My brother sent me this article, entitled When religion loses its credibility. Written by a Baptist minister, it gives me some hope for this country. Every day, it seems like sensible people are coming around, and the gay rights movement is picking up steam.
In response to my brother's e-mail, I thanked him (it's nice to be reminded that your family is in your corner) and found myself writing a sort of column of my own. In re-reading it, I decided that I liked what I had written, so I might as well share it here:
I find columns like this especially comforting when the author's personal background would make you think he wouldn't take such a point of view. I don't doubt the inevitable outcome of the gay rights struggle. People are waking up to the fact that gay men and women are people, just like anyone else. I do believe that the average American is decent at heart and will do the right thing if given the opportunity. The problem is that those same average Americans are relatively gullible and lazy in their thinking.
As a result of their gullibility and intellectual laziness, they're easily swayed by political hard-liners with their own agendas and a willingness to say anything to get their way. The result is a majority of the states with laws and/or constitutional amendments prohibiting what should be basic civil rights for gay couples. Many go so far as banning recognition of civil unions and any rights incident to such arrangements, rather than stopping at the supposed point of concern for the proponents--the protection of the "sacred" institution of marriage. Aside from the clear hatred and discrimination behind such laws, the whole issue begs the question of how a "sacred" religious institution has anything to do with secular government. Many of the same "conservative" political elements like to paint this nation as one founded on Christian or Judeo-Christian principles, but they do so in willful ignorance of our history. The Founding Fathers of these United States were strongly and clearly in favor of the separation of church and state. Reading the primary materials of the era make that abundantly clear, but the aforementioned intellectual laziness has allowed millions of Americans to be convinced otherwise.
One clear example of the questioning, open nature in which religion was seen comes from Thomas Jefferson, a Christian. He wrote, "I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies." He was a Christian, but he was vehemently against blind faith.
Another example can be found in the writings of James Madison, a key drafter of the Constitution (recently the victim of an attempt to feed it through the White House shredder). In response to an effort in Congress to enact support for churches, he wrote to James Monroe, "How a regulation so unjust in itself, so foreign to the authority of Congress, and so hurtful to the sale of public land, and smelling so strongly of an antiquated bigotry, could have received the countenance of a committee is truly a matter of astonishment."
Clearly, the mixing of religion with the affairs of state is a very old problem and one that will be around long after we're gone. So the fight must go on.
The hope lies in winning the smaller battles. Everything in the anti-gay marriage movement has at its heart religious beliefs. No one is trying to force any religion to recognize an arrangement that is anathema to its core values. Neither do I wish to debate the wisdom of those values. Religions aren't founded upon logical conclusions but rather on faith. So a logical debate would be pointless.
Rather, as a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen, I, and many like me, want the freedom to avail ourselves of the same rights granted even to drunken revelers in Las Vegas who decide to get married on a whim, only to separate hours later. To the point, how dare anyone suggest that, after more than 11 years together, anyone has the right to question my partner's rights to property should I die? Or stop me from visiting him in the hospital if he falls ill? With all I've paid in taxes, how is there any justice in his not receiving survivor's benefits if I die? The list could go on for some time, as married couples have been granted many additional rights and privileges that are denied to others.
So yes, it was a very good column, and it's even better when one considers the source. With that said, the sad part is that there aren't more people making exactly the same point. We will win the war. The problem is that, like all wars, a lot of people will get hurt before the final battle is won.
If you made it through that but haven't read the column I linked at the start of this post, go read it. It's very good.