An Open Letter to Those Who Would Turn Back the Right to Same-Sex Marriage

Dear Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Greg AbbottGov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Jeb Bush, Ken Connelly, and yes, dear many friends of mine who vehemently oppose the results of the decision reached by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday in Obergefell v. Hodges. I was once a homophobe, and I once opposed the ability of same-sex individuals to enter into marriage with each other. My homophobia and my inability to comprehend the marriage of a same-sex couple were not due to any religious beliefs, as the latter is for so many of you. (I can’t say definitively that any of you is a homophobe, but by your statements I can say that some of you are often hateful and vindictive, despite professing that you are followers of Jesus.) The only reason I could not comprehend same-sex marriage is that for my entire lifetime, and as I understood history, marriage had always been between a man and a woman. However, if I had been born a hundred years earlier, I would have believed that women should not have the right to vote. If I had been born two hundred years earlier, I likely would have thought that owning slaves was perfectly OK, unless I had personally seen the mistreatment and squalid conditions that most slaves endured.

My own homophobia grew out of a misguided attempt by one of my college professors to “show affection for me.” It involved only a hug, but it was an uninvited one, and in that instant I was more uncomfortable than I had been at any other moment of my life. So I felt at odds with the same-sex community. But since that day many years ago I have learned that in terms of their behaviour to other people, homosexuals are pretty much the same as heterosexuals. A very small number act inappropriately toward others. An even smaller number of both orientations will insist on forcing themselves on another individual. And a very small number of both orientations will act in what society calls a promiscuous way. These behaviors are not reserved for any particular sexual orientation. So let’s move beyond homophobia and talk about the reason you say that you oppose same-sex marriage recognition by a civil authority and a civil society, in distinction to by a church and its congregation acting in a religious or canonical capacity.

Without fail you claim that states have the right to determine the meaning of marriage, and most if not all of you state that God defined marriage as between a man and a woman from the beginning of our time on earth. Yet you ignore that the Old Testament is filled with stories of plural marriages blessed by God. You note that Jesus said that marriage is between a man and a woman. Yet plenty of self-identified followers of Jesus engage in polygamous marriages. In sum, for all the individuals I named above, except perhaps Ken Connelly, whose religious background I have not researched, your view of marriage is founded upon your identification as a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian. Gov. Bush, who converted to Catholicism from a protestant faith, belongs to the same faith as Justice Scalia. You obviously believe that when the state issues a marriage license, it is acting not merely for civil society, but for your own denomination in its capacity as such. Yes, in order to be married in the eyes of the state, your congregants and parishioners must obtain a marriage license, and typically even your ministers will state at the ceremony not only “what God had brought together let no one put asunder,” but also “by the power vested in me by God and by the State of ___ I pronounce you husband and wife.” You may join these two authorities in one sentence, but our Constitution requires that they be forever separate, despite your deep desire to make your view of Christianity our state religion.

The U.S. Constitution clearly protects your free exercise of religion in its First Amendment. So worship as you wish, ordain only whom you feel should be ordained, and bless only heterosexual couples in the ceremonies performed by your clergy. But that same Constitution also prohibits a law respecting an establishment of religion, and prohibits the requirement for taking a religious oath to hold any office or public trust under the United States. When the state issues a marriage license, it is acting on behalf of it and civil society, not your church, and not any religion. When officers refuse to issue a marriage license or perform a civil wedding as instructed by the U.S. Supreme Court, they are violating the oath of office that they took to support the Constitution. And when you insist that the United States is a Christian (meaning evangelical, fundamentalist Christian) nation despite the provisions of the Constitution, you are being as dogmatic and as un-American as those who you claim would impose Sharia law.

In the past thirty years I have come to accept first the idea of civil unions and now accept and embrace that same-sex couples can enter into the same civil marriage relationship and obtain the same civil benefits as heterosexual couples. Due process and equal protection of the law require nothing less. I can be only repulsed by those who claim their faith requires them to not only refuse to allow their church to bless such a marriage, but that the laws of a civil society must do the same. You may claim to know the bible, but you know nothing of the mind of any loving God and you quite clearly know nothing about the founding of our nation and the writing of our Constitution, which after two hundred twenty-eight years includes all the amendments. Especially the ones that obligate us to have a just society that treats all its citizens equally in the eyes of the law.

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