Thursday, November 20, 2008

The River of Change is Wide and Deep

I read a post over at Marc's place, Le Trash Whisperer, about multiple topics but the one that particularly grabbed my thoughts had to do with the passage of the discrimination law, Prop 8, a California state initiative on the 2008 ballot. In case you have been shipwrecked in the south seas since November 4, Prop 8 legalized discrimination by revoking the right of gay couples to marry in California.

Marc has published several thoughtful pieces about the significance of the passage of Prop 8. I am awed by his ability to be far more reasonable and rational about this topic than I am.

I am unforgiving and judgemental. I find the denial of the right to enter into marriage based on the sexual orientation of the two people who wish to marry to be an unconscionable act of discrimination and those that support this discrimination to be bigots. I don't believe that declaring oneself not to be a bigot means anything; in this matter, actions and beliefs shout bigotry louder than any words of denial.

Marc suggests that there is a middle ground or compromise position that would allow for civil unions between any adults who choose that route, including gay couples, but that would reserve the term "marriage" for straight couples. I think that I understand his logic--so many who are against gay marriage insist that they object to what they perceive as the expansion of marriage to include same-sex partners and want it declared that marriage is only for male/female unions. Marc's solution would eliminate the entire debate as to how allowing two same-sex adults to marry would somehow undermine the institution of marriage.

While I respect Marc's proposal, I don't think that it would work. I think that the so-called "defense of marriage" forces would simply find other reasons to object to same sex unions, regardless of what they are called. I find it curious that the defenders of marriage only find the institution to be threatened by allowing two same-sex adults who wish to publicly profess their love for one another and their commitment to that love to marry. I figure that if marriage can survive infidelity, divorce, and indifference by one or more partners, it ought to be able to survive a few more people willing to give a lifetime commitment a try. It's not as if heterosexuals have made a huge success of lasting marriages; I really don't see how gay couples could do any worse.

A lot of people, including me, have made parallels between the racial civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement. After giving it some additional thought, I actually think that it may have been simpler for black people to achieve legal equality coupled with forward movement in social equality than it is going to be for gay people. Religion ultimately worked in favor of black people. Even in the heyday of slavery, the impetus of the abolitionist movement was born out of some Christian churches taking an inventory and recognizing that slavery and Christianity mixed about as well as oil and water. Certainly there were those who looked to the Bible to justify slavery, particularly among southern denominations. (Genesis 9:25-27 re: the children of Ham was often cited.) However, the abolitionist movement that blossomed in America grew out of an anti-slavery evangelicalism that had its roots in movements in England and in America that began to question human bondage as being consistent with a belief in a loving God and an obligation to love one's neighbor.

The intertwining of the civil rights movement and religion continued into the 20th century. The heart of the racial civil rights movement was grounded in a moral concept of the worth of all humans, regardless of skin color. After all, the largest symbol of the movement was a minister who appealed to basic principles of Christianity in promoting the message of equality. It was difficult for all but the most hardened, sheet wearing, cross-burning bigots to argue that the Christian God condoned keeping a people in bondage or subjected to second class citizenship because of the color of their skin.

Disturbingly, there is a refusal by a significant segment of organized religion to recognize anti-gay rights sentiment as being in the least bit immoral. To the contrary, they are certain that morality is on their side. They don't view the issue as denying rights to a group of people based on sexual orientation but rather as refusing to recognize what they view as unnatural, an aberration in the sight of man and God.

The phrase that I've heard for years is, "Hate the sin, but love the sinner." I find this sentiment hypocritical and nonsensical, but those that espouse it are rock solid in their self-righteousness. I don't know that they would be moved if their son or daughter, or grandchild declared, "I'm gay." I've seen far too many families close the door on all interactions with a family member who comes out of the closet. They pray for the "sinner" to see the error of his or her ways. On family holidays, a few daring souls speak about the absent family member in occasional hushed whispers, certain in their moral righteousness that they have followed God's law.

I don't have an answer. I believe that communication and education is essential, and we must continue to speak truth in a loud and clear voice and refuse to validate bigotry regardless of the basis for that bigotry.

However, I am disturbed at where my thoughts have taken me. I don't feel optimistic about social change taking place regarding gay civil rights to the same extent as black civil rights in the near future. I am also even more convinced of the absolute necessity of pushing forward with legal protections of those rights with "all deliberate speed."


Marc said...

I disagree on one point. If it was not the "marriage" concept the right objected to being extended our way, but all legal recognition of gay relationships, then why was there no mass movement launched from them to get the Domestic Partnership Bills repealed?
I care only that we get equality in front of the law, I think our insistence on the "m" word has caused a diversion of resources that could be spent to get legal protections for other gays in less liberal states. Like it or not, this is a war that will be won in incremental battles. The suit demanding marriage in California was filed prematurely, and the real life consequences have led to the present situation. Had we "settled" for domestic partnerships for a while more, in 5years we could have landed marriage, without worrying about its reversal. Californians needed just that more time for the crucial middle to see that the lesbians down the street getting hitched didn't have the remotest affect on anything they did or on their children And for the country as a whole to move left, as it was destined to do post-Bush.
What's that line? The ideal should not be the enemy of the possible? And I personally REFUSE to feel like a second class citizen because the Mormons and the Catholics and the Baptists disapprove of me. I consider it a badge of honor--I wouldn't have it any other way.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I agree that the solution will need to start on the legal front. Our society is not ready for the same groundswell for same sex marriage as it was for racial civil rights movement.

Alan said...

Marc's point about incrmentalism is certainly valid. The real movement in racial civil rights was very incremental too, spanning decades and still a work in progress with loads of education needed on all sides. I think that the gay community has actually moved forward faster. Much of that was due to the ground work laid by the civil rights movement as they broke down racial barriers.

However, a "separate but equal" system will never be equal and will soon become a barrier that will have to be broken. Accepting less than the ideal can create complacency that would be a big step back for (I almost wrote gay rights here, as if they were different from the rights of everyone else. See how easy it is to slip into the separatist mind set.) civil rights.

Jan said...

Very thought provoking entry Sheria Jan xx

Beth said...

I just commented on Marc's most recent entry about this, and used that phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin." I've heard that many times, and I see that you have, too!

I agree that religion plays a part in this...while the church realized that bigotry based on skin color was just not very Christian, they believe that homosexuality is an actual sin. I.e., "black folks can't help it that they were born that way, but gays sure can."

Society will eventually change, but in the meantime, I believe that legislation will be required to afford rights to all couples regardless of orientation.


Lisa :-] said...

I believe you have seen my opinion on this subject over at "Wearin' my Heart On My Sleeve..."

The fact is, the government has no business granting special rights to couples joined in a ceremony/institution that started out as a religious ritual. And the government has no business judging who should be allowed to be joined together in this institution based on what one religious tradition finds "sinful." If the government chooses to confer special rights on legally committed couples, that legality, and those rights, should be available to all. Anything less is a violation of the separation of church and state.

Unfortunately, first we will need to wrestle the country out of the grasp of the far right wing. I think that time is coming more quickly than we may think...

Anonymous said...


here we go......

lol you know that this.. brings out my UGLY SIDE.

So I will try to not get too ugly about it.

you know I am SO SICK of Religion and the whole were gonna burn in hell because were not pure and straight and are not heterosexual. You are wrong for being gay and you are hated by me and god Bullcrap..

I am just discusted by the fact of the things that I have read about how were to burn in hell and how we dont deserve rights and happiness like you straight people do. IT PISSES ME OFF.. to the point where you know what

I say screw religion.

Im to the point of being an Athiest.

All I can say is " I thought" that Jesus loves everyone.

But clearly I see he hates anyone thats NOT straight and pure. I guess that part of the bible was a crock of crap. And nothing but a lie


and not this bullcrap of Love the person but hate the sin I think again that's nothing but BS too.

ugh some topics just bring the ugly side out of me.

I was in a great mood now im just >_<

~ Christopher ~

Gerry said...

I have naturally given homosexual issues a lot of thought because of having been born to a father who I thought was a practicing homosexual, but very deep in the closet as his father may have been before him. Naturally there was a lot of denial with a live marriage with a woman going on. This was all taking place in a Mormon culture with most of the closeted ones I thought very uncomfortable with an active religious life. I spent years trying to get people to recognize that this could be happening, so I agree with Marc in saying that I think there are more important issues to address than gay marriage right now. I think all the vote means to prevent gay marriage is that people were not ready for it. I think they are a lot more used to the idea than at the beginning and were even close to passing it in places like California. I did not expect such active Mormon opposition in Calif. I always argue with my cousin in Calif. who is a very active Mormon about this issue, telling him that the church does not handle the homosexual issue well and that is why I won't belong to it. The most ironical thing of all is that I believe his mother, my dad's sister, to have been a deeply closeted lesbian. Her split between the church and her emotional needs was very disturbing to watch. She demanded I attend church and take Mormon seminary to stay with her. I thought her more insane than my father who did not split himself to this extent. I have been able to have so little discussion about any of this without somebody flying into a rage, getting insulting, etc, and this happens on both sides, well that is just it, a good outcome cannot happen unless there can be civilized dialogue of significant enough depth to further progress. So you have done a good thing to start a discussion. I hope you will continue to do so from time to time. Gerry