California’s Proposition 8 | Reasoning Through the Rhetoric of Same-Sex Marriage

I received an email from a family member from the Courage Campaign to repeal proposition 8. There’s also a new post at Out of Ur entitled “A Win-Win on Same-Sex Marriage.”

By now, everyone is well aware of the emotional and contentious nature of same-sex marriage (SSM) and there are thousands of posts/links regarding the aberrant behavior and attitudes on all sides of the issue. Here’s a sample:

www.protectmarraige.com are the primary progenitors of the ballot initiative. They have posted this fairly well done YouTube video.
The Mormon Church being under investigation for providing non-monetary contributions to the campaign.
Newsweek’s Cover Story, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage,” is entitled “Our Mutual Joy” at the website.

For context’s sake, I have a sibling who is openly bisexual, and even texted me to vote “no” on Proposition 8, stating that “it would mean a lot to me and my friends,” and several students that I work with are actively struggling with sexual identity. For me personally this was a challenging proposition on which to decide how to vote.

Below is the text of the Courage Campaign website’s movement, and a few points of reason that I believe are necessary for the discussion.

Repeal Prop 8: Restore marriage equality to California
Sign the pledge to build the Marriage Equality Movement

The birth of a new Marriage Equality Movement — the civil rights movement of the 21st Century — is unfolding before our eyes. Organized from the bottom-up by thousands of ordinary people just like you, this people-powered phenomenon is exponentially growing by the minute, online and offline.

This is our moment to stand strong together — gay and straight — and say that we refuse to accept a California where discrimination is enshrined in our state constitution.

Please join over 200,000 people in signing the pledge to repeal Prop 8, launched by the Courage Campaign and joined by CREDO Mobile and MoveOn.org. Then forward this link to your friends:

We, the undersigned, are united in our refusal to accept a California where discrimination is enshrined in our state’s constitution.

We pledge to repeal Prop 8 and restore marriage equality to California.

VIA:

EQUALITY DOES NOT EQUATE WITH “EQUAL RIGHTS”

I am fully supportive of equal rights. Our country despises, (and rightfully so) discrimination, preferential treatment, prejudice and bigotry. However, we must not confuse equal rights with the term “equality,” the double-edged term used by proponents of SSM that calls for an indignation against injustice. There are limits (and boundaries) on virtually all “civil rights” and “priveleges” in this country. We have clear distinctions on who can become a citizen, how old you have to be to have a driver’s license, if you can or cannot serve in the military (or opt out), if one can serve as a public officer. Even with “free speech,” I can’t falsely yell, “fire” in a crowded public space, or spew “hate speech.” In my right to bear arms, I cannot have it “concealed,” even though some in our country can. And, yes, there are limits on marriage as well (polygamy, incest, age, etc.) This is just a sampling to say that equal rights is different from what many are calling “equality.” Proponents of SSM miss this understanding stand on shaky ground. Suggesting that defining marriage between one man and one woman is “legalizing discrimination” is wrong. This is not a human rights issue. This is a clarification and definition of the boundaries and limits of the existing civil rights that already exist.

(This is substantiated by California’s Family Code 297.5, which already gave the same rights to domestic partners as to married couples.)

MARRIAGE IS NOT A “CIVIL” RIGHT, IT’S A RELIGIOUS ONE

How and when did the state get so much power and influence over a religious sacrament? The separation of church and state exists to ensure that the government does not impose its influence on religious issues. When I marry a couple, the phrase, “the power invested in me by the state of California…” is part of the script. This ought to change, and marriage ought to be defined, not by a constitutional amendment, but by the religious institution who ordains it.

PRINCIPLE OPPOSITION AND DISAGREEMENT IS NOT HATE

Bob mentioned this in his Out of Ur post, and I’m thankful that others are trying to express the same sentiments. The arguments for marriage between one man and one woman is NOT the same as wishing that homosexuals were wiped from the face of the planet, or that they were locked up in a room somewhere to cease to exist. Labeling those who argue for “traditional marriage” (as it is called) as “hate,” diminishes their (the opponents’) arguments, is merely ad hominem, turns the issue ugly, and dismisses the well-thought arguments and carefully communicated convictions.

CHURCHES THAT PLATFORM THIS ISSUE FORSAKE THE GREATER COMMANDMENTS

Many churches made this issue a “pulpit” issue. Those who did, missed the value of greater and lesser commandments in the Scriptures, and ultimately did damage to the church and the Church’s ultimate mission in the world. Those who positioned themselves publicly to support Proposition 8 forgot to carefully listen and love the LGBT (Lesbian, Bay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) communities, ultimately alienating them from the faith-community that ought to open their arms wide to feel what they feel, and to hear their challenges and struggles; in other words, to minster (serve) and love them. Supporting Prop 8 so publicly is a violation of the “Great Commandment,” that exhorts us to ensure that the love of God and love of neighbor (which Jesus makes equal) surpasses all other commandments. To elevate this above a platform of welcoming care and kindness is, shall we say, sin. May more churches, (and Christians), realize the error of their ways, and speak louder about their (and God’s) affections more than their oppositions.

THIS PROPOSITION DOES NOT AFFIRM BIBLICAL MARRIAGE

Having a constitutional amendment does nothing to affirm Biblical marriage, as if an amendment was needed. First, Biblical marriage could be an “iffy” issue when one reads the whole of Scripture (more on that in the next post). Second, the amendment simply exposes the divide in our country, the real political nature of religious institutions, and the religious for their values. Have we not thought that there might have been other Biblical values on the ballot? Why did we ignore those, and only support and loudly voice our opinions on this one?

About VIA

www.kevinneuner.com

6 comments

  1. Solon

    I find your reasoning in this to be severely flawed, the first issue of contention is the fact that you characterize Marriage as a religious, rather than civil right. The fact is that it is neither, at least not how we define either today.

    Marriage predates most religions in the world today, and for Christianity in particular, marriages were performed haphazardly all the way up to the Middle ages, it wasn’t a sacrament until then.

    To claim Marriage is a religious right is to claim that those religions that perform same-sex marriages are having their rights violated because those marriages aren’t recognized by the State.

    Its the recognition of those marriages by the State that is all that GLBT people are asking for. No more, no less, same sex marriages have been performed by religious institutions in this country for over 30 years now, its the legal protections, privileges, and immunities that heterosexuals gain that same sex couples lack.

    And don’t get started on California’s domestic partnership law, it is NOT equal to marriage, it isn’t recognized outside the state, nor does the Federal Government recognize it.

    You claim to support equal rights, yet you don’t, not really, it does give me pause that you considered it challenging to decide how to vote on the measure, even with a sister who is openly bisexual. You equate SSM as akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater, yet yelling fire in a crowded theater presents a clear threat to the safety of others, hence why free speech is limited in this instance. This again gives me pause as to how you really feel about GLBT people. Do they present a threat to you, somehow?

    I don’t have anything personally invested in the measure, I don’t live in California, I’m straight, and no family members, that I know of, are GLBT. And yet, despite my detachment, I do see the passage of the Proposition to be a simple act of injustice. I don’t see how anyone, by any reasonable measure, can think otherwise.

  2. VIA

    Solon,
    Thanks for your comments, and I appreciate the dialogue.

    I am well aware that marriage has a long history, and I do categorize the institution in more contemporary terms. But you don’t seem to offer any substantive alternative. To simply say “neither–at least not how we define either today” (which I would generally agree with) doesn’t really add any direction to the problem, nor any common language through which we can come to any conclusions.

    I don’t follow that categorizing marriage as a religious right (and I should have additionally used the word “rite”), “violates” the rights of people married under religious terms. Whether the State wants to recognize such covenants was not my contention. I was simply contending that the right itself should not be sanctioned by the state, but by a religious institution. Which leads me to paragraph 4.

    You correctly state that it is “recognition” of those marriages that the GLBT community is asking for. I concur. I suppose you’re stating a point of which I was supporting with my “MARRIAGE IS NOT A ‘CIVIL’ RIGHT, IT’S A RELIGIOUS ONE” segment; and I stand by my last statement in that paragraph above. I’m not sure if you were referring to this in stating that my reasoning is “severely flawed,” but this seems to be quite logical. If I can restate:
    If, according to my argument, marriage ought to be a religious institution and not a civil one, then the state ought to have no say/voice in how or who those marriages are ordained. Whether or not the State wishes to acknowledge those marriages is a separate (though sequitur) issue.

    I see your point with the domestic partnerships, and believe you have a valid concern there (that marriage rights are recognized across state lines whereas domestic partnerships are not). I would have to look deeper into those laws and how they apply across borders, and believe that perhaps this is something that can be addressed at the Federal level. Thank you for pointing that out to me.

    Please do not turn analogies into equations (a common mis-interpretation of analogous and metaphorical arguments). In that paragraph, I not only mention “fire,” but I give several examples (and others could also be given), clearly stated in that same line. In no way do I “equate” gay marriage to yelling fire in a crowded room. Additionally, this ought to have no bearing on how I “really” feel about GLBT people, and even less on the reasoned argument I’m putting forth. Your statement and personal judgment is merely ad hominem. Which leads me to your last statement.

    If you’re unable to see an opposing position, then it is your arguments which have the higher potential of being highly flawed because of your inability to reason. Be careful in being so biased as to be blind to others’ interpretations which may have the same validity as yours.

    Thank you again for your comments, though. I did learn a new perspective from you, and am thankful for open dialogue.

  3. Solon

    Its seems to me that we have reached an impasse in regards to this debate. The problem is that I view marriage as, first and foremost, a civil contract involving two people who decide to share their lives together. Perhaps not the most romantic notion in the world, but accurate as far as legalities are concerned.

    Contracts are only valid if there is some legal authority behind them, and that is what SSMs lack in most of the country, and nationwide on the federal level.

    Under the United States Constitution, Marriages should fall under the “Full faith and equal credit” clause. This clause was designed to prohibit people from getting out of contracts and debts by fleeing to a different state. Marriage happens to fall under the same clause.

    However, on the Federal level, we have DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which provides an exception for this clause for SSMs. This is why SSMs in Massachusetts aren’t recognized nationwide. It also forbids SSMs from being recognized by the Federal Government at all.

    I do find have a question though, concerning this: “I was simply contending that the right itself should not be sanctioned by the state, but by a religious institution. Which leads me to paragraph 4.”

    My question is, do you consider marriages performed by Justices of the Peace to be valid marriages? I’m not talking from a religious perspective, but from a civil perspective.

    A note on Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions in the United States. They are not considered the same level as marriages on either the State or Federal level, most of the time by design. They stipulate, within the laws authorizing them, to be limited within a particular State, and are explicitly exempt from the full faith and equal credit clause.

    As far as your analogies, I considered all of them flawed on one level or another, I simply chose the most egregious of them as an example to point out.

    As far as my being unable to see the opposing side’s position, well, I find it extremely difficult, because not only do I consider it discriminatory, but also bigoted. To make a comparison I think is apt, I find the opposing sides arguments against SSMs to be not that different than those who opposed interracial marriage. I simply don’t find their position to be reasonable or valid.

    You may call it flawed, but I do view this as a simple case of Justice versus Injustice. It may be black and white thinking, but some things are exactly that. The question is, what side are you on?

    I will close this response with a quote from someone who knew about how horrible it is to have the freedom to have your marriage recognized denied. Mildred Loving, plaintiff of Loving vs. Virginia, one of the key court cases that overthrew anti-interracial marriage laws:

    “Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

    I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

  4. VIA

    Solon,

    Thanks for your pointed questions. The answer to your first…

    According to my arguments, “no,” I would not consider marriages performed by Justices of the Peace to be “marriages” in a classic, covenantal, and religious sense. I am arguing that ALL marriages ought to be sanctioned by a religious institution, and the State ought to be “separate” from “religion” in that sense. However, I would still suggest that this does not mean that any civil ceremony ought not have full recognition by the State, with the full rights and privileges thereto, however they choose to view it (such as domestic partnership, or civil marriage).

    As to your second question, I’m not on a “side” right now as I do not see this as “black and white” as you (hence the impasse). And on this blog, I try to be careful (though not always successful) in being thoughtful, intelligent, and responsible with what I purport without dogmatically asserting a position. My post was to bring an informed perspective to the polarization that is happening with this very divisive issue.

    But since you asked…

    I suppose I would suggest that it is possible to have an arrangement of compromise that is both civilly just, and religiously respectful. Only religious institutions should have the right to “marry” as marriage ought to be understood solely as a religious and covenantal arrangement (and sacrament) that not only includes a physical union, but a spiritual one as well. The State (and thanks to your comment, I’m going to add “at the Federal level”) ought then to recognize any marital union by recognized religious institutions. The State, then also ought to have the ability to provide “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions” to whomever the State wishes (heterosexual or homosexual), and grant the fullness of all civil rights to those unions and provide full and equal access across the board. (And as a side note, religious institutions would conversely have the opportunity to “recognize” such unions in their respective congregations as they so choose). As per another comment you made, the “legal authority” sanctioning the “marriage” would be in the jurisdiction of the church (religious institution) and over the “civil union” it would be the state. This would keep a “separation of church and state” as an active working principle in our governance, keeping marriage a sacred union that is defined by religion, and it would allow full and equal access for all unions, regardless of their religious affiliation (or non-affiliation).

    Quickly, I do not see homosexual marriage in the same light as interracial marriage, for the very essence of marriage is one that is clearly informed by the realities of gender. Race and gender are two separate entities, sociologically, physiologically, and therefore ethically. We see this most clearly in sports, as we have separate rankings for women and men, but not between races or cultures of people. When it comes to marriage, we cannot see this as in a similar vein simply because the issue is defined by the very existence of the point of contention; i.e. gender is too much a part of what defines marriage. Race is not.

    As for your final quote, I believe it substantiates my argument. “Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.” Therefore, government should never have gotten into the marriage business in the first place. Hence the conclusion that marriage is a religious right (and rite) not a civil one. And if we were to think about this issue in the ways that I (humbly) suggest, I think we would be closer to the freedoms [not the equalities (see my paragraph “EQUALITY DOES NOT EQUATE WITH EQUAL RIGHTS”)] that Loving is hoping for, for all Americans.

    Thanks again for your insights and respectful contributions to the dialogue, and, yes, arguments.

  5. Solon

    My problem with your argument is this, Marriage is not, and was never solely a religious sacrament. This is simply a fact, not a matter of opinion, but history instead. As I mentioned in my previous post, Civil Marriages lacked Christian Sacraments by about a thousand years after Christianity began.

    Confining ourselves to the Western Civilization context, marriage, for most of this time, both before the Church recognized Marriage, and afterward, Marriage was a property transfer contract between the Groom, and the Bride’s father or other male relative.

    Marriage wasn’t recognized by the Church initially, and it wasn’t until people complained about “living in sin” that the Church caved in and finally started performing Religious Rites to solemnize these unions. Even before this, the States of Europe recognized these marriages for property and taxation purposes, and still do to this day.

    And this is for “formal marriages”, for most people, particularly the poor and serfs, Marriage ceremonies didn’t exist. Indeed, the most common form of Marriage was common law marriage, which is something even the United States, up until recently, still recognized. Basically the couple moved in together, and if they cohabited long enough, they were married, legally.

    Of course, for practical purposes, this practice has, more or less, died out.

    So, historically, Marriage had at least 3 different definitions, in Western Civilization: As a property transfer of the bride from her father(or male relative) to the Groom, a couple “shacking up” as it were, and as a Religious Sacrament.

    Of course, there’s also a fourth definition of Polygyny, one Husband, many wives, that is also a traditional form of marriage in Western Civilization.

    I’m glad you mentioned Gender, because that’s actually one of the first major changes in the definition of Marriage since the end of the practice of Polygyny. Up until around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, women literally had no rights in Marriages. They couldn’t divorce without the husband’s consent, couldn’t inherit his property in the event of his death, and were, for all practical purposes, his property. This goes back to to the first definition I mentioned.

    This started changing, particularly in Western Civilization around the beginning of the 19th century, with the rise of the Women’s rights movement and 19th century feminism. One of the first issues they tackled was the definition of marriage. They wanted more rights, the right to divorce, the right to inherit property, etc.

    Eventually, these rights were given to them, and now, instead of becoming the husband’s property, the wife now became his partner in life, a fundamental shift in the definition of marriage.

    This, I believe, renders the argument you made regarding gender being too much a part of the definition of marriage moot.

    I think the crux of your argument is over the word Marriage, the problem I have with that is the simple fact that Marriage is not owned by any religion, but by everyone. Particularly in the United States(and Canada), where Civil Marriages are performed everyday.

    The Separation of Church and State simply doesn’t apply to this situation, because Marriages are available without any need for religious ceremony in any civil courthouse.

    There’s also practical considerations, I doubt any couple who is “Civil Unionized” in a courthouse is going to call it such, they will call themselves married, and refer to their partner as husband or wife.

    Is it not fair to say that your argument that Marriages can ONLY be performed by Religions, and that it must be removed from legal documentation an imposition of your religious beliefs on others?

  6. VIA

    Solon,

    Thanks again for your insights, and respectful engagement.

    I am intrigued by your insistence of marriage being “factually” a “non-religious” institution, historically. I would be interested in your sources, if available.

    Two observations.

    1. While I agree that marriage has been historically wrought with messy realities such as property and ownership, it has, to my understanding, always been unique from the institution of “slavery” which speaks more to the description in your argument. Now, while I don’t want to open up a can of words with that statement (which may be inevitable), I believe it is more accurate to say that marriage has been historically unique in its religious and covenantal definitions, even though in parts of history it has lost that piece of the institution, and given way to the more “civil” realities of changing cultures. I agree with you that “Christian” sacramental identity is fairly “young” to history, but the “religious” or “cultic” practice and understanding of marriage, I believe, is not.

    2. I’m not sure how confident we can be about saying that marriage was “never solely a religious sacrament,” as the vast majority of anthropological history has taught us that religion has been the very fabric of human cultures. Separating civil life from religious life, historically, is like separating “water” from “wetness.” The “separation of church and state” (though existent in some ancient cultures in very subtle pragmatic ways) is mostly a recent concept. So, as I mentioned, I would love to hear your sources for your argument.

    So, I agree that we ought not “confine” ourselves to the Western Civilization context. But I believe, historically, that is what I’m attempting to do for greater understanding.

    And I do apologize, but I don’t seem to follow your reasoning that renders my argument of gender, “moot.” It doesn’t sound like the “definition” of marriage changed so much as the “terms” of the marriage; how marriage ought to work within a common understanding of its definition. Your example doesn’t illustrate a “gender” change in the fundamental and popularly held understanding of what marriage is. I agree, that the rights within the context of marriage ought to be adjusted and redeemed for a greater sense of justice within that contract, but I’m at a loss to understand how those rights affected the “gender” element of the definition.

    You’re absolutely right in saying that the crux of the situation is over the word “marriage.” I woulds simply say, that’s not my crux, that is THE crux, which is why we are having this conversation. However…

    Just because it is THE crux of the situation, that doesn’t render the idea of Separation of Church and State (SC&S) invalid or irrelevant just because the State performs such ceremonies. In fact, it calls into the very argument itself how that idea ought to inform this very issue. Now, I will fully recognize that according to your definition and argumentation, marriages ought to be performed by the state because “by definition” marriage is a civil union. However, I would suggest that accordingly, then, the SC&S ought to inform that definition by not allowing any religious institution to impose their views upon that civil concept or idea of “marriage,” thus upholding the idea of SC&S, and the critical necessity of the ethic. So, in your scenario or mine, SC&S is still very relevant.

    Now, to your last paragraph, which is at the very least a two-layered issue you bring up.

    Is it not fair to say that your argument that Marriages can ONLY be performed by Religions, and that it must be removed from legal documentation an imposition of your religious beliefs on others?

    Layer one:

    If you follow my reasoning, the answer is “No,” it is not fair to classify this as an imposition. If you follow your reasoning, then, “Yes,” it is fair; which is why I’m suggesting that the argument I’m putting forth may be the best possible comparable solution.

    Layer two:

    The very phraseology of your question, and the reasoning behind it seems to impose a circular catch-22 for the recipient (me) of the question. If I were to suggest that a “Christian” is one who “follows Jesus Christ,” is that an “imposition” of my “religious beliefs on others?” If I were to say that “polytheism” is the belief that there are many gods, and that “reincarnation” is the idea of “a second life contingent upon your deeds in this life,” am I “imposing” my “religious beliefs on others?” If I were to say that “Nirvana” is the state of total co-existence of euphoria and non-existence at the same time, is this too an “imposition.” Talking about definitions is the very essence of cultural existence and discourse. Now, many atheists believe that any discussion of any kind ought to be eliminated because it is an “imposition.” But the reality is that the human race lives in the tension of accepting the realities and existences of various people, with various beliefs, and with various boundaries and classifications that distinguish people groups and worldviews. Classifying that kind of reality as an “imposition” is pejorative, and could be asked of anyone supposing a definition for the sake of argument (including yourself and your arguments). Ultimately, this could be an escapists way out of the discussion, branding the other party as “biased” and “imposing.” But this is simply untenable. Regarding atheists, they violate their own argument and ethic by suggesting that religion should be struck from all public discourse because it is an imposition of religious views, a position held by the atheist that is itself an imposition of a religious view. So, I could ask the very same question of you and what you suggest for the definition of marriage. However, I wouldn’t do that because it’s non-productive, and would only succeed in bringing to light my own personal biases and prejudices. It’s “argumentative” rather than a reasonable “argument.” If any discussion about the definitions of terms, ideas, cultural understandings is an “imposition,” then we are no longer in conversation. We’re back to base ad hominem bickering.

    And I must say, (since I’ve orated on this thus far), the hope of this blog and exchanges like this is to keep engaging in the conversation through thoughtful, and respectful arguments. Perhaps through loving each other enough to listen, and to even be willing to compromise, perhaps we can co-exist as a people with vast differences of ideas and understandings, but with a common ground on which we can still be civil and kind. I sincerely hope we are reaching that understanding together.

    Again, I hope that my reply was respectful, even that last paragraph above, and I do feel that I’m learning from you; thank you. I will look forward to researching the history of marriage more.

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