I haven’t written much on my blog in the past few years, let along anything about politics. But this has been some week, hasn’t it? Today’s US Supreme Court 5–4 ruling striking down anti-same-sex-marriage laws —such as those we
have had! here in Tennessee— feels like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of change. That so many Americans are suddenly free to marry whom they choose is amazing and I felt moved enough to remark on it.
Rethinking My Youth, Part II
I wrote about marriage laws over ten years ago on this site. That was inspired by Virginia’s (where my wife and I lived at the time) state Supreme Court struck down an old law that forbid adults having sex outside of marriage. It was crazy that it was still on the books in 2005, but as I noted, Virginia also banned interracial marriage up until the landmark Loving vs. Virginia 48 years ago this month1. I concluded with the following paragraph:
This sounds like all the same rational for banning homosexual marriages: that because God obviously doesn’t want them, than neither should we. I’m not so sure that there’s a whole lot of evidence that suggests God doesn’t want two loving people to have a formal commitment. Further, I think that at some point in my lifetime, we’ll look back at today’s anti-gay-marriage laws and feel the same way about banning interracial marriage and unmarried sex: why did we ever have laws institutionalizing hate and criminalizing love?
Well, at that time I truly didn’t think it would happen so fast. And in the context of such a huge change in both public opinion and dumb, anti-gay laws, a decade seems fast. However, I am sure that a decade seemed far too long for those men and women in long-term relationships who were forbid from marrying the man or woman they loved. To them, it must have seemed like forever and the struggles they faced were tremendous.
Angela and I have been happily married now for over thirteen years. I love her more now than ever and it would be inconceivable that our marriage would have been considered anything less than something shouting for joy over, let alone likely illegal at one time in the state where we lived. Our marriage is as strong as we are able to make it. No one outside of us —not straight or gay— can change that. The only two people who could make our marriage mean less are ourselves. Today’s SCOTUS ruling doesn’t change that at all. It just gives many more Americans the chance to have that same opportunity and the legal benefits (of which there are many) that go along with it.
To My Fellow Christians…
To my fellow Christians —especially those of you who feel this ruling somehow hurts you— please emulate the compassion and love of Christ. He never once spoke on the subject of same-sex relationships or marriage. Those passages many of you so often feel the need to throw around from the bible? Consider the following perspective from a Presbyterian Church USA (my denomination) news article from March of this year, just after the PC(USA) allowed for same-sex marriages (emphasis mine):
“Some will say that we have turned our back on the ‘clear teaching of Scripture,’ ” says Todd Freeman, pastor of College Hill Presbyterian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “It appears that many Presbyterians now consider that this is not the case. We recognize that our cultural biases and prejudices were woven throughout the biblical witness. This recognition has helped lead the Presbyterian Church to change its traditional stance on a number of issues, including slavery, racial equality, and the right of women to be ordained into positions of church leadership. Many of us also recognize that the biblical passages that condemn same-gender sexual acts are not in reference to couples in a loving mutual relationship, but rather address relationships that are controlling, abusive, and exploitative.”
Please read here and here for some detailed explanations on that final sentence. And even if you do choose to interpret those very same passages as condemning homosexuality in any form, what about all the other biblical laws that you (and I) break daily? The mixing of fabrics (Deuteronomy 22:11 and Leviticus 19:19), the eating of pork and shellfish (Leviticus 11), or even shaving our beards (Leviticus 19:27)? There are countless biblical laws that most of us Christians break on a daily basis without so much as a second thought2. I don’t say this to condemn you or myself. And even though I hope it’s obvious that those who so often claim we can’t just cherry-pick from the bible are likely doing just that themselves, that’s also not the point I want to stress. As a Christian, I want to focus on loving others rather than forbidding them from being who they feel they are and loving who they choose to love (likely because it just really makes you feel icky and you’d like to back that up with a bible verse or two). It’s beyond me how anyone would claim to be a Christian (or any moral or ethical person, regardless of faith or lack thereof) and think that’s OK.
None of this may convince you, of course. But be aware that there are many different interpretations of scripture and we, as a nation founded on religious liberties, simply cannot deny others basic rights such as the freedom to marry —and yes, Justice Scalia, it’s a right!— based on a narrow reading of scripture. That is what today’s ruling is about. Not a redefinition of marriage —as that was always so much messier than conservatives have led us to believe— but rather an acceptance that we each get to define our own marriages. The only requirement is two people willing to make that commitment to one another.
Lastly, to all the wonderful couples who go married today, in places like Nashville or Franklin, TN, I hope that ten years from now I can write another post. One that will look back and place the shear ridiculousness of how you were treated in the same frame as other laws governing who and how we could love one another.
For now, congratulations.
- This is a bit of a personal aside: Justice Clarence Thomas, likely to be the most conservative member of the current US Supreme Court, is African-American and is married to a caucasian woman (coincidentally, named Virginia). It took a US Supreme Court ruling to allow his marriage to be recognized in all states, including Virginia. So I cannot help but find it particularly egregious that he has some ridiculously narrow interpretation as to the meaning of “liberty” in the due process clause. He seems to limit to basically our ability to go about the country as we choose and no more. As such, he argues that petitioners were not deprived of their liberty, nor was there dignity diminished. Given that a law also had to be found unconstitutional for him to have the liberty to marry his wife, I can’t begin to see how he reconciles this. The petitioners have not “been left alone to order their lives as they see fit” as he states. They have been denied visitation, death benefits, sharing of health insurance, adoptive rights, and so much more. [↩]
- I can’t say what Mike Huckabee had for breakfast or what his nice suit is made of, but he clearly shaves his beard without much remorse. [↩]