I try not to use this for political posturing or soapboxing, but I’ve got something I feel a need to share.
There is a problem with how we talk about marriage equality in the United States.
Marriage actually describes 2 different but closely related things:
- A religious ceremony, conducted by an officiant of that religion, which represents a joining of two lives into a shared life.
- A social contract between two adults, conferring a number of rights and responsibilities, as those two adults agree to share many aspects of their lives. This contract may be ratified by either a religious authority (minister, rabbi, priestess, &c.) or a secular authority (justice of the peace, ship’s captain, &c.).
So the problem is occurring because these two things are incredibly easy to conflate. After all, if you have the religious ceremony, and you are legally allowed to join in the social contract, you automatically have that done for you. No additional steps.
Because of this conflation, though, many people of faith have complained that their religious freedom is being impinged upon when they are told they are in the wrong for fighting marriage equality. After all, their religion bans this sort of activity, and they see it as a religious ceremony, so they want to prevent people who do not follow their religious strictures from participating in that ceremony.
Here’s the thing: I agree with that stance, as far as it goes. If the head of a church (such as the Pope) says that same-sex marriage is against the will of the Almighty and as such should not be supported by that church, then in no way, shape, or form should the church be required to provide that ceremony.
HOWEVER, that still leaves the social contract part of marriage. Any competent adult ought to be able to sign a contract. So, having two adults entering that social contract has nothing to do with religion. If it was solely based in religion, atheists would be barred from marriage. Thus, there’s no reasonable religious argument against marriage equality. But nobody seems to have explained that to the “help, help, I’m being repressed!” folks.
So, I think it’s important, when discussing this sort of thing with those who use religion as a reason to oppose marriage equality, to remind them of the different facets that make up marriage, and that nobody is forcing their religious institution to perform a religious ceremony that violates any doctrine set forth by the leaders of that religion.
Steps off soapbox, goes back to reading and lurking