The sanctity of gay marriage

In 1776, seven of the 13 American colonies that had declared independence created anti-miscegenation laws, legislation that forbade marriage between whites and blacks. These acts were often backed by biblical scripture (incidentally, slavery itself was justified through biblical invocation). Specifically the Curse of Ham/Canaan (Book of Genesis) and the story of Phinehas (Numbers) were used as evidence suggesting that blacks were a “cursed” race and that intermingling between the races was divinely forbidden. Until 1967, most states had some version of these laws in effect. The Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia found these laws to be unconstitutional, and by the 1970’s, blacks and whites around the country were allowed to marry.

Today, a different kind of intolerance infringes upon the rights of Americans to marry whom they see fit. The arguments used to deny these Americans this right also find their basis in scripture. The purpose of this paper therefore, is to demonstrate the fallibility of these arguments, and in doing so, create an understanding as to why it is unjust to deny the right of marriage to homosexuals.

The Sanctity of marriage

Opponents of gay marriage assert that the institution in question is a sacred one, not to be defiled, that to allow gays to marry would be an abomination and an affront to God himself. Those who attribute terms like sacred and sanctimonious to marriage are seemingly unaware of its history. For much of it’s existence, (an existence that predates all three of the Abrahamic religions) marriage was used as a way of controlling women, who were essentially viewed as property; marriage, in many ways, was more of a business transaction than it was a union of two loving individuals. The more romantic view of marriage many in our society hold today is actually relatively new. Those in favor of excluding homosexuals from the institution of marriage claim to be proponents of “traditional” marriage. The problem lies in their lack of understanding of what actual traditional marriages were like. We can still see “traditional” marriages today; in societies that have not progressed to the level ours has. Countries like India, and many of the Middle Eastern nations where arranged marriage and marriage between girls as young as 10 years old with men old enough to be their grandfathers is still the norm. These kinds of “traditional” marriages were also common in colonial America.

Biblical condemnation

The Bible undoubtedly shows contempt for homosexuality itself, and many cite Leviticus, Corinthians or Ephesians in influencing their stance on the rights of gays to marry, but the consistency is lacking when one considers that the bible also condemns divorce if not being caused by “sexual immorality”. If this is the case, why then, is divorce not illegal? (Speaking of divorce; it is interesting that in a country where the rate of divorce is above 50%, so many fear that allowing gays to marry will “taint” marriage) There are many other crimes in scripture that are ignored routinely in modern times, these include rounding the corners of your beard (Leviticus), working the sabbath (Exodus, Numbers), tattoos (Leviticus), and even calling an earth bound being “father” (Matthew).

Today, a different kind of intolerance infringes upon the rights of Americans to marry whom they see fit.”

More importantly than all of this however, is that none of it should matter. Period. Because the fact is, despite the ever increasing lobbying tactics practiced by the church, we do NOT live in a theocracy. Therefore the religious beliefs of Christians should hold little sway over the rights of American citizens. Please take notice of my use of the term “rights” here. Rights are not voted on, they are not debated, nor are they allowed. Rights cannot be taken away by tyrannical governments neither can they be suspended by fearful, war-torn nations, because by definition, if they are, than they are not rights but are in fact privileges. In a nation like Saudi Arabia, where the line between cleric and politician is thin to non-existent, we see many laws that are disturbing through the lens of our western culture (stoning for female adultery, rape etc.) In Bahrain, where many American serviceman are stationed, the month-long religious holiday of Ramadan is expected to be respectfully observed by the American armed forces; as a result, U.S. Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen are told to dress conservatively in the hottest time of the year, are subject to fines for drinking water in public, and are to refrain from using language that the native Bahraini’s deem offensive lest they be subject to hefty fines and disciplinary action within their own chains of command. You may think this to be ridiculous, that the religious beliefs of a group would affect the lives of so many, despite the fact that those forced to adhere do not share those beliefs, and to you I say…exactly. For Americans to criticize an Arab nation for using the Quran to dictate it’s laws but at the same time rely on the bible for our code of law is hypocritical and not becoming of a republic in which the church is a member and not the authority. It is fine for a person to believe that it is wrong for two members of the same sex to wed, but for said person to impose his/her beliefs on others is wrong, and frankly, not his/her business so long as it does not affect him/her.

Recently, the state of North Carolina amended its constitution to enact a ban on gay marriage. It is interesting to note, that the last time the marriage laws of North Carolina were changed, was 1875. That amendment forbade marriage between whites and “a person of negro descent, to the third generation” in the state. As a student of history, and a white man married to a woman of color in a union that has lasted more than 5 years in the age of divorce, I will not stand idly by as the rights of gay Americans are stepped on. Our nation was founded on the ideals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; it seems however, that some of us have forgotten this in favor of intruding upon their fellow citizens life, limiting his/her liberty, and persecuting his/her happiness.

We are better than this.