So, for those of you that have seen your social networking sites turn into seas of red-backed equal signs, I suppose you may have figured out by now that something fairly important is going on.
Yesterday, The Supreme Court heard arguments concerning the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriages in that state. Today, the court heard arguments concerning the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA for short).
Now, we won’t know what the court decides until sometime in June, when the opinions are released, but it hasn’t stopped people from talking about it.
And, why shouldn’t they be?
This is an important thing for the United States of America; an important moment. This is one of those moments where we get the chance to stand up and show with our actions that we really mean what we say with our words. And we, as a nation, should not let this moment pass unheeded. We damn sure shouldn’t let it pass without action. And I don’t think that people who only believe as I do, (which I’ll get to in a moment), should act. I think, if anyone wants to call themselves a citizen, and has something to say about this – or any subject really – he or she has the duty to actually say something.
Let me be clear about ‘say something’, as I realize it has lost much of its meaning in this electronically buzzing world of instant opinion, whenever and where ever a platform exists to express it. I’m not talking about social media, or blogs, or posting a video on Youtube. Although, feel free to do that to express yourself. No, what I am speaking of here, is saying something in the terms of how our democracy works. That means writing letters, actual pen on paper letters, to your local, state, and federal representatives. It means finding like-minded people and organizing to have your voices heard. In simple language, it means being a citizen, not just some schmuck with a computer and an attitude that just happened to be born here.
In moments like these, the environment grows ripe with potential. How that potential grows, in what direction and how fast, or whether it withers or bears fruit, depends on you. It depends on what you do. (This is the universal you. So, by you, of course, I mean me, and them, and, okay, you too.) Moments like these are important for this grand experiment we call democracy. We are experimenting on ourselves here, maybe we should try to get it right, at least we could pay enough attention not to blow ourselves up or have to use that creepy little eyewash thing at the back of the lab. Seriously, it looks like it wants to eat my brain.
Anyways, momentousness. Please, pay attention.
So, what do I think about it?
(Well, you’re reading this. I figured you might be interested…)
I think same-sex couples should have all the rights of typically – up to this point anyway – traditional couples.
That means being able to marry.
I see no justifiable reason to exclude or discriminate against another human being based on what is essentially an accident of birth. I know that sounds wrong, but being born in America is an accident of birth, so is being born with the genetics to be tall, or fat, or smart, or athletic. That is to say, being born with or as something, and that is not a choice.
I am heterosexual, but I don’t remember ever choosing to be that way. And I have a good memory. I’m sure it would have stuck out, made it into a journal entry, something. Nope. Nothing there. No choice. And, strangely, this is how every homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual person I have ever known or spoken with describes their experience as well.
Okay, so, sounds reasonable. What about the objections to same-sex marriage?
What about them? I haven’t heard a single one that wasn’t grounded in vaguely camouflaged homophobia, outright ignorance of the facts, a neurotic fear of change, or some type of religious prohibition. I’m really not trying to poison the well here. If there is a sound, reasonable argument why two adult citizens of these United States should not be able to – with full consent and both parties being of sound mind – enjoy the same rights as any other two citizens, I’d like to hear it.
So far, I haven’t.
For the uneducated, I recommend education; real fact-based education. For those afraid of change, or the ‘strange other’, I recommend growing up and getting over it. Doesn’t affect you. Period. End of Sentence. That leaves some of my favorite people; the religious prohibitionists.
I take a special moment to address these people, because, as both an Atheist and a student of many religions, it never ceases to amaze me what people will insist I, or anyone else MUST believe.
For those, out there, that insist same-sex marriage should be illegal because it is against God’s will, I have a few things to say.
1) Are you sure?
2) How do you know?
3) Prove it.
See, any sensible person has to come to the conclusion that, because so far the existence of any god has never been proven or disproven, that we, as a species just don’t know. The only thing we can be sure of is our absolute ignorance on the fact of whether or not a god, of any stripe, exists.
“But,” you may say, “I believe. I have faith.”
To which I reply, “Congratulations. You’re still gambling.” At which point I’ll probably pick up my chips and move to another table. Hard to play with someone who has forgotten it’s a game.
Here’s the thing, since we can NOT prove the existence of a god, we can not insist that others adhere to our beliefs about the supernatural. No one has that right. You gamble with your own soul – if there even is such a thing – and I’ll gamble with mine. To say that I, or anyone, has to adhere to your religious convictions is to say that you KNOW, for damn certain, what the answer is. I’ve met a lot of people like this. They KNOW. But when I question them about their reasons for believing as they do, they always resort to the explanation of Faith.
I do not know whether or not Faith, in and of itself, is a good thing. But I do know this; because one person believes a certain thing in no way obligates anyone else to believe in the same fashion, or at all, as in my case. Keep your faith all you like, but don’t fool yourself into believing you can use it as a justification to restrict my behavior or my rights. Not in this country anyways.
Which brings me to another aspect of the same-sex debate. No, not that hoary old chestnut about marriage being a traditional institution, between one man and one woman, reaching back to the dawn of time. No, I’ve actually studied history, and I know better. Hell, even if you’ve only ever read the Bible, you would know better. No, this particular angle comes in whenever someone starts talking about religious freedom and churches. (I have other things to say about churches, but I’ll do that in some other meandering post).
The argument, as I have heard it often stated, is that marriages are a religious function/ ceremony and therefore who is allowed to marry should be defined solely by the church.
And this is just fucking nuts.
Okay, I’ll elaborate. Marriages are, of course, performed in churches; sometimes. They’re also performed on lawns, in swimming pools, and while sky-diving. My mother was most recently married, like many people, by a justice of the peace. The fact is, if you have a marriage license, and a willing official, you can get married where ever the hell you like. Why?
Because marriage is a legal contract, bound by the laws of the government.
Marriage may have religious associations for many, but in the context of the laws in this country, marriage is a legally binding contract that confers certain rights and responsibilities. One is free, if one wishes, to consider marriage as a union of two immortal souls, or whatever. That’s the business of the individual. The business of a society is a different animal altogether. The business of a society is to regulate how we behave as a group; en masse. In our society, we have decided that no member of the society should be treated differently, by the law, than any other member of the society. This is what we tell ourselves about our values as a nation, and it’s time we lived up to it.
To deprive any law-abiding citizen of this country of any of the rights granted to the rest of society runs directly counter to what we say we hold dear as a culture and as a country. Simple as that.
If anyone has a problem with two men, or two women getting hitched, that’s fine, but really, it would be polite to keep to one’s self. Unless and until someone comes up with some fact-based evidence as to why two people – of the age of adulthood – of any gender should not be married, then they need to keep their opinions, fears, and neurosis out of the realm of law. What one feels about any subject, no matter how strongly one feels it, does not give one license to impose those feelings upon anyone else.
You want me, or anyone else, to adhere to your beliefs, you need to convince me that they are reasonable and correct. That you feel strongly about it does nothing to convince me of its correctness, because, for one I can’t feel what you are feeling, and, for two, I tend to require actual evidence.
I know, facts right?
So, to paraphrase the marriage ceremony I know the best, “If anyone has some factual evidence why two people of the same sex should not be married, let them speak now or…
…Forever hold their peace.”