Same-Sex Marriage: Rights and Wrongs

It has become clear to me that to argue against same-sex civil marriage rights on the basis of religious belief is to argue that civil marriage rights equal sacramental marriage. Certainly there are those who are legally married who are not sacramentally married in the eyes of the church. There may be people who are legally married who do not share a spiritual union in the eyes of God and also those who are not legally married who have a spiritual union in the eyes of God. If the equation of civil marriage rights with sacramental marriage is fallacious, then the issue of civil marriage rights for same-sex couples must be critiqued differently than we might approach the decision of a church or congregation to recognize same-sex unions in some way.

I have come to the conclusion that denial of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples or differently gendered people is an act of violence against the people involved, regardless of whether I believe the relationship is condoned by my faith or in the eyes of God. For example – to be denied the right to see your intimate partner of 20 years when your partner is in an accident and is in the hospital because you are not considered legal kin – that is violence. If your intimate partner of 50 years is denied sharing your room with you in the nursing home – that is violence. When you are denied equal access to the social security survivor benefits when your life-long intimate partner dies and you have spent your assets for his or her medical treatment – that is violence. When the child a couple has raised together is taken away from the only individual they have known as their parent when their birth parent is deceased or separated – that is violence. When the people in these relationships and the children who are raised in these families do not have the right to equal protection of the integrity of their chosen familial bonds – that is violence. Regardless of my beliefs concerning the morality of the relationship involved, it is not my place to support violence against the people involved.

If we truly believe in the sacramental-civil marriage equation, we would have to argue for removal of children, denial of benefits, etc. to all whose relationships we find morally disagreeable or are not sanctioned in the eyes of our faith. Who is ready to say that the heterosexual monogamous relationships of pagans, atheists, agnostics, etc. are not worthy of civil marriage rights because they are not married within our faith? Certainly such arguments would be dismissed as a violation of human rights and acts of violence against those of other beliefs. There was a time in this country when it was illegal for people of different faiths to marry in some states. It was not so long ago that it was illegal for people of different races to marry in a large number of states across this country.

I therefore call on all who stand for justice, peace, and nonviolence to speak up for the right of same-sex couples and differently gendered people to be assured equal access to the 1,047 federal rights that come along with marriage, as well as those that the individual states confer on married couples.

Source: SojoNet 2001