Friday, July 4, 2008

Freedom to Marry on July 4th

On this July 4th, I've decided to post the folowing text of a letter to the editor I recently wrote and had published in an LA newspaper regarding gay/lesbian marriage rights. I couldn't think of a more appropriate, timely topic for this blog today, nor could I find a better way to write it than I already had.

Regardless of your thoughts on this issue, I hope you'll be able to keep an open mind. And a happy Fourth of July to all of my fellow Americans. The letter is thus:

I’ve been following the self-righteous protests of whacky bigots against same-sex marriage. The entirety of their argument is based in some verses of the Bible which, many serious scholars would agree, refer to male-on-male rape and homosexual behavior in pagan rituals. Never once is there a condemnation of loving relationships between two adults of the same sex. Rather, we have a poignant exaltation of such love in the story of Jonathan and David. Never once did Jesus, the messiah to whom the fundamentalists give lip service, mention homosexuality. He didn’t even allude to it. He spoke a lot about loving others and being non-judgmental, but not one word about homosexuality.

What the fundamentalists are trying to foist onto our legal system is their interpretation of a handful of Biblical passages. Does this mean to them that their reading of scripture is more correct than that of, say, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, or Reform Judaism, all of which are among the religious organizations supportive of same-sex marriage? They are trying to win a theological debate by having their own version of religion codified into state law.

I wonder if any of these zealots arguing against same-sex marriage are fully aware of the ground on which they stand.

Of great interest to me is the number of black church leaders who are leading these protests. News flash, folks: the Bible was interpreted throughout the ages to sanction slavery, right up into the 19th century. Many arguments for slavery came from the very Biblical books these black religious folks are quoting to condemn gays and lesbians. Let us not forget the Biblical passages interpreted for years as prohibitions against interracial marriage, either.

"The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of Negro suffrage,” argued one Presbyterian pastor as cited by Rev. Jack Rogers of the Presbyterian Church USA. Today, the religious fundamentalists are essentially saying, “The hope of civilization itself hangs on the defeat of same-sex marriage.”

The point is not to argue in favor of slavery or against interracial marriage. Rather, it is to say, how can you preach the Bible as the infallible word of God on one issue, then dismiss it as such on another?

Rightly foreseeing the shaky Biblical ground on which to base their opposition to same-sex marriage, others have tried to turn the debate into a pseudo-scientific one. They are obsessed about the so-called gay gene and whether it exists. One writer even challenged me for “robust” scientific evidence, although I have never once addressed the notion of a gay gene. It may or may not exist; just because researchers haven’t found it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Ironically, on June 18, an Italian study was published in which genes that can increase a woman’s fertility were found to correlate to homosexuality in men.

Personally, I think you’ll find a lot of factors that create affectional orientation, including biology, brain structure, preverbal experiences and, dare I say it, evolutionary process. In any event, most gays and lesbians experience their orientation as something innate and immutable. It is an affectional , not merely sexual, orientation. Gays and lesbians never awakened one day and decided to fall in love with people of the same gender any more than someone else decided to fall in love with people of the opposite gender. The “choice” in homosexuality is whether to live authentically or die in secrecy.

In the final analysis, though, does it really matter whether one was born gay or not? Does it really matter whether the Bible condemns homosexuality or not? At issue is the question of the state’s interest in one’s choice of marriage partner. I would submit that if one’s affectional orientation is innate, whatever the causes, the state could not deny a marriage license to two males any more than it could to a biracial couple. If on the other hand one’s affectional orientation is chosen, it is unquestionably a very personal choice, one which must be protected as are one’s choice of religion, politics and speech. To deny either an individual’s right to express his or her nature or to exercise his or her freedom of choice is antithetical to the very foundation of this nation and a bastardization of the Constitution’s function as protector of the minority from the whims of the majority.
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