November 4, 2015
Let’s Celebrate Marriage AND Marriage Equality
By Warren Holleman
A key ingredient of work-life balance is enjoying the love of family and friends. Traditionally, the institution of marriage has helped solidify these commitments, but not everyone was allowed to marry. Thank God that changed this year, when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that marriage no longer be the exclusive right of one group or another and that gays and lesbians be allowed to experience the joys and benefits of this essential institution.
Here is the closing paragraph of that landmark decision, penned by Justice Anthony Kennedy.
No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
This is one of the most beautiful and moving passages I’ve read in a long time. And it comes from a legal document! Yet some of my conservative friends are not so moved. They think opening marriage up to our LGBT brothers and sisters somehow demeans the institution of marriage.
I disagree, and my disagreement is based not on my liberal values but my conservative ones. (I have both. Does that make me a bi-valve?) I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe that marriage is the weave that binds the fabric of our society together in love. I also believe that one of the major social problems facing American society today is that we have moved from being a “culture of fidelity” to a “culture of contingency”–we don’t take the idea of marriage seriously enough.
So, when gays and lesbians say that they do take the idea of marriage seriously, that makes me happy! When they insist on the right to make the marriage commitment, that’s a good thing!
Somehow social conservatives got the idea that by limiting marriage to “their own kind” they were protecting it from being diluted or polluted. (Never mind the hypocrisy that probably 50% of those heterosexuals who marry wind up cheating on their spouses, filing for divorce, etc.) If marriage is an important institution in society, shouldn’t we be pushing for the right–indeed, the responsibility–to marry?
As conservative columnist David Brooks has written:
The conservative course is not to banish gay people from making such commitments. It is to expect that they make such commitments. We shouldn’t just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity.
Many religious groups agree. Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Unitarians, and the United Church of Christ have all issued formal statements of support for the SCOTUS decision. I’m ashamed to say that my own church (United Methodist) still opposes marital equality. I hope this changes soon. It’s embarrassing when the Supreme Court has it right, and we have it wrong.
I take the Bible seriously, but I don’t interpret it literally. I don’t cover my head. I don’t stone brides who turn out not to be virgins. I don’t join with the Psalmist in rejoicing that the heads of Philistine babies are being bashed against the rocks. I eat whatever I want. I ignore Bible passages endorsing slavery and the subjugation of women. And I’m not alone. Most reasonable people of faith do the same thing.
So when I come across those 3 or 4 verses of scripture that speak negatively of homosexuality, I try to put it all in perspective and use some common sense. In other words, I ignore them, too.
I’m delighted that our laws are changing, our attitudes are changing, and many religious institutions are embracing the LGBT community. I’m also grateful that we’re discovering new ways to respect and grow the institution of marriage.
Marriage is a good thing, AND marriage equality is a good thing. It’s time we quit thinking of the two as mutually exclusive.