Are married. Some of them also happen to be of the same gender. Some might then say that they then cannot possibly be married. "Marriage can only be between a man and a woman," comes the argument. "Marriage is sacred," they say. "Same-sex unions cheapen the sanctity of marriage," is the battle-cry I hear most often.
With the recent passage of California's Proposition Eight, I decided to do a little investigating.
Why, exactly, is a marriage only between a man and a woman? "Because that's the way it always has been," is the answer I receive.
I believe that statement is accurate. That is, as far as I'm aware, the way it has always been. However, why is that a valid argument for marriage, but not for other things as well? Should we not, then, be hunting our own food, reading by firelight, walking from village to village, and curing ailments like schizophrenia and autism through exorcism, and headaches through bloodletting? Is there no room for a progressive perspective?
The number one reason that marriage has been between a man and a woman is this: progeny. The propagation of the species is why a man and a woman were paired.
Now, with a world population of 6.72 billion that is predicted to reach 9 billion by the middle of this century, is it not safe to say that we've got the propagation of the species covered?
As to the notions of "sanctity" and the "sacred," all I can say is that marriage has traditionally been about the exchange of property between families. Marriages were arranged like business transactions (many still are), and consent was not a factor between the "happy couple" -- forget about love. Love is a late-comer to the institution of marriage.
And as institutions go, I find it difficult to locate much sanctity in a bond that is so easily and frequently put asunder. Somewhere between 40 and 55% of all first marriages end in divorce. 60% of second marriages end in divorce. 75% of third marriages end in divorce.
Reason #1: Money.
Reason #2: Infidelity.
"The sanctity of marriage" argument doesn't hold water.
So, let's be honest, here. Proposition Eight passed not because marriage is a sacred institution, but because a lot of straight people are freaked out by gay people.
Sure, we could get into a long debate about Leviticus and the letters from Paul and other elements of the Bible that have been used through the years to condemn homosexuality. We could even find equally outdated, obscure, and out-of-context passages in other holy books that can be interpreted to condemn homosexuality. Jerry Falwell found homosexuality in a teletubbie. If you want to find something badly enough, you'll find it wherever you look.
So why do so many people want to find a reason to condemn homosexuality? Why do so many latch on to a passage in an ancient book on a page full of completely outdated "laws" in order to validate their idea that one entire group of people is unnatural or wrong?
Well, why are we so obsessed with erectile dysfunction, breast implants, hair loss? It's all about gender roles. Guys are supposed to be masculine, strong, virile -- oh, and we don't cry. Women are supposed to be attractive to men.
We may have been able to put aside the Suzy Homemaker and Tom Breadwinner stereotypes somewhat, but the basic idea is still there. It is at the root of most individual and group (and national) psychoses: Men constantly want to know if they are "man" enough. Women obsess about their role in a relationship.
Heterosexuals are constantly on shaky ground with our own sense of worthiness in our gender. Homosexuality presents a perspective that, frankly, scares the hell out of us.
Does that make it wrong? Don't we kind of have to figure out what's right before we can figure out what's wrong?
In this country, it is not appropriate to legislate your fears. You overstep your bounds by writing or re-writing laws that infringe upon the rights of others just because you find something distasteful.
And "distasteful" is as far as I'll go. I am tired of hearing the word "abhorrent" being thrown around so lightly. Violence against a child or an innocent animal is abhorrent. "Abhorrent" should be reserved for school shootings, suicide bombings, and Kid Rock's "music."
Two men or two women in a committed and loving relationship is not abhorrent. It may be confusing for some. It may be unsettling for others. It may even be disgusting to you.
But it isn't abhorrent. And it isn't hurting anybody. Proposition Eight and the fearful thinking behind it is hurting people, and we are supposed to be better than that -- as Americans and as spiritual and human beings.