Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My gay agenda -- Item #2

I never realized how difficult it would be to have an agenda. How does one come up with an agenda? It's one thing to have an idea of how you'd like the world to be, but quite another to suggest ways of achieving change. Especially when it comes to changing other people.

I did manage to come up with Item #2 for my gay agenda:

I want someone in AUTHORITY (Congress, The President, the Supreme Court) to remind the American People why our Constitution protects our right to Freedom of Religion, which also protects our right to Freedom from Religion.

Perhaps a little history lesson is in order:
After centuries of religious wars in Europe, in which Christians of various sects maimed and killed each other over whose brand of Christianity was the right one, people began to realize that no one was ever going to win, and that maybe all that killing and maiming might just be a little un-Christian.

And guess who came to America? People who were being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

What amazes me is that most Americans can easily criticize the Taliban and other Muslim extremists for imposing the harsh penalties prescribed by their religion (cutting off the hands of thieves, for example, or stoning to death a woman who has been raped, and therefore has technically committed adultery), yet few stop to think that, by insisting that our laws conform to their religious beliefs, they are doing pretty much the same thing.

What no one really seems to come to grips with is that, while it may be possible to compel behavior, it is impossible to compel belief. You can force me at gunpoint to go to church, and maybe you can insist rather forcefully that I mouthe certain prayers or credos, but you can't change what is in my mind or in my heart. That's the best reason not to force a religion or set of religious beliefs on anyone. It simply doesn't work.

And of course when you protect my right to believe and worship (or not worship) as I see fit, you protect your own right to do the same. If my rights can be abrogated, so can yours.

So keeping all that in mind, let's contemplate gay marriage. Or how about we just contemplate marriage, because I think we haven't given sufficient thought to what marriage is.

When a man and a woman marry in the religious tradition of their choice, they presumably make a commitment to found a family according to the beliefs of their religion about what constitutes a family, and what the rights, duties, and obligations of the spouses are. As a bonus, the state also agrees to recognize the new couple as a family.

Believe it or not, there are religious institutions that perform same-sex marriages, but so far only a few states (and not the federal government) acknowledge that two men or two women can form a family.

Prop 8 in California (which denies same-sex couples the right to marry) would never have been passed if not for the massive support of churches. Why do religious people feel they have the right to impose their religious beliefs on others?

It has been suggested that the state scrap marriage altogether, and just recognize civil unions between two people. So any male-female couple can have all the rights we now accord to married couples, but they won't have a marriage license, they'll have a civil union license, and if they want, their religious institution can provide a marriage license, just as they now provide a certificate of baptism, which is not the same thing as a birth certificate.

Because it seems it's the word "marriage" that gets folks all steamed up. And I don't think most gay people care what you call it, as long as their relationships are accorded the same respect as the relationships of the majority.

The Supreme Court of the State of California said:
retaining the traditional definition of marriage and affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples.

Here's the entire text of the decision:

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