Marriage Equality and US Politics

Yep.  I’m going there.

See my sidebar for discussion guidelines.  Lashon hara or nastiness will be deleted.

This issue has overtaken not only national politics, but people’s common sense.  It’s a ridiculous corollary to put forth that once men and women start marrying their own gender, suddenly people are going to want to marry their dogs, or Bessie the Cow (or, you know, the Eiffel Tower).  It’s also completely offensive and unconscionable to put incestuous or abusive relationships in the same category as loving, stable, monogamous and healthy gay and lesbian relationships.

I think we can all come up with way too many examples of heterosexual irresponsibility and deviance that put the “we are more moral than them” argument to rest.  Hugh (he, to me, is one of the most egregious – talk about heterosexual deviance), Rush, Kim, Bill (pick one), Newt, Brittney . . . the list goes on.  When thinking about these individual’s various behaviors, all of them are legal (and Kim and Brittney’s cases, sanctioned by law).  Even though most of us agree they are immoral.  And that is as it should be.  I of course think all of these people’s behavior is disgusting.  But it is between two (or, in some cases, more than two) CONSENTING ADULTS.  Which, even though immoral and gross, is not anyone else’s business.  Certainly not the government’s.  I believe very deeply in secular government, which is why I believe the mingling of religion in the legality of monogamous unions needs to be done away with.

The Jewish Press published this article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Monday.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I am not a fan of the way he has embraced the flashy side of media for his own purposes.  I also do not agree with his stance on homosexuality in general – which is not a huge surprise coming from a Reform Jew :D  That said, in my opinion this article is spot-on.

Civil Unions for ALL.  EVERYONE would have the same secular legal rights and protections as everyone else.  “Marriage” can be left up to each couple’s faith and faith institutions.  Half of Europe operates this way.  It makes total sense to me.  This way, faith institutions can follow their conscience and beliefs and either sanctify a union between two consenting adults, or not.  This would not affect in any way laws protecting children, or other at-risk groups.  The “age of consent” would still, of course, be in effect.  The age of consent to marry in Ohio is 16 with parents’ permission, 18 without.  FYI.

The key, for me, is the words “two consenting adults.”  I am pretty sure you can be an atheist and completely secular and know, for example, that child brides are inherently wrong.  It hurts children.  I do not need God to tell me that’s not good.  However, there are some faiths still today that believe God tells them it IS good.  There are countries where child marriage is rampant (Google it – I refuse to link to some of this).  “God” and “Faith” and “Religion” are used for both great good and great evil.  And “God,” “Faith,” and “Religion” should have nothing to do with whether or not a partner can have access to his/her partner’s medical records or access to the hospitalized partner at all.  Or tax protections and benefits.  Or legal recognition of parenthood. Etc.

If your religion and/or beliefs guide you towards believing that same-gender marriage is wrong, and you are a clergy person, you have every right not to sanctify that union under the auspices of your religion.  THANK GOD, our country does not, and should not, force you to officiate when it is clearly against your religious beliefs.  The reverse ought to be true.  And yet, currently, most states have legislated against marriage equality, with religion as it’s foundation argument (admitted or not).  This is simply wrong.

Our government looks the other way when 86 year old Hugh shnuggles with his 19 year old girlfriends (on TV no less).  If he married one of them, they would be afforded all the legal protections the law provides.  They are two consenting, legal adults.

Two 30 year old women, two consenting, legal adults, who have been in their committed, healthy, monogamous relationship for years, cannot legalize their union in most states, and have to jump through hundreds of legal hoops, costing thousands of dollars and untold hours and paperwork, just to make sure, for example, that they can legally protect each other in case of hospitalization – something legally married people take for granted.

Religion must be put aside.  Civil Unions For All.  And, if you want, a chuppah and a rabbi a few days later.

6 thoughts on “Marriage Equality and US Politics

  1. Totally with you Leah. I am fond of pointing out that I have two marriage contracts: a civil one which affords me the legal rights and was issued by the state, and a religious one which affords me the religious rights and was issued by my rabbi. My rabbi’s name is nowhere on my civil document, and the state is not listed anywhere on my ketubah (other than in the, on this day in this city concept) – and thats the essence of it. Two different things, two different sets of rights, but so hard to explain to other.
    (Thanks for saying what I needed and giving me a space to make my point.)

  2. The issue, as I see it, is that “marriage” is too broad for it’s own conceptual good. Contained within that single institution are 3 things:

    1) Fiscal union – implicit in my marriage is the fact that, should I die (G-d forbid, etc etc), my wife gets my stuff. And should we both die (again, G-d forbid, blah blah) the kids resulting from our untion get our stuff. And she can have an ATM card to my bank account with very little fuss. And I can log into her 401k information. etc etc. It’s not that you CAN’T do it when you aren’t married, it’s that it’s significantly harder.

    2) Legal union – also implicit in my marriage is that my wife can visit me in the hospital. She can sign a contract for both of us. She is automatically covered under my health insurance without any additional explanation. I can pick up our kids at school without a special form. We are, from a legal perspective, joint partners.

    3) Religious union – self explanatory.

    We’ve confused the 3 issues to the point where it’s unworkable. We need for consenting adults to be able to obtain 1 and 2 without the spector of 3 looming over their heads.

    Personally, I don’t NEED my Rabbi (or the Pope, or an Imam or whatever) to approve of same-sex marriage. I don’t need my religion or anyone else’s to change.

    But that’s only true as long as two adults who are committed to each have the same access to the first two items that I do.

    I’m frustrated by the fact that the dialogue hasn’t hit on this aspect (or if it has, I’ve missed it). I’m annoyed that each time the discussion comes up, religion and the religious element of marriage trumps all.

    PS: All of the above also applies to a group that few people address: heterosexual couples who – for whatever reason – don’t want to obtain a “traditional” marriage but do need the fiscal and legal aspects. I know 3 such couples, all together for 10 years or more. It’s not as rare as we might think.

    PPS: nice post and I’m glad you decided to “go there”.

  3. A rebuttal:

    Morality matters: In every society, there are values that are paradoxical. Freedom and order for example, are values where the rise of one inherently compromises the other. Morality and religion, in this way, often exist in such a relationship with freedom and personal choice. The more society emphasizes morality, the more it often sacrifices freedom. A rational society seeks to find the optimal balance between these values. A modern society that values morality excessively will likely be a less free society, and one that values freedom excessively will be a less moral one. The question of how morality is defined socially is similarly very complex and rife with potential for misuse. The easiest, most consistent position to take on these questions is to simply embrace either extreme. Either argue for total freedom and the absolute rejection of morality in society (often the position of the extreme Left), or argue for total morality and rejection of personal freedom (often the position of the extreme Right). I most certainly would not suggest that I, or anyone else, know the perfect, optimal balance between these values, or how to define morality socially. The point here is that the question of how society should regard the moral issue of socially-sanctioned marriage is a perfectly legitimate one. The writer here, in my opinion, takes the extreme position that I stated before, namely that morality has no place in organized society (i.e. government). I don’t agree. While I am not racing to impose religious law on American society, neither am I racing to de-legitimize the place of morality in organized society.

    The problem with homosexuality and gay marriage in particular: Let’s put aside the religious argument, as my suspicion is that most readers here are not particularly moved by the biblical injunction against homosexuality. The marriage relationship between a man and a woman represents a commitment to an encounter with the radical “other.” Men and women are profoundly different creatures, and the voluntary commitment to cope with that difference is a life-transforming step that makes possible creativity and human growth. In contrast, homosexuality is a commitment to sameness. It is, essentially, a pleasure-seeking, narcissistic move toward the fulfillment of pleasure with someone just like me. Of course, a counter-argument would be “isn’t heterosexual marriage for narcissistic fulfillment also?” Indeed, the sad truth is that, in America today, this is largely how marriage is seen. I am certainly not suggesting that marriage should not be enjoyable, but marriage, in my opinion, should be about much more than the narcissistic pleasure of its participants. Indeed, I would argue that this is why marriages are in such trouble in modern society. If I assume that marriage exists to make me happy, and that I’ve found someone “I’m compatible with,” then I am likely to be highly disappointed. Marriage is often not pleasurable, and the difficulty of encountering the other is often the hardest job of one’s life. In this difficulty, however, comes growth and fulfillment far beyond narcissistic pleasure. Again, if one believes that we are here on Earth to seek pleasure, and that the function of society is to maximally facilitate our pleasure, then a move toward gay marriage certainly makes sense. If, however, one believes that there is any larger purpose to society other than narcissistic pleasure, then societal sanctioning of gay marriage is but the latest step away from purpose. The writer here notes that there are plenty of problems in heterosexual marriages in America today. This is certainly true. It is akin, however, to saying that government is no preferable to anarchy because there are problems with government.

    Full disclosure: I am an Orthodox Jew who opposes homosexuality primarily because of the biblical injunction against it. Why, then, would I care about American law? Why should I impose my religious beliefs on others, and why should it animate me that other people have different values than mine? As noted above, I believe that a government that is not overly concerned with morality is a good thing, so why not let others simply have their own moral/religious code? The answer is that I live in America too, and I believe that sanctioning gay marriage is bad for society as a whole. Part of being “a light unto the nations” is speaking out when Jewish or non-Jewish society has gone astray. When Joe Lieberman publicly stated that President Clinton’s infidelity did, in fact, matter to society, he was saying that it’s not just about what “consenting adults” do. We have an obligation to be cognizant of the importance of morality in a reasonable society. In my opinion, sanctioning gay marriage is a move that will take our society one step lower.

    • *”The point here is that the question of how society should regard the moral issue of socially-sanctioned marriage is a perfectly legitimate one. The writer here, in my opinion, takes the extreme position that I stated before, namely that morality has no place in organized society (i.e. government).”*

      Here is a fundamental disagreement we have that I think defines this whole discussion: I do not equate the legal formation of a union between two consenting adults with morality. It is legal status. It appears as if half the states in the US agree with me, since 25 states plus the District of Columbia permit marriages to relatives as close as your first cousin, and the other 25 permit marriages to your second cousin or farther down the family line. (Source: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/state-laws-regarding-marriages-between-first-cousi.aspx). While one can argue that those unions are immoral (and genetically unsound), the legislature has clearly separated the moral issue from choosing to create laws that protect the legal, financial, tax and insurance benefits of those couples.

      *”The marriage relationship between a man and a woman represents a commitment to an encounter with the radical “other.” Men and women are profoundly different creatures, and the voluntary commitment to cope with that difference is a life-transforming step that makes possible creativity and human growth. In contrast, homosexuality is a commitment to sameness. It is, essentially, a pleasure-seeking, narcissistic move toward the fulfillment of pleasure with someone just like me.”*

      Same-gender does not eliminate “other”. My best friend and I are both women and we are about the same as a truck and a bicycle. Both vehicles, but a radically different driving experience. This often makes our relationship deeply challenging, and fulfilling at the same time. Secondly, the majority of heterosexual *and* homosexual couples I know enter into their relationships with same thoughtful intention to create a loving relationship that is based on mutual values, trust and love; not for “a pleasure-seeking, narcissistic move toward the fulfillment of pleasure with someone just like me.” I would also posit that many of the hetero-and-homosexual couples I know believe that God is a partner in their union and are deeply committed to the spiritual and religious part of their relationships – not just the physical.

      *”When Joe Lieberman publicly stated that President Clinton’s infidelity did, in fact, matter to society, he was saying that it’s not just about what “consenting adults” do. We have an obligation to be cognizant of the importance of morality in a reasonable society. In my opinion, sanctioning gay marriage is a move that will take our society one step lower.”*

      Once again, I think this fundamental disagreement comes into play: I do not in any way, shape, or form equate infidelity with homosexuality, any more than I equate homosexuality with depravity, pedophilia and other such awful acts. So for me, infidelity is, in fact, immoral and harmful to society; marriage equality is not. Once again, I am not talking about the religious sanctification of a union. I’m talking about legal status. I don’t believe any religious denomination should (or should be forced to) sanctify a union it sees as against its beliefs. But as this is not a country run by religious law, as, for example, in Israel or one of the Arab countries, legal protections for monogamous, responsible unions should be afforded to all.

  4. “My best friend and I are both women and we are about the same as a truck and a bicycle. Both vehicles, but a radically different driving experience. ”

    Leah – you are SO friggin good!!!! :) Love your post, your rebuttal to the rebuttal and YOU!! :) (but not THAT way!!!!!) :)

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