New York, I Love You

27 Jun

Have you heard the news? This weekend, New York became the sixth(ish) state in the US to legalize same-sex marriage. To show solidarity and share in the excitement, I’m going to do the bravest thing I’ve ever done: I’m telling you today that I am a true Christian supporting same-sex marriage.

Up until today, there were only a few people who truly knew my secret and yet, I’ve never wanted it to be a secret. I don’t know a single other Christian who agrees with me, not even my husband, and that’s made it hard for me to nurture my feelings on the subject. In fact, my family and my friends are all pretty set on viewing same-sex marriage as a threat to God’s plan for the family and yet I’ve never bought that idea. I don’t fall into the category of converting everyone to the way I feel (on any matter) so instead I co-exist pretty peacefully with people of opposite beliefs. I’ve sat silently through dozens of homophobic conversations for the sake of hearing other people out so I don’t intend to make a war of this. I just can’t stop myself from hurting for all the couples being denied one of the most basic of all civil rights.

I don’t consider marriage a Christian or even a religious rite. From the time of its creation, marriage has been the legal means by which two people join and share their assets. In the past (way back there in centuries), marriage was one of the only ways to ensure your household brought in food, money, and children to carry on your name. Often a man needed a woman to help with farming or running the household and providing offspring while women needed men for financial and physical security. Marriage was never considered a sacrament until the 12th century and has only been recognized as such by the Catholic church. To this day, Protestant denominations consider marriage blessed by Christ but since he did not participate in it or create it as something new (like communion or baptism), it is not considered an integral part of our  faith.

With this being the case, for most of us Christians, marriage remains a legal process, consecrated by God but not ours to own. We see marriage as a reflection of the covenant between God and the Hebrews, as our Jewish cousins passed onto us,  but even that transaction is contractual. It is binding in a soulful way but still lays out a set of rules and promises. This is exactly what legal marriage and civil unions stipulate as well. So is marriage only marriage when it is a religious ceremony? What about the mixed-gender marriages between atheists? Are they not legally married? Our government says they are. In other words, since it doesn’t seem that the government defines marriage by religious rite, why do so many Christians object to it on grounds of our faith? It seems to me that we have no right to impose scripture on a body that is not ruled by it. We are one nation under God, as every nation is ultimately, but our constitution dictates that the government should be unbiased. We’ve fought for decades to raise our government above race, gender, religion, and beliefs to enforce fair and equal legislation for all but in this one area, we continue to hinder it for the sake of what Christianity has labeled “an attack on the family.”

However, it scares me that government should have the power to say who can be married and who cannot. If we have agreed that marriage is above all a civil right, don’t you agree that taking it away from certain people puts every marriage in danger? Let me show you what I mean. In the 60’s, a famous court case was fought over a Virginia law that outlawed marriage between white and non-white people. In defiance of this law, a white man and an African-American woman married in DC but were seized from their home upon their return to Virgina. They were forced to leave their state forever or be imprisoned. Over the course of almost a decade, judges used scriptural evidence to show that God didn’t intend races to mix while still other churches took action to support inter-racial marriage. Finally, in 1967, the US Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia against all legislation restricting marriage on the basis of race. What makes me anxious about the current struggle for same-sex marriage is the past. When we give government the power to discriminate against any, we give it the power to discriminate against all. If I say now that that two women shouldn’t enjoy marriage because of their gender, someone else could come along and say that my husband and I shouldn’t be married because he was raised Baptist and I was Pentecostal or because he votes Republican and I vote Democratic (usually).

I agree that marriage and the family are under attack, but not by same-sex marriage. I would say that it’s under attack from the inside– from divorce rates and ugly custody battles and from marriages that maybe shouldn’t have happened or were forced by some societal pressure. I know that it’s under attack from the very people who are allowed to participate in it. Every time I watch a movie, a romantic comedy or drama, there seems to be some negative message about marriage. The media is beginning to sell the idea that all marriage is old-fashioned or doomed. If there’s a married couple in a movie, they’re always cheating or separating or going through a life crisis where they don’t know if they want to be with their partner. Marriage, from the media’s perspective, is all brokenness and tragedy and often I turn off a movie more worried for my own than I’ve ever been before. “What if I meet some clever, sexy man on a beach somewhere and wonder if my husband was the right choice?” (Don’t worry, I think Hubs is both clever and sexy.) But that’s what’s happening to marriage in reality, isn’t it? The truth is finally seeping into our escapism. Marriage is actually on the decline and divorce is on the rise. Common-law marriages and co-habitation are growing while married couples are shrinking. In Europe, if you get married you’re in a teeny-tiny minority because most European countries have legalized civil unions that grant all the rights of marriage. It’s not because same-sex couples have arrived on the scene. It’s because people are afraid of marriage. They’ve seen their parents, their siblings, their neighbors and teachers make a mess of their marriages and they say, “that can’t be right.” Just think, how many divorces, separations, or break-ups do you hear about as opposed to weddings or big anniversaries? In my life, the ugly and the depressing way outnumber the lasting and happy relationships.

So, honestly? Letting same-sex couples get married may be the best defense of marriage and the family we can now muster. I know I could learn a lot from these couples about overcoming hard times and tossing out traditional gender roles. What more do they know but just aren’t allowed or supposed to teach me? I say, if anyone is up for the challenge, let them be wed! If they’re brave enough to try, give them the chance to help fix the problem we’ve made of marriage because I remember what it was like when I would tell people “I’m getting married next month,” and all they could do was frown and say, “good luck with that,” or even, “you’ll live to regret it.” We don’t celebrate marriages enough in our society anymore. I want there to be a day when everyone rejoices at weddings instead of taking bets over how long it will last. Don’t you?

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3 Responses to “New York, I Love You”

  1. Traycee June 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Very nice!

  2. Hannah June 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Bryt, I could not agree more!! My parents are so against my beliefs in terms of that lol, but to me we are all human, we all have a heart and a soul and deserve to be treated as such, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation — Jesus surrounded Himself with everyone from rich to social outcasts and we should too. I am all for same sex marriage and am glad to see I am not alone! 🙂
    you go girl, i lovie your words!

  3. tamarazar July 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    You are absolutely not alone. ❤

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