On Defense of Marriage
By Oberon Zell-Ravenheart
Primate, Church of All Worlds
Feb. 15, 2003
As the seasons of the year begin to turn from Winter to
Spring, we come to the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia,
more commonly known in modern Mundania as “Valentine’s Day.” A
celebration of romantic love, which can only and ever be a good thing
all around, it seems to me.
In 2004, George W. Bush went out on a limb by staking his
election campaign on a single issue which he claimed to be of “national
importance:” the passage of a 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the
United States enshrining a definition of legal marriage as only
applicable to heterosexual couples. He and his “religious conservative”
supporters, whose stated agenda has long been that of overturning the
principle of separation of church and state to establish a
fundamentalist Christian theocracy in our country, refer to this
proposed Amendment as “Defense of Marriage.”
The implication of that terminology is that somehow “marriage”
is being threatened, and needs to be defended. Now, I’ve been married
to the same wonderful woman for 34 years, so naturally I take marriage
very seriously. Throughout this debate, I’ve been studying everything
that’s being said by Bush and his supporters on this issue, trying to
understand one core thing: Exactly what is this “threat” to my marriage
that I am supposed to be so worried about that I would feel the need for
a Constitutional Amendment to “protect” my marriage?
As near as I can make out amid all the acrimonious verbiage,
the perceived “threat” is entirely about the right of same-sex couples
who love each other deeply to enter into the same commitment of legal
marriage that opposite-sex couples have been allowed to do all along.
Now, try as I might, I just cannot see how other people getting married
can possibly threaten—or even impact in any way—my own marriage.
How could the loving, committed marriages of others be seen as
any kind of “threat” to anybody? This is what I just cannot understand.
When I see weddings, my entire thoughts and feelings are a
vicarious empathy for the joy and love those people are experiencing,
and the hope for them that their wedded partnership will be as long-term
and fulfilling as mine has been. It seems to me that the more people
find their own beloved soulmates, and settle down into a lifetime of
wedded bliss, the happier everyone should be. To feel hostile or
resentful over someone else’s happiness just seems to me to be the
epitome of spiteful mean-spiritedness, and certainly a far cry from the
teachings of the Savior these people claim to follow, whose primary
“commandment” was that people should love each other.
And the real irony of all this, of course, is that the vast
majority of opponents of “gay marriages” claim Biblical sanction for
their views. However, the Bible actually has very little to say on the
subject—never affirming heterosexual monogamy as the sole model. Indeed,
the marriage structure advocated in the Bible (and in the Koran) is
actually polygamy! Solomon, extolled as the greatest and wisest King of
Israel, had 200 wives and over 600 concubines! To be consistent, then,
religious fundamentalists wishing to invoke Biblical principles should
be advocating a return to the “traditional” polygamous marriage, rather
An article in the Sunday, 12/21/03, New York Times, headlined:
“Poll: U.S. backs ban on gay marriage,” gave the results of a recent
nationwide NY Times/CBS News poll regarding the proposed Constitutional
amendment to ban gay marriage. 53% say marriage is religious, with 71%
of them opposing gay marriage and supporting a Constitutional ban. 33%
say marriage is a legal covenant; and of those 55% support gay marriage
and oppose a Constitutional ban.
Now, if marriage is truly a religious matter, as 53% of the
American public evidently claims, then, according to the First
Amendment, the Government (and the Constitution) have no right to
legislate it at all! “Congress shall make no law respecting the
establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Since 71% of those who consider marriage to be religious want to ban it
for same-sex unions, clearly such a ban reflects religious rather than
legal/secular concerns, and therefore cannot be legislated
Constitutionally, as any such law would clearly be “prohibiting the free
exercise” of religion.
This interpretation is strongly reinforced by the fact that of
those who do not consider marriage to be a religious matter, but rather
a “legal covenant,” 55% of them actually oppose a legal ban on gay
marriages (as do 56% of all those between the voting ages of 18-29).
Therefore, there is no legitimate basis for such a Constitutional
Amendment—or even State or National laws restricting marriage to
“approved” partners. If the race of one’s intended partner cannot
legally be determined by the State, how can the gender?
But personally, I think all those pollsters are asking the
wrong question, and thereby automatically framing a preconceived
response. How about instead, if they asked: “Do you believe the
government has the right to tell you who you may or may not marry?” I
think that at least 99% of people polled would say, “Hell, no!” And that
would be the end of it.
Interestingly, a later Gallup Poll, conducted Feb. 6-8, 2004,
indicated that nationwide support for “a Constitutional Amendment that
would define marriage as being between a man and a woman, thus barring
marriages between gay or lesbian couples” had declined significantly in
the month since the previous poll, to an exact split of 47% in favor to
47% opposed, with 6% expressing “no opinion.” The tide is changing…