I have no intention of debating the morality of homosexuality. I could spend several pages discussing the myriad verses in the bible religious fundamentalists choose to completely ignore, and then demand to know why they use the same book to condemn gays, but I won’t. I also have no intention of debating politics, or claiming that left-leaning centrists are smarter than conservatives. I am simply going to show why—per the right wing Christian worldview—opposition to gay marriage is neither conservative nor Christian.
Let’s start with the conservative part, shall we? I will start with the simple standard definition.
2 a : of or relating to a philosophy of conservatism
b capitalized : of or constituting a political party professing the principles of conservatism: as (1) : of or constituting a party of the United Kingdom advocating support of established institutions (2) : progressive conservative
3 a : tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : traditional
b : marked by moderation or caution <a conservative estimate>
c : marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners
So, what is that “philosophy of conservatism” then?
1 a : the principles and policies of a Conservative party
b : the Conservative party
2 a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established
b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)
3 : the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change
Look closely at the 2b definition above about tradition and social stability. I will get to the issues of “traditional” and “social stability” in a moment, but I first want to address the rest of that definition. Most Republicans over the last couple of decades would agree that the cornerstones of the conservative movement are limited government and individual responsibility. They would insist that it is not just about lower taxes. It is about individuality, freedom, and keeping Big Brother (i.e. the mean, evil government) out of their personal lives.
John Locke believed everyone had a natural right to defend his “Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke].” If that sounds familiar, it’s because the idea of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” discussed in the Declaration of Independence is based on his philosophies. So. Big government is evil. They shouldn’t have the right to tell the little guy what he can do with his own property, his own business, or his own life. Right?
How is this any different from a gay person who wants to get married? Again, at this point I am only discussing conservative political principles. Conservatives don’t believe the government should interfere with the private dealings between its citizens. Marriage, outside of its religious implications, is a private contract between consenting adults; the contract is issued by the states, not the churches. Yes, to many it may be a deeply spiritual and religious journey as well, but even those individuals would have to agree that—without the state marriage license—the religious ceremony in their church would not be legally binding.
Gays are asking for that state marriage license. We are not making any demands on any churches or denominations, and we have no desire to sue anyone or any church for the right to a marriage location. We simply demand that the states treat us equally. I know that many politicians and ministers are arguing that we are all going to run out and sue little country churches in Arkansas because they won’t marry us. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but they’re lying. They are telling outright falsehoods for the purposes of making a political point. Gays have plenty of places to get married, and there are already scores of denominations willing to perform our marriage ceremonies in their houses of worship. We have no intention of invading those denominations where we are not welcome (I’m looking at you, Catholics, Southern Baptists, and Mormons). We are asking for the state and federal government to recognize our unions. Your church can do whatever the flip it wants.
Self-proclaimed conservatives need to examine the above contradiction. How can a belief in limited government and personal freedom be reconciled with a belief that the government has the right to define a private contract between consenting adults? I really don’t think it can. Conservatives must choose between the two.
There are then the issues of “tradition,” “social stability,” and “established institutions.” Discussing “tradition” is of utmost importance, as the term tends to pop up as a direct antonym of gay marriage. But what is traditional marriage? Remember that up until about a century ago, marriages were arranged. They had nothing to do with “falling in love” and were anything but equal partnerships. A man took possession of his wife as if she were property. And in many cultures—including Western European and American cultures—that is exactly what the wife was. Most marriage ceremonies even up to the present day include the part about the father “giving the bride away” to her husband. Marriages were mostly about business arrangements and a man’s need to produce heirs. Nevermind that—up until the 1960s—people of different races were not allowed to marry. The “tradition” has changed considerably over time, no?
I will skip over the bible’s Old Testament, given that its ideas on marriage included a lot of polygamy, concubines, and underage wives. I know that most fundamentalist Christians would say that this lifestyle “no longer applies” and shouldn’t be taken into consideration (though it escapes me why the same people will use Old Testament verses to condemn gays). So I’ll jump to the New Testament and Jesus.
Can you guess which topic Jesus himself never, ever—not once—ever discussed? That’s right. Homosexuality. The very person Christianity is named after never said a single solitary thing about gays. Go ahead and look for it. I dare you. You know what he did talk about several times? Divorce.
When discussing “tradition” and “established institutions,” I must bring up that the single greatest threat to marriage on this planet is not, in fact, more people wanting to get married. The biggest threat to tradition and the established institution of marriage is divorce. I bring up the above biblical issue not to argue the morality of homosexuality (as I promised I wouldn’t), but because the New Testament and Jesus himself were fairly clear on the idea of marriage:
Mark 10:9: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
1 Corinthians 7:10-11: “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband(but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.”
Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; bfor fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Mathew 5:32: “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”
Mathew 19:9: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
To break it down, the New Testament and even Jesus himself were crystal clear on divorce. There is some indication that divorce may have been allowed in cases of infidelity only, but even then it is clear that neither party is to remarry. “Tradition” dictated that the “established institution” of marriage be respected above all else.
It is perplexing to me why anyone wanting to save or strengthen the institution of marriage would campaign against gay marriage but never utter a peep about divorce. Heterosexual marriages have a 50% divorce rate, and a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture makes it clear that divorce (and remarriage to a divorced person) is immoral. So why is there no campaign to end divorce? Why is no one lobbying congress to pass “No More Divorce” amendments? Why is no one taking any initiative to add a ban on divorce to the constitution?
The idea of “social stability” is inherent to the conservative platform as well. I would argue that allowing gay marriage adds to social stability rather than subtract from it. As a child, growing up during the AIDS crisis, I heard nothing but judgment against gays. Gays were sexual deviates. Gays were sluts. Gays slept around. Gays only cared about sex. Gays were more promiscuous than straights. Gays deserved to get AIDS and die. Nevermind the outright lack of Christian love in the last statement. The basic premise I heard people screaming the most about was the “gay lifestyle,” as if we all led the same life. However inaccurate such a portrayal of gays may have been, the main premise was that we didn’t settle down. We didn’t care about marriage or families. We just wanted to live a hedonistic “lifestyle.”
And yet, the second we actually tell the world we actually do want to settle down, marry, and have families, we’re told we can’t. I call shenanigans.
Many conservatives will also make grand statements about the founding fathers and what they would and would not have wanted for this country. Tradition comes into play here too, given the following portions of the constitution make it fairly clear that personal religious beliefs should never interfere with the private lives of other law-abiding citizens, civil rights should never be up for a popular vote, and that agreements/contracts (such as marriages) from one state should be honored in all. I am providing a link to the constitution itself in case I am accused of making things up, but will also summarize as follows:
The founding fathers created three branches to our government. This was done very deliberately, as they did not want any one group of people to have too much power. The branches are 1) Legislative (who make laws) 2) Judicial (who interpret laws) and 3) Executive (who enforce the laws). That is a fairly simple way to break it down, but it will suffice for my purposes here. I am most concerned with the judicial branch, as this branch was created under Article III of the constitution to interpret laws and consider their constitutionality. Without a judiciary to rule on the constitutionality of laws, there would be a tyranny of mob rule.
What does this mean? Well, both the executive branch (such as governors and the president) and the legislative branch (congress and senate) are both electable. The significance of this is that electable parties are swayed by public opinion polls, election campaigns, lobbyists, etc. History has made it clear that politicians on the campaign trail have problems with being consistent in their message and with actually sticking to a clear set of standards (and both parties are guilty of this, I must admit). They act not according to what they consider is right or even what their constituents consider is right (which can shift and change all over the spectrum depending on various factors). They behave according to what is going to get them the highest campaign contribution and what will win them an election.
The beautiful thing about the judicial branch is that judges are not elected (for the most part, but I’d rather not get into the issue of those areas where judges are elected). They are appointed. In theory, appointed judges can’t be swayed by election polls or campaign contributions. We need that in our government as a part of our checks and balances. I hear a lot of talk from conservative pundits and politicians about “activist judges,” which really just means that the judge made a ruling that the pundit or politician doesn’t like. But they’re doing their jobs. And it is an essential job.
A world without these “activist judges” would be a world where Jim Crow laws and segregation still exist. Remember that Blacks were and still are in the minority in our country. If—back in the 60s—their civil rights had been up for a popular vote, it is unlikely most white people in the south (or even the north, for that matter) would have supported equal rights for them. It was judges who ended segregation and paved the way for true equality. I have no doubt that—had it been up for a popular vote in most states in 1967—interracial marriage bans would have ruled the day the way gay marriage bans do today. Then that pesky Loving vs. the State of Virginia showed that was wrong. Damn those activist judges! Check out this link for more important decisions, left up to “activist” judges:
Article IV of our constitution, just after that part about creating a branch of government for those so-called activist judges, grants something called “full faith and credit” as follows:
“Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.”
In laymans terms, this essentially means that a contract or legal obligation from one state must be respected in all. If a gay couple marries in one of those states and then moves to one with where gay marriage is not recognized, the latter state is in direct conflict with the idea of full faith and credit. The founding fathers clearly would have wanted the latter state to respect the marriage performed in the former state. There is just no arguing that.
Also important to remember is our first amendment. It tends to pop up a lot when freedom of speech is discussed, but it has another important and relevant element. This element is important for religious people to remember:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Before the whole “freedom of speech” thing is even brought up, in the very first amendment to our constitution, the authors (the founding fathers that politicians and pundits love to bring up ad nauseum) made it extremely clear that congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. True, this is stating that the government should never endorse a particular religion and doesn’t seem to be about marriage at all. But asking that laws be made and amendments be drafted based solely on personal religious beliefs would be on par with establishing a religion. And our founding fathers didn’t want that. They pretty expressly forbid it.
Finally, where the constitution is concerned, there is the 14th amendment, which states the following:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The issue of “due process” as outlined in this amendment again affirms the rights of all Americans to life, liberty, and property. It is fairly clear that no state should make any laws which would abridge those rights. It looks as if the founding fathers were pretty clear on this one as well.
When it comes to personal Christian beliefs, it is important to realize—as stated above—that Christ himself never mentioned anything about homosexuality. Even still, many fundamentalist Christians will dig in their heels and insist homosexuality is wrong. They have chosen to ignore enormous portions of the bible and cling to the alleged homophobic passages. I could argue this point for days and have a lot of ammunition against it, but—again—I have said I would not argue this point.
Instead, I would ask most Christians to focus more time on what Jesus actually taught. Their religion does bear his name, after all. Without going into too much scriptural detail, I would urge Christians to take a gander at Mathew Chapters 5-7, also known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” In the days when I still called myself a Christian, these were the only passages I ever really cared much for. Here is a link:
Jesus never said a bad word about gays. Aside from his admonishment regarding divorce (which I already quoted above), Jesus had a lot to say about being meek, being merciful, being a peacemaker, turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, not being hypocrites, not judging, etc., etc. He was pretty clear about living a meek life and providing for the sick, the old, and the poor. Modern day Christians need to take a good long look at these passages and determine if their current political crusade against gay marriage is really what their God wants of them.
Even if homosexuality were this evil, immoral thing (which it isn’t, but I’m not here to argue that at this time), does God really want his followers pouring all of their money and energy into denying marriage rights to gay people? Is it? Really? With all the poverty, hunger, war, violence, hate, illness, and death on this planet (not to mention our own back yards), does God want the money and energy of the churches being spent on preventing the government from granting marriage rights to a group of people that represent around just 3-5% of the population?
I don’t think so. I can’t even conceive of any higher power wanting our resources drained in such a way. Even against a group of people he/she may despise. It defies all logic.
Conservatives must examine their core beliefs and ask themselves if this campaign against gay marriage is really in line with their established worldview. Conservative ideology requires a freedom from big government that directly contradicts a demand that the government dictate the terms of personal and private contracts. Tradition itself shows that the concept of marriage has been constantly evolving over the centuries. Social stability, a cause championed by conservatives, is only strengthened by allowing gays to marry and settle into families. Our nation’s founding fathers made it very clear that there were to be no laws establishing a religion or abridging the rights of a people. They also created a judiciary specifically for the purpose of tempering mob rule. Respect for tradition must include a respect for the constitution, and the established rights granted within.
Christians must examine their core beliefs as well. Scripture makes it difficult to justify this ongoing campaign against gays. Jesus himself never mentioned it, though he did mention that divorce was clearly wrong. Several times. If Christians are going to campaign against gay marriage, where is their fight against divorce? Where is their devotion to the sick, the poor, and the hungry? Where is the devotion to being meek? Where is the peacekeeping sentiment? Wouldn’t their God want them to spend time, money, and energy working on the things he actually talked about rather than something he never even bothered to mention?
As I said in the beginning, I am not here to argue (at least in this post) the idea of conservatism or Christianity. I just wish people saw the flaws and contradictions in their worldviews. The world would be a better place if everyone would examine what they believe and then act in a rational and moral manner. Is it even possible?