Friday, 5 October 2012

The Times They're a Changing. Or Are They?

31 states outlaw gay marriage. But this election offers four opportunities to stop bans.
by David Morris                 Pub. by  On the Commons                  
The recent colorful tirade by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe against a legislator who demanded the Baltimore Ravens owner fire linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for supporting gay marriage and the overwhelmingly positive response to it by football fans and players alike are heartwarming developments. It shows how far we’ve come. Exchanging rings in Dobbs Ferry, Vermont.  But, the fact, voters in 31 US states have already approved constitutional amendments to outlaw gay marriage, usually by wide margins, shows how far we have to go. However this fall voters in four states—Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Washington—will have an opportunity to reject similar bans on same sex unions
The path from prejudice to understanding and acceptance has been much smoother in other countries. Eight European countries have legalized same sex marriage, including predominantly Catholic countries like Portugal and Spain. In Europe this is not a left-right issue. The new Socialist-led government in France promises to legalize same sex marriage next year. The Conservative-led government in Britain will introduce similar legislation. On this continent, in 2000 the Canadian Parliament, by a wide margin, banned same-sex marriage. Five years later, after a series of court decisions overturned bans in several Canadian provinces the nation’s legislators revisited the issue, reversed themselves and legalized same-sex marriage.
How many times we’ve changed the institution of marriage. We’ve upgraded the status of wives (originally subordinate to their husbands in the eyes of the law), enabled no-fault divorce (initiallya spouse had to prove wrongdoing), permitted family planning (many states once banned the sale of contraceptives), and overturned bans on interracial marriage. How often scripture was used to justify opposition to change. Believe that wives must be subservient? Cite Genesis 2:24. Oppose divorce even when both parties want one? Cite Matthew 19:3-9. Oppose contraception? Cite Genesis 1:28. Oppose interracial marriage? Cite Acts 17:24-26.
Opponents of same sex marriage argue they are defending the institution of marriage but their arguments have little to do with marriage. After all, the institution of marriage has suffered grievously in the only-heterosexuals-can-marry era. The percentage of households comprised of married couples plunged from 78 percent in 1950 to just 48 percent in 2010. Meanwhile the 2010 Census reported about 600,000 same sex households in this country. Allowing those among them who want to abandon cohabitation and choose marriage to do so can only strengthen the institution of marriage.
Nor does the argument opponents make that they are defending the psyche and safety of children have anything to do with marriage. Same sex couples already parent 115,000 children and study after study after study finds them at least as well-adjusted as children of heterosexual couples. In 2008 a Florida Circuit Court judge, after taking voluminous testimony from both sides on whether to overturn that state’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples flatly concluded, “… based on the robust nature of the evidence available in the field, this Court is satisfied that the issue is so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise; the best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption.”
Indeed, as psychologist Abbie Goldberg points out, the fact that gays and lesbians do not become parents by accident, compared to almost 50 percent accidental pregnancy rates among heterosexuals “translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement”. And allowing same sex couples with children to marry can only benefit the child.
No, the arguments against same-sex marriage are not about marriage; they’re about homosexuality. We should remember that only a generation ago an admission of homosexuality could not only get one fired but arrested. We’ve come a long way since then.  Nevertheless, prejudice against homosexuals is widespread. In 34 states it is still legal for lesbian and gay employees to be fired simply because their employers disapprove of their sexual orientation.
In several states the Catholic Church is leading the fight against legal recognition of same sex couples. The Catholic Church, regrettably, doesn’t point to the part of the New Testament that conveys the essence of the values that Jesus hoped would be the foundation of Christianity. Matthew relates the story of a Pharisee asking Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” His answer is both instructive and revealing as to which side of the debate He might take. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (22:36-40)  I suspect that for Jesus what is important is not a family structure based on biology or even heterosexual relationships but the quality of love exhibited in relationships.              [Abridged]
David Morris is Vice President and director of the New Rules Project at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance,

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