Photo Credit: Cathy Weeks, posted to her Flickr account
People who have known me for any length of time know that I unequivocally and wholeheartedly support marriage equality and equal rights (and have done for many years). And so I rejoiced and huzzah’d and cheered and had the biggest grin ever plastered on my face last Friday due to the Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land.
But along with the general rejoicing all over the social media and news sites I frequent, a peculiar and disturbing “my civil liberties have been infringed by SCOTUS” theme has emerged from some not wholly unexpected quarters. Republican Presidential candidates, religious zealots, and conservative media dittoheads, as well as certain family members and a few friends — some long-term, some more recent — are spouting the fundamentalist party line that this decision means the next thing will be lawsuits to force ministers to gay-marry people, therefore Christianity itself is at risk, and we better gather up the womenfolk and chilluns because they’ll be coming for your guns and Bibles shortly.
What complete and utter bullshit.
News flash, folks. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision affects your civil liberties not a whit. Ministers are still perfectly free to not marry anyone who doesn’t meet their particular denomination’s dogmatic standards. You are still perfectly free to believe whatever you like, worship however you like, and hold whatever opinions you wish. You are perfectly free to bemoan the “moral decay” you think you’re witnessing. You are perfectly free to rant and rave and quote obsolete and irrelevant Old Testament verses that support your views. And you are perfectly free to call for a Constitutional amendment to override a decision that you find abhorrent.
(Personally, I’d like to see a Constitutional amendment that overturns the Citizens United decision, but that’s a different rant. I wish us both good luck with that, by the way. This republic’s Constitution has been amended only 27 times in the 226 years since it was ratified, and the first ten of those amendments were done only two years after initial ratification, so essentially only 17 amendments have passed muster in over 200 years.)
However, what you are no longer free to do is discriminate against your LGBTQ brothers and sisters with respect to the legal protection of marriage. You don’t have to like it. That’s part of your freedom, as well. But you have to understand that marriage has very little to do with religion, anyway.
*pause to insert earplugs to block the screams of outrage*
Yes, you heard me. Marriage itself has nothing to do with religion.
Now I know a lot of people choose to get married in a religious ceremony, with prayer and talk of God and holy matrimony and so forth. I did so myself; it was lovely and moving and very special indeed. But the religious service that constituted the saying of our vows has nothing to do with the facts of our marriage. We could have just as easily walked down the hall to the office of the Justice of the Peace on the day we picked up our marriage license, had that fine worthy perform the ceremony, and been just as married. Because what constitutes the fact of my marriage is this: My husband and I went to the county courthouse, purchased a license, had a ceremony performed by an individual who certified on that license that he was authorized to perform marriage ceremonies. He then submitted that certified document back to the county for the marriage to be entered into county records as proof of the legally binding contract my husband and I entered into on that beautiful spring day many years ago.
Marriage in the United States is a legal contract, and thus it’s a civil matter, licensed, recorded, and sanctioned by the government. The fact that many people celebrate their marriage vows with a religious ceremony is irrelevant. That means it’s also irrelevant if your religion says homosexuality is a sin, and therefore gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married. Marriage is a civil matter, and what your religion says has no bearing on the right of consenting adults to marry.
But here’s another thing you have to understand. Marriage equality is no threat to your church. Hordes of gay folk clad in rainbow-colored wedding garments aren’t going to storm your sanctuary, demand to be married at your altar, and file lawsuits if refused. Your church’s clergy are protected under the First Amendment and can refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for anyone who is perceived as not meeting dogmatic or doctrinal standards. For example, a Catholic priest may refuse to marry a divorced person because Catholic doctrine says divorce is a sin. An Orthodox rabbi may refuse to marry a Jewish person to a non-Jewish person because Judaism generally frowns upon interfaith marriages. Heck, my own pastor very nearly refused to marry my husband and me because my husband is an atheist.
As mentioned above, though, you’re perfectly free to believe homosexuality is a sin, although I would ask you to take a look at a little research on the so-called “clobber verses” that people with those beliefs generally quote to back their position.
And, because I don’t want to stop loving my friends and family who buy into this “my religious freedoms are being attacked” nonsense, I had to “unfollow” a few people on social media in the last couple of days. They aren’t de-friended or blocked, just not followed for a while, until their hateful, spiteful, inaccurate, or ugly status updates die down.