March 29th, 2012
There is a little-discussed element of religious freedom in the marriage equality debate. No, not the religious freedom of marriage equality opponents: they discuss that incessantly. What’s not discussed is the religious freedom of religious gays.
Contrary to Religious Right clichés,
There is such a thing as religious gays.
They want to marry because of what they believe,
They were taught that sex should come in the context of marriage,
So who are you Religious Rightists that belief to disparage?
Don’t you feel guilty (even a smidgen)
To deny gays religious freedom in the name of your religion?
Why do gays want the right to marry? If homosexuals were the amoral, asocial sexaholics that anti-gay marriage groups portray them to be, then they wouldn’t care about making a lifetime commitment in the eyes of friends, family, and God. In fact, they’d flee in disgust from such a horrible thing.
But many gays are in a stable monogamous relationship and want that commitment, and even gays that aren’t at the moment in a long-term relationship want the RIGHT to make it. Why? Because they value the social (and for some, religious) institution that marriage represents.
Most (actually all, as far as I can tell) of those who think homosexuality is a sin and oppose marriage equality also believe that non-marital sex is wrong. Some religious people dismiss the notion that homosexuality is evil and fully support marriage equality, but still believe that sex in marriage is morally superior to non-marital sex, at least when marriage is an option..
Many gays share that belief, either as a result of active religious beliefs, or as a residual effect of religious upbringing: why else would so many gays care so much about being “married” as opposed to the less controversial civil union? Why would they want church weddings? Unlike straights, gays historically have not had the right to marry and have been forced to have non-marital sex, or no sex at all (for most human beings, impossible on a long-term basis). Yet they still seek the social and religious imprimatur of marriage. They still, apparently for religious reasons, want to be having marital sex instead of non-marital sex.
By denying those gays the right to marry, those who trumpet their own religious freedom are hypocritically denying religious gays theirs, based on the rationale that “their religious beliefs are wrong.” So the issue of marriage equality is not only an issue of religious freedom versus civil rights. It’s also an issue of one group trying to deny another group religious freedom in the name of its own religion. And that’s EXACTLY the kind of thing which the First Amendment prohibits.
My personal view: I don’t think homosexuality is evil, I don’t believe that the Bible forbids gay marriage, and I think that extramarital sex is sometimes immoral, but certainly not always. And while I think that equal treatment under the law is more than enough of a basis to require marriage equality, I think that this religious freedom twist provides an additional rationale, and might also open the eyes of those who oppose marriage equality on religious grounds while simultaneously claiming that religious freedom requires that they be allowed to deny others the right to marry. And if that doesn’t work, perhaps this argument will at least demonstrate their hypocrisy.
No, Religious Rightists: no one is going to force your church to start hosting gay marriages. But if a gay couple’s church wants to, that couple and their congregation should have the right to do so.
P.S. to gay Christians: Unlike the Catholic Church, many Lutheran churches explicitly welcome gays, and their pastors are happy to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Those that do advertise themselves as “Reconciled in Christ” congregations (I belong to one myself). So if you’re a gay Christian whose church holds anti-gay beliefs, check out the Lutherans.