For many Americans, the verdant months of spring and summer are when love is the in the air — and marriage is on the mind.
For our heterosexual population, their constitutional right to marry is taken for granted. However, for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population, not only is our constitutional right violated, but many of us must also go door-to-door to churches across the country asking ministers, “Will you marry us?”
If marriages are indeed made in heaven, then why are some folks and institutions messing in God’s business?
Although marriage is a matter of the heart, who we love, and who marries whom, at least on this Earthly plane, has always been the meddling business of both church and state.
Interracial marriages between African Americans and white Americans were forbidden in this country until 1967, although anti-miscegenation laws are still on the books in many of our states today.
African American slaves were forbidden to marry, so they “jumped over the broom” — an African American tradition — in front of their slave masters to consecrate their nuptials, until the end of the Civil War in 1865.
To date, no state in the union allows LGBT couples to tie the knot other than Vermont. But Vermont civil unions of same-sex couples are only recognized in the state of Vermont.
The theology of marriage as solely a heterosexual enterprise gets its genesis from the Adam and Eve narrative in the Bible. Although God introduced the couple to each other, God never married them nor sanctioned heterosexual coupling. She just merely blessed their union.
However, the biased belief that marriage is only for heterosexuals is always displayed at anti-queer rallies where our opponents carry placards which boast their biblical proscription, “God made Adam for Eve, not Steve!”
Unfortunately, the doors to most churches in this country feel the same way and they are slammed shut to LGBT people. The opposition to same-sex unions by clerics, for instance, was just heard in June 2001 at a press conference held by the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), a broad-based coalition of religious groups. AFM released a plan for a constitutional amendment concerning marriage with the supposed intent of strengthening the concept of family.
“Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” the proposed amendment states. “Neither this [U.S.] constitution or the constitution of any state, not state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”
The AFM proclaims that when our Founding Fathers adopted the U.S. constitution, marriage was assumed to be only a heterosexual union. However, nowhere in the constitution does it suggest that. And nowhere in the constitution do the words “marriage” or “family” appear.
To argue for a ban same-sex unions on a constitutional basis is unlawful not only because it makes LGBT people in our society second-class citizens. It also desecrates the intent of the constitution.
This is why Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Kevin Chang ruled on December 3, 1996, that the state of Hawaii “failed to present sufficient credible evidence” to prove why same-sex marriages should be banned.
Religious progressives have a different view from the AFM on this issue. The Rev. Joan Saniuk, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in Boston, a queer alternative for LGBT people of faith, feels that each faith community should be free to decide what constitutes marriage within their tradition.
“Those who perform this union are agents of the state for heterosexuals and not same-sex couples. That violates our freedom of religion,” says Saniuk. “The state may not use the religious beliefs of one segment of the community to determine the social norms of an entire community.”
Marriage is the blessing of a holy covenant, the union of two people in mutual companionship with one another. I believe in the power of the ritual because it is a public recognition of the validation of our lives, the sign of God’s presence in our midst, and the creation of a new life in Christ.
Rigid gender roles with their procreative mandate cloaked in religious and legal language only obfuscates the very essence of marriage: the essential dignity of all human life.
Marriage for same-sex couples is also about economic justice. We need the same laws that protect and recognize heterosexual families and households to be upheld for us as well. Domestic partner benefits, hospital visitations, adoption, property and guardian rights, should not only be the province of heterosexual unions.
We become a morally bankrupted society when the deciding factor about a person’s right to marry is predicated on his or her sexual orientation.
As a nation we cannot go forward until we rid ourselves of the provincial view that marriage is solely about the union of a man and woman instead about the holy covenant of two people committed to one another.