Some things I want to understand, but I don’t. So I read and read and read some more, and I try to formulate an opinion based on reality, faith, and justice. And when I come to my conclusion, I feel I’ve reached it responsibly.
So when Amendment 1 came up, I wanted to understand why it was out there. Primarily, and we all know this to be true, the amendment is meant as a stopgap measure against those who want to legalize same sex marriage. Even though state law currently prohibits this type of marriage, many felt it necessary to put it in the state constitution. A constitutional amendment, the way I see it, is a broad and sweeping statement that is meant to fix a hole in the constitution.
The amendment, for those who’ve been sequestered in caves for the past year, states:
“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”
What confused me from the beginning was why this needed to be written into the state constitution. We all know that the law is meant to prevent same sex couples from marrying, but the amendment doesn’t say that specifically. It talks about ‘domestic legal unions.’ ‘Domestic legal unions’ is a very broad swath of people, not just people who are gay. But immediately after that language, it says that this amendment doesn’t prohibit people from entering into contracts with another private party.
On first glance, if you take the amendment as a whole, you might say, “This doesn’t take away anything. It allows people to enter into contracts and the courts cannot take away the rights of those entering into those contracts.” Other than the fact that contracts are a wonderful way to say ‘I love you,’ I had to wonder why was this being said at all?
As citizens, we can enter into any contract with any person or business or group, and as long as the contract does not violate any laws, we’re good to go. So now it’s in the constitution that we can still do that.
Back to the first part of the amendment: Why does marriage need to be defined by the state constitution? Why wasn’t the law enough? Laws are very specific, and in this case, whether you agree with the law or not, gays are not allowed to marry. We now have a constitutional amendment that broadly states marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Was this to simply keep the law from being challenged as unconstitutional and/or discriminatory? The textbook (not legal) definition of discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership - or perceived membership - in a certain group or category. So is the original law discriminatory? I think the answer is yes.
And now we have discrimination at the constitutional level. I know some of my friends will disagree, and that’s fine. I’m not going to call you a hater, a jerk, or something mean-spirited. Name calling from either side of the argument serves little purpose and doesn’t foster anything but ill-will and extreme division.
We are saying that our community, as a whole, can willfully discriminate against a segment of our tax paying citizenry. And our citizens justify the discrimination on theology.
I don’t have a problem with theology. I’m a Christian. I read the bible. I try to practice what I believe. I may find myself disagreeing with another’s interpretation of scripture, but disagreeing doesn’t take away the fact that I’m called to love my brothers and sisters unconditionally.
Theocracy, however, is another matter.
Much has been said that our country was founded on Christian principles, and I believe a lot of that analysis is true. However, many of the rights that were incorporated into the original laws were meant to protect the individual, not just the Christian individual. And this is where I take a left instead of a right.
Many Christians believe that marriage is a man/woman thing. This is theology. When Christians force their beliefs on others in the shape of laws and constitutional amendments, that is theocracy. Tell me truthfully, what do you think of when you hear the word theocracy? If all you can come up with is Islam, think again.
Let’s go back in history for a moment. When the pilgrims left England, what were they fleeing? It was a monarchy/theocracy. In 1559, the English passed a law that said all British citizens “attend services and follow the traditions of the Church of England.” (from ‘Why Did the Pilgrims Leave England?’ by Cheryl Bowman). The beliefs of the pilgrims were compromised by the state, and they could not worship as they wanted. The monarchy was a theocracy, utilizing their interpretation of theology as a basis for exercising power over the kingdom
From what I’ve read, including arguments on both sides, I can only come to the conclusion that our state and other states are folding theology into democracy a creating, amazingly, a theocracy. Even though this amendment guarantees that contracts will be honored (I’m still rolling my eyes over this language), it states that our citizens are beholden only to the Christian definition of marriage. And some of the arguments in favor of the amendment that start something like “What’s to say you couldn’t marry your dog, or a tree, or a…” are simply flip and insulting.
The amendment passed overwhelmingly yesterday. A lot of my friends are heartbroken and angry. Some of my friends feel this is a win for our state and for God.
Me? I’m heartbroken and angry. And I don’t find this to be a win for anyone, not even a win for my Christian friends who voted for its passage.