Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Intefaith Appeal For Equality and Justice -- No on 8

An interfaith community has to be open to considering a great variety of viewpoints, often some very contradictory ones. The Interfaith Movement is predicated on recognizing our differences and diversity. Where the arguments against same-sex marriage are based on theology any church or other religious group may indeed choose not to perform or recognize those marriages. But why should this affect others?

While marriage is an important part of the religious world, different religions regard it differently. Nor is religion necessarily an element of marriage. Non-believers have enjoyed secular, civil marriage for centuries. Many volumes of family, tax, and property law hang on the legal, secular contract of marriage. Our diverse religions have thrived, separately and collectively with the separation of church and state. Under those principles, no law can interfere with ecclesiastical rites and rules of marriage; but neither does any religious institution have the right to impose its particular rules on the state.

We read the same arguments against same-sex marriage repeatedly, but they ring false. All of the arguments against same-sex marriage are never argued as general principles, but uniquely applied against same-sex couples. Any two drunken, infertile atheists who don’t know each other’s names can get married at the All-Nite Chapel of Elvis as long as they are of opposite sex. And they can get divorced two days later, but two men or two women who are deeply committed, have been building their lives together, and perhaps raising children together cannot obtain the legal, contractual benefits that marriage offers.

Acceptance for gay men and women has been growing steadily. History makes one thing obvious: While same-sex marriage can be delayed it will not be stopped. Fight it with whatever sense of righteousness you like. Yes sometimes there is a religious duty to stand against an inevitable tide, but rather than fighting a divisive battle against people who want to solemnize their love, to take the responsible path of their own love and their own faith, doesn’t your church have other, more serious battles? What if the many millions of dollars supporting Proposition 8 were used to feed the poor, to house the homeless, to provide care for the ill? The money, energy, and resources spent on elections to deprive people of equal rights could instead have been saving lives.

Again, I ask as an interfaith activist to other inter-faith activists, what right does any religion have to force their religious rules and reasons on any other? And what kind of interfaith activists are we if our many agreements to disagree aren’t based on universal values of respect for the rights of others? We can agree to disagree on so many issues, but do not ask me to agree to be a second-class citizen subject to the whims of a majority. We’ve seen too often where that leads.

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