Okay, it’s time for one of my broken-record rants.
In the wake of President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, we’ve had a predictable–and increasingly tiresome–outpouring of criticisms to the effect that government recognition of such unions violates the “religious liberty” of those who oppose them.
No, it doesn’t.
Government recognition of civil same-sex marriages is no different from government’s recognition of heterosexual divorce. Divorce violates the religious doctrines of Catholics and several other Christian denominations. Those denominations remain free to expel divorced congregants, to refuse to recognize their newly single status, to preach against divorce, or to take such other congregational action as may be dictated by their particular theologies. Meanwhile, the government adjusts the legal, civil and tax status of divorced folks. It recognizes the reality of their severed relationship.
If every state in the country were to recognize same-sex marriage tomorrow–if they were to recognize the reality of same-sex relationships–churches would still be free to reject gay parishioners, to refuse to perform same-sex unions, and to preach about the sin of homosexuality in accordance with their doctrines. But gay couples could file joint tax returns. Their children would be covered under their employers’ health insurance policies. They would be entitled to hospital visitation, Social Security survivor benefits, and the full panoply of civil rights to which legally married folks are entitled. Last time I looked, there were well over a thousand such rights that my husband and I enjoy automatically because the government recognizes our marriage.
It has been obvious for a very long time that the only genuine objection to same-sex marriage is religious. There are no credible secular arguments, as was painfully clear from the trial testimony in California’s Proposition 8 litigation. Numerous studies have confirmed that children raised by gay parents–and there are millions of them–are just as well-adjusted and happy as those raised by heterosexuals. All of the public policy reasons for encouraging heterosexual marriage apply with equal force to homosexual ones. The “slippery slope” argument has best been rebutted by Bill Maher, who noted that allowing women to vote did not–surprise!–usher in voting rights for dogs or vegetables.
Furthermore, not all religions are homophobic. A growing number of denominations are welcoming gays and lesbians and celebrating same-sex marriages.
What we are seeing now is the last gasp of the fundamentalists who believe–contrary to history and the American constitution–that the U.S. is a Christian Nation, and not simply Christian, but their particular brand of Christian. When we deconstruct their argument, it boils down to a conviction that whenever the government allows behavior of which they disapprove, government has violated their religious liberty.
Next time we go to war, tell that to the Quakers.