a family together even when it threatens to break their hearts? There is very little in between.

Mike said...

"Yes Mike, but which terms? Brittney's terms? Or the terms that hold a family together even when it threatens to break their hearts?"

A: Exactly the same terms as heterosexual marriage. The same -- but not higher than -- the standards of heterosexual marriage. If the law holds gays to a higher standard, that would still be discrimination, would it not?

Brittney's marriage was something of a joke. But the law can't stand in judgement of which proposed marriages are deemed proper and supportable and which are deemed jokes-in-the-making.

Senacle: You're right, and consider the singling-out retracted. But -- just as an aside -- there has been discussion on these blogs of a candidate who wouldn't take a stand on Amendment One because their constituency was "black churches" and because they would have to get a reading from those churches on the issue. That's the thing that probably provoked me to (wrongfully) single out black pastors.

LeftWingCracker said...

It seems where Concerned Adult is going with this is for marriage for all, but that they should be the "covenant marriage", which is available in some states and is marked by its' heavy restrictions on the ability to divorce.

Which suggests to me that CA's major point could be that you should NOT get married unless you are serious about "Till death do us part".

I can absolutely respect that.

Mike said...

Covenant Marriage Links

Fascinating. Well, what I said still goes. If covenent marriage is available in a state then it should be available to all. There should be no different requirement for same-sex, i.e. that gaysd must always have covenant marriages.

Not only would that be discriminatory on its face, but it would also perpetuate a common stereotype: That gays are presumed to have a tendancy to be "too casual" in their relationships. Good grief!

Why can't it be very simple? That all people have the same right to enter into a legally-protected long-term two-party commitment?

ConcernedAdult said...

You've got it LeftWingCracker, that's where I stand. This is the first I've heard of covenant marriages though.

Mike, I AGREE! I never said gays should be held to a different standard than straight. I want one standard, and I want it to be high.

I also agree that we cannot judge which marriage requests are jokes in the making, which is why we should be clear with everyone that marriage is not a joke.

Eleanor A said...

Only problem is, according to many Powers that Be in TN, any criticism whatsoever of Democratic incumbents or candidates for office = "playing into the hands of the Republicans."

It's pretty pitiful, that first we have to fight for the right to make even constructive criticisms of our own Party.

EA in Nashville

Richmond said...

Part of the issue concerning uses of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures is how both adherents and non-adherents of the faiths have trouble recognizing that their readings are rooted in their specific cultures, just as much as when those "prohibitions" were first (usually) spoken, then (much later) written. Steve's assessment of how the world has drastically changed, while a bit melodramatic (wouldn't have it any other way), essentially makes the correct point. Namely, that Scriptures must be reinterpreted for the world in which we live, not that of some 3,000 or 2,000 years ago. If we don't think that the earth rotates around the sun (Joshua 10:10) and we don't think women are legal property of either their fathers or their husbands (Ephesians) or that slavery somehow is an acceptable form of human relationships (Ephesians and Philemon) or that that God does not "live" in "heaven above," then we must view homosexuality and even our basic notions of God in new ways. We may not reach the same conclusions, but we cannot simply repeat the same jeremiads of a no longer applicable past.