Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Marriage or Smarriage?

Marriage or Smarriage?     Words matter. And,  in the debate over marriage equality, words really, really matter.  I grew up Catholic. So, I am used to hearing the  phrase, "In the eyes of the church....".        And truthfully, in the eyes of the church, same sex couples will never be sanctioned let alone sanctified. Marriage is a sacrament, in the eyes of the Church, and that's ok! Some couples I know were first married by a Justice of the Peace, and later re-married “in the eyes of the church” by a clergyman.  So there are really two kinds of marriage already..religious marriage, and civil marriage.  We can have both, and they are not mutually exclusive.  Religious marriage  carries with it a civil status recognized by the state which alters the rights of the individuals who partake in it.  Civil marriage does not confer any sacramental benefits or status on the participants in the eyes of the church. But, while one may be a blessing, the other is not a curse.  Maybe it is all in how we describe it.       Are words the problem? Because if the problem lies simply in the words we use to describe it.... maybe we just need to give it a different name.      How about “Marriage”  (Heterosexual marriage) and “Smarriage “( same sex marriage) .  I use that example, tongue in cheek,  in discussing the issue with my college aged students.  If it is all about what we call it..why not just call it something different?  Same sex couples who are “smarried” could call their spouses “smusbands” or “swives”... If that is all we are arguing about, maybe that would solve the problem.         You don't have to celebrate someone else's marital status.  You don’t have to throw confetti, or go to the reception.  You need only respect it,  just as you would respect the rights all other citizens have under law.  Gay people are not seeking sacramental solace, or  religious approbation.  They are simply seeking tolerance, respect for their rights, and respect for how they choose to conduct their civil relationships.  Nothing more..nothing less.  This is not an assault on traditional marriage, and anyone who characterizes it as that is truly either misinformed or attempting to mislead.         It would be foolish to argue that someone supporting the sport of Soccer is advocating an end to the game of Football. The fight is over civil marriage, not religious marriage. You can't legislate a change in religious ideology. That would be wrong. Mandating contraceptive coverage by religious employers whose ideology rejects it is wrong.The critics of the Obama administration who said that regulation went too far were right.  As a result, Obama’s administration retreated, and reached a compromise.  So too is compromise possible on the issue of Marriage equality.  But unlike ardent ideologues, we must be wiling to compromise.      Religiosity simply has no place in the legislative world, and legislative mandates have no place in the world of religion. You have the right in this country to be religiously intolerant. You do not have the right to be civilly intolerant of rights which are guaranteed all Americans by the United States Constitution. It's as simple as that!                We just need to realize and respect the fact that in the eyes of the law, same sex couples should be treated no differently than interracial couples currently are when it comes to being accorded basic constitutional rights. ( Interracial couples were banned from marrying before 1967 - In Loving v. Virginia,  the USSC changed that) Current laws banning same sex marriage will no doubt eventually meet the same fate as laws banning interracial marriage.  It is an issue on which many Americans, like the President, are “evolving”.  History is not on the side of reversing the current sociological trend.  The more people get to know the human side of the issue, the less intolerant they become.  Former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s view on the subject is but a  example.  Because he has been affected personally, he sees it differently.  So will many more Americans as time progresses.      And, as for the President’s recent statement about the right of same sex individuals to marry...What did Obama really say? He said he supports equal rights. What's wrong with that?  When is the last time a President of the United States was criticized for advocating equality....  other than Barack Obama?  Come to think of it... the answer would be Abraham Lincoln...and we all know how that turned out.      Here’s hoping for a less drastic resolution of this current controversy.  If using different words will do is at least worth a try. --