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Deconstructing the argument against gay marriage.
This article will show the moral, societal and spiritual imperatives embodied by gay marriage. Since this topic engages the national imagination and is hotly debated, I hope you will find inspiration and a better understanding of the issue here. It is important that each of us reflect deeply on our collective consciousness and encourage what is best to emerge. It is with this intention that I begin this article.
What is marriage?
Marriage is partly a legal word, with spiritual, cultural, sexual and kinship aspects.
We see that the legal meaning of marriage is gradually changing in regards to same sex couples.
Spiritually the word marriage connotes a religiously sanctified, monogamous, committed relationship between two people. Many spiritual traditions have included same-sex couples in their description of marriage. Both the Zen Buddhist tradition that I am now a part of; and the Native American traditions that I used to be active in, support same-sex weddings. In the fall of 2009, I had the privilege of videotaping a wedding ceremony at the Zen Temple.
Some religious traditions only marry opposite-sex couples; for example the catholic church; though I've personally known devout Catholics who disagreed with the church's stance, and there is public dissent within the church as well as an openly gay catholic priest.
Marriages (from opposite-sex marriages only to both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages allowed) are present in different cultures. Some, like the Sudanese are murderously intolerant of homosexuals at the state level, while other cultures, like the Icelandic, openly embrace gay marriage. These attitudes are reflected in their laws; here is a wiki page that breaks down the legal status of same-sex sexual activity and marriage laws by country.
Later in this article, I'll touch on the dimension of sexuality in marriage. You'll just have to wait for the good stuff!
A final aspect of marriage is that it creates kinship. It is through marriage that two people, unrelated to each other, become related. Then they become in-laws; aunts, uncles and so forth; as well as husband and wife; husband and husband; or wife and wife. This final aspect of marriage is relatively dependent on the proceeding ones. In other words, if the law, sexual norms and religion of the culture involved deny the couple easy access to the rite of marriage, then they won't likely get married; and if they do get married under those circumstances; they may become estranged from their birth families.
An examination of arguments against gay marriage.
In the United States today, there are various arguments presented against gay marriage: that marriage has traditionally been the exclusive domain of opposite-sex couples; that same-sex sexuality spreads sexuality-transmitted-diseases, and same-sex sexuality is sinful; that children need a mother and a father to be well adjusted children; and that gay marriage is a special privilege, and not a right. Let's take a look at the validity of these arguments one at a time.
A historical and cultural context for marriage.
If you live in a culture where what you see is opposite sex partnerships, it is easy to believe that is always the case. Walking around Ann Arbor, where I live, I rarely see two men or two women holding hands in a romantically suggestive way; and I know that in other parts of the country, it is even rarer. So, it is easy to believe because we don't see it, it doesn't exist. Also, in some parts of the country there is a lot of talking about the evils of homosexuality; and people who are suspected, or known to be gay are called insulting names, threatened, beaten up or worse. It is important to note that this is the backdrop in front of which it is suggested that cross-culturally and historically marriage (a religiously and legally sanctioned monogamous, committed relationship) must be between a man and a woman. If you have looked at the wiki page mentioned above, you can see that's not the case in today's world. Additionally, here is a resource that documents the presence of same-sex romantic partnerships and marriages between men in ancient times. Here is a page concerned more with romantic relations between women in ancient times.
It just isn't the case across different cultures marriage is only defined as "between a man and a woman".
How Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) spread.
Another argument presented against gay marriage is that same-sex activity transmits sexual diseases. The truth of the matter is that people who have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can be male, female; or transgendered; straight, gay or bisexual; promiscuous sexually or monogamous. STD's can get into people by sharing hypodermic needles with out sterilizing them. Staying free of STD's is a matter of getting yourself tested to see if you have contracted a STD, and refraining from risky activity with a sexual partner, or sharing needles, until you know if that person has a STD or doesn't. It's easy to get tested for STD's at free clinics and at your doctor's. Here is how to bring up the subject of getting tested for STDs. Here is some information for men. Here is a hubber who specializes in information about STD's.
The best thing you can do to protect yourself from STD's is to have safe sex. Get tested for STD's yourself and get your partner to get tested, too, before you engage in risky activities. Until then, engage in safe activities! It is wrongheaded to think that somehow same-sex sexual activity is more (or less) safe than opposite-sex sexual activity (or sharing hypodermic needles for that matter) with another person. You only have one body! Get tested, stay well!
Problems with taking the Bible literally.
Some people may reference the bible's statements against same-sex sexuality. There are problems with this argument. The premise is that the Bible is God's word, and that what is written there is His law. The problem is two-fold. Firstly, the Bible often contradicts itself. Secondly, if you take it literally you'll find you're already in hot water: for example; according to the Bible If you curse your parents (and really, who hasn't - after all we were all children once) then you must be put to death! Following that sort of logic, we'd have a planet devoid of people; but I don't think that's what the Bible is all about. So keep in mind your biases, and the biases of the culture we live in now, when you use the Bible as a guide for living. Many people find spiritual refuge in the Bible without feeling the need to condemn gays, or to take it too literally elsewhere.
What makes a well adjusted child, who grows into a well adjusted adult?
There are children brought up in orphanages, who are happy there, and go on to do great things. There are children of a very successful father and mother; who become bank robbers (Patty Hearst comes to mind). There are single mothers and single fathers who are raising well adjusted children. There are children who have a mother and a father who are well adjusted; and there are children with a mother and a father who aren't well adjusted. It just flies in the face of reason to suggest that a child cannot be well adjusted, and grow up to be a happy adult, with two dads or two moms. It will be a mix of factors that determine how the child is and then grows into an adult.
Marriage is a right for everyone.
Some people will say that gays getting married is a special privilege for them; or that a gay man could marry, but he'd have to marry a woman. These are both empty arguments. We have already defined marriage as a religiously sanctified committed relationship between two people. There is another dimension to this definition, which applies to the fact, that in a reasonable society, marriage has a sexual component. This other facet can be explained this way. As a straight man if I marry a woman, I will be attracted to her sexually. This is part of my identity, my sexual identity. I will be comfortable with her, because I am sexually attracted to her. And so, the dimension of sexuality in my marriage would be honored. And also, with any straight married couple. They would both feel that their sexual identity was a natural part of their marriage. The dimension of sexual identity would again be honored, and so it would be properly a marriage. (This aspect holds true whether or not they want to have children, as for instance in the case of two 70-year-olds getting married. And so we see that marriage is not properly about procreation, for it is obvious that men and women will get married and not have their union dissolve because they have no children.)
Now as for the case of a gay man marrying a straight woman; or a lesbian marrying a straight man, there would not be this attraction. That person would be at the core of their being in a state of unease; because, they are attracted to people of the same sex, but their partner is of the opposite sex. And so, because this dimension of sexual identity, in that marriage, is denied to the gay man or lesbian, that person will not feel natural in such a union; nor will they be honored by it. And so it is not properly a marriage, for this dimension of marriage is not present.
And as for the case that it is a special privilege for a gay man to marry a gay man, this does not hold up to inspection either. As a straight man, I can marry a woman that I am attracted to; if she is also attracted to me; and we have a committed relationship. That is any woman. So that is the right of straight men, and the right of straight women too, to know that anyone that they are attracted to, if that person is also attracted to them; and they form a committed relationship and agree to get married; that they can get married.
However, for the gay man, or lesbian; this is not the case currently in our society. For in most states now we have the unfortunate situation where a gay man cannot marry someone that he is attracted to; and that gay men in general cannot marry people that they are attracted to. And the same is true for lesbians; that a woman who is a lesbian cannot marry someone she is attracted to; and that generally, women who are lesbians may not marry people that they are attracted to. However, again, as a straight man, or straight woman; it is my right to marry someone I am attracted to. And generally straight men and woman can marry people that they are attracted to. Clearly this is an inequality as compared to lesbians and gay men. So; it is not a privilege for a gay man to marry a gay man; nor is it a privilege for a lesbian to marry a lesbian.
It is a travesty, that in our society some people can marry, and other people cannot. There are things that can be done. Vote, talk to your policy makers; sign petitions. Acknowledge your viewpoint openly. Be the change you want to see in the world!