Affirmative religious support for gay marriage is apparently extraordinarily novel even for educated citizens. This I learned when I engaged a 50-something lawyer from the San Francisco Bay Area over the issue on my flight outbound from Oakland to Boston to participate in a panel entitled: Gay Marriage: Moving from Tolerance to Affirmation. When I told him that I and other panelists, as part of the progressive faith movement, were presenting a Christian pro-gay marriage moral and religious case, his reply was “I didn’t know there could be such a thing.”
This got me to thinking both about the very real and unnecessary divide between religious and secular awareness and of the silence or tacit agreement of even mainstream religions as to the abuse of the civil rights of gay people.
Some political and legal headway has been made. The state of Massachusetts, for instance, has extended the right of gay marriage, yet theological and moral conviction in favor of gay marriage has been largely absent. This was to change in a small but mighty way as, for two hours, in February 2007 in front of a modest audience, six panelists attempted to join consciousness and conviction across ideological and belief traditions and confront Christian-in-name intolerance on its own terms.
Rev. Anne Fowler, from the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, talked about her work within and outside the church as a straight person to support the inclusion of gay people in the institution of marriage. Pam Werntz, a gay Episcopal mininster, related how her own marriage brought her into community with others in a way that she could not have imagined had she not been extended the right to marry. Justin Lee, the founder and executive director of gaychristian.net, an online gay evangelical Christian community, waxed practical about the need for religiously inclined gay citizens to have an ability to connect rather than be alienated from faith.
The other three panelists, Gina Farag, myself (Zeus Yiamouyiannis), and Otis Gaddis, III had coordinated a foundational and progressive moral and religious argument based upon certain observations and premises.
1) From Gina Farag’s paper, the provocative insight: Why is it that we allow a person who has monstrously violated all aspects of sacred relationships to get married as long as this marriage is to the opposite sex? Our current laws and customs permit a serial rapist, adulterer, child molester, torturer, abuser, and murderer to get married, in jail even, to a person of the opposite sex. Yet a person who has been a committed, loving partner and parent and stellar community citizen, cannot get married to a person of the same sex. What is wrong here?
2) From my (Zeus’s) paper: The right and encouragement of sacred relationship should be extended and encouraged in all people as a matter of choice. Specifically, responsible, loving marriage ought to be permitted and supported in adult romantic relationships, regardless of sexual orientation. Those who violate the requirements of honorable marriage ought to be lovingly and firmly called out, regardless of sexual orientation. It is the nature of the relationship (loving versus dishonoring), not the type of the relationship (heterosexual versus homosexual), which matters. One cannot sensibly accuse another person of promiscuity and then prevent that same person from establishing a recognized, committed romantic relationship. Vice versa, one should not uncritically extend the name of marriage to someone who abuses its requirements. Whether someone “stays in” a marriage, that person is not “married” in any credible sense if they repeatedly and unrepentingly abuse the trust and dignity of their spouse.
To this I add the observation: You don’t see so-called “family values” groups challenging the irresponsible behavior of men in marriages in any substantive way that involves consequences. These largely men-led groups do little if anything to challenge men who repeatedly cheat on their wives, abuse their wives, and neglect their wives. In fact men’s irresponsible behavior is blamed on their wives. Their wives are encouraged to be more sexy, more dutiful, to pray, and to accept the abuse and stay in the relationship no matter what, denying the awful trauma and example this presents to women and their children. Contrast this with the unabashed support supplied to Rudolph Giuliani, a man who married three times and cheated on his second wife repeatedly, and Newt Gingrich, who left behind two wives, (one of whom was recovering from cancer at the time), for “younger models”.
3) And finally from Otis’s paper, the notion that: Gay marriage has unique, positive attributes that can strengthen the institution of marriage for all people, including heterosexual couples, by challenging misguided forms of marriage and supporting an emphasis on love, commitment, and choice in marriage. Often people talk about marriage being about love, but many still accept the outdated or dishonoring notions of marriage as having to do with control (usually men over women), procreation (even though we are dealing with overpopulation), and property (as if one could “own” another). Gay marriage does much to subvert these primitive and dehumanizing conceptions of marriage by establishing a more equal, possible dynamic based in relations with the same gender, by emphasizing romantic attachment over procreation, and by disrupting the historical notion of men “possessing” women.
Now I am not arguing that these powerful observations and reasonings displace the present, largely secular drive to insure political protection for gay people and gay marriage. However, that is largely a “live and let live” equality/neutrality argument. Theological and moral pluralist arguments can press the affirmative aspects that extend the honoring of gay citizens beyond mere inclusion and acceptance to appreciation and contribution in their own right.
Responses to “Making a Moral and Religious Argument for Gay Marriage”