Monday, January 19, 2009

A question for same-sex marriage advocates

Note: The issue in this post isn't religion. I believe what I believe, and other people may or may not. I'm not interested in arguing the morality or immorality of relationships. The question is meant purely as a political one. If I've caused offense to anyone over the religious angle, I'm sorry. I certainly don't mean anything unkind.

My Reverend Auntie has offered to perform wedding ceremonies for gay couples in her community against the day when the marriages can be solemnized under secular law as well. While I do believe that those relationships are intrinsically sinful, I applaud her willingness to put her clerical authority where her mouth is. Choose your battles and fight them fiercely.

As I've said before, I consider marriage a religious institution, not a government function, and I think the same legal benefits should be available to those couples as long as dissenting religions aren't required to change their own tenets regarding marriage. Which brings up an interesting question I'd like to pose, starting with terminology.

You say "marriage equality," I say "redefining marriage." Potayto, potahto, right?

No, of course not. We may be talking about the same shift in marriage laws, but the two positions come from very different perspectives. And I might add that neither of us have actually malicious motives at heart. Can we agree on that much?

Okay, so here's my question: If your purpose is to pursue marriage equality, so that people can marry whomever they choose (another phrase often used in the debate), then does it follow that you'll fight just as fiercely for these marriages as for these?

The similarities are striking. Both involve relationships that are unconventional, but are between consenting adults. (Yes, the wives in the Bountiful case were over the legal age of consent, and unlike the Arizona Strip communities, the practice is voluntary.) In both cases, the people involved say they want to have the same sort of stable family unit that ordinary heterosexual marriages have. I say they both want to redefine marriage, you say all they want is the same rights as anyone else. It's the same disagreement over terminology, but different context.

Moreover, if the sex of the participants is an arbitrary line of demarcation between a valid and an invalid marriage, isn't the quantity equally arbitrary?

Not necessarily. There's an elephant-sized difference between the two, and that's that one of them is strongly liberal and the other is strongly conservative. In fact, the Mormon Fundamentalists would agree with me that homosexual activity is a sin. They are unapologetic religious zealots. But does that mean they are undeserving of their own marriages?

So that's my question, and I'm trying hard not to sound like I'm goading anyone. I honestly don't want to come across hostile here. But I'm interested to know whether the people who fight tooth and nail for folks they approve of will do the same for folks they don't. And if you see a fundamental difference (no pun intended) between the two that I've missed, tell me what it is.

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