Friday, January 27, 2012

Marriage Equality

Though its been out for quite a while, and I've had it sitting in my "to-read" pile for a long time, I just started reading "Committed" by Elizabeth Gilbert.  (Most people will know her for her book, "Eat, Pray, Love".)  From what I've read so far, this book is about the history of marriage.  (It's definitely about her path to marrying her love from "Eat, Pray, Love", but so far this is what I've gotten out of it.)  It's a very interesting read.  And with the election coming up, the discussion of gay marriage has been in the press even more than usual, with candidates expressing their views on the subject.

What really got me thinking about how Gilbert's book relates to the politicians was this quote from Newt Gingrich, where he compares gay marriage to paganism:

"It's pretty simple: marriage is between a man and a woman. This is a historic doctrine driven deep into the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, and it's a perfect example of what I mean by the rise of paganism. The effort to create alternatives to marriage between a man and a woman are perfectly natural pagan behaviors, but they are a fundamental violation of our civilization."
You can read the rest of the article, from the Huffington Post, here.

Really Newt?  REALLY?  Ugh.  He pisses me off.   He's using his Christian religion as a way to validate his homophobia and his reasoning of why gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry.  

Also on this day, I read a part of Gilbert's book about the historical views Christians had about marriage and I really need to share it:

"So that was to be the new human paradigm, as modeled by Christ's own example: celibacy, fellowship, and absolute purity."  (This was around 730 A.D.)  
"This rejection of sexuality and marriage represented a massive departure from any Old Testament way of thinking.  Hebrew society, by contrast, had always held marriage to be the most moral and dignified of all social arrangements (in fact, Jewish priests were required to be married men), and within that bond of matrimony there had always come a frank assumption of sex."  "Sex, after all, was how Jewish babies were made-how can you build up the tribe without making more Jewish babies? 
 But the early Christian visionaries weren't interested in making Christians in the biological sense (as infants who came from the womb); instead, they were interested in converting Christians in the intellectual sense (as adults who came to salvation through individual choice)."  "Since there would always be more potential Christians to convert, there was no need for anybody to sully himself by generating new babies through vile sexual congress.  And if there was no need anymore for babies, then it naturally stood to reason that there was no need anymore for marriage.  
Remember, too, that Christianity was an apocalyptic religion-even more so at the beginning of its history than now.  Early Christians were expecting the End of Days to arrive at any moment, perhaps as early as tomorrow afternoon, so they were not especially interested in launching future dynasties.  Effectively, the future did not exist for these people.  With Armageddon both inevitable and imminent, the newly baptized Christian convert had only one task in life: to prepare himself for the upcoming apocalypse by making himself as pure as humanly possible.
Marriage = wife = sex = sin = impurity.
Therefore: Don't marry.
When we speak today, then, about "holy wedded matrimony," or the "sanctity of marriage" we would do well to remember that, for approximately ten centuries, Christianity itself did not see marriage as being either holy or sanctified."
"So when modern-day religious conservatives wax nostalgic about how marriage is a sacred tradition that reaches back into history for thousands of uninterrupted years, they are absolutely correct, but in only one respect-only if they happen to be talking about Judaism.  Christianity simply does not share that deep and consistent historical reverence toward matrimony."

I find the history of Christianity's views on marriage very, very interesting.  I think Newt should educate himself a little more about it.

The next day I read Gilbert's chapter about same-sex marriage.  The way she put it was exactly how I would put it if I was eloquent and was a published author.  And had done all the research she did.  And was much smarter and more intellectual than I am.  :)  I'm going to quote a couple pages of her book here because I think it's so important and well-put.

"....the only thing that marriage has ever done, historically and definitionally speaking, is to change.  Marriage in the Western world changes with every century, adjusting itself constantly around new social standards and new notions of fairness.  The Silly Putty-like malleability of the institution, in fact, is the only reason we still have the thing at all.  Very few people-Mr. Talent included, I'll wager-would accept marriage on its thirteenth-century terms.  Marriage survives, in other words, precisely because it evolves.  (Though I suppose this would not be a very persuasive argument to those who probably also don't believe in evolution.)
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should make clear here that I'm a supporter of same-sex marriage.  Of course I would be; I'm precisely that sort of person.  The reason I bring up this topic at all is that it irritates me immensely to know that I have access, through the act of marriage, to certain critical social privileges that a large number of my friends and fellow taxpayers do not have."
"What I can say about this subject, though, is that legalized same-sex marriage is coming to America.  In large part this is because non-legalized same-sex marriage is already here.  Same-sex couples live together openly these days, whether their relationships have been officially sanctioned by their states or not.  Same-sex couples are raising children together, paying taxes together, building homes together, running businesses together, creating wealth together, and even getting divorced from each other.  All these already existing relationships and social responsibilities must be managed and organized through rule of law in order to keep civil society running smoothly.  (This is why the 2010 U.S. Census will be documenting same-sex couples as "married" for the first time in order to chart clearly the actual demographics of the nation.)  The federal courts will eventually get fed up, just as they did with interracial marriage, and decide that it's far easier to let all consenting adults have access to matrimony than it is to sort out the issue state by state, amendment by amendment, sheriff by sheriff, personal prejudice by personal prejudice.
Of course, social conservatives may still believe that homosexual marriage is wrong because the purpose of matrimony is to create children, but infertile and childless and postmenopausal heterosexual couples get married all the time and nobody protests.  (The archconservative political commentator Pat Buchanan and his wife are childless, just as one example, and nobody suggests that their marital privileges should be revoked for failure to propagate biological offspring.)  And as for the notion that same-sex marriage will somehow corrupt the community at large, nobody has ever been able to prove this in a court of law.  On the contrary, hundreds of scientific and social organizations-from the American Academy of Family Physicians, to the American Psychological Association, to the Child Welfare League of America-have publicly endorsed both gay marriage and gay adoption.
But gay marriage is coming to America first and foremost because marriage here is a secular concern, not a religious one.  The objection to gay marriage is almost invariably biblical, but nobody's legal vows in this country are defined by interpretation of biblical verse-or at least, not since the Supreme Court stood up for Richard and Mildred Loving.  A church wedding ceremony is a nice thing, but it is neither required for legal marriage in America nor does it constitute legal marriage in America.  What constitutes legal marriage in this country is that critical piece of paper that you and your betrothed must sign and then register with the state.  The morality of your marriage may indeed rest between you and God, but it's that civic and secular paperwork which makes your vows official here on earth.  Ultimately, then, it is the business of America's courts, not America's churches, to decide the rules of matrimonial law, and it is in those courts that the same-sex marriage debate will finally be settled."

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for saying what I want to say about this subject.  I really hope I can make it through this next election and that we don't end up with an extremely prejudiced President.  (Vote Obama!)

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