Our Place with God

I was fortunate enough to be involved in a wonderful discussion at Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker's site A Christian Voice For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights with him and Stuffed Animal, of the wonderful blog Christ, The Gay Martyr, about the GLBT place in our understanding of God and who we are as Christians.

In my heart, I've always believed there was a special place in God's heart for GLBT folks. I don't think we were a mistake or apparition and especially not an abomination. We're here and we are an obvious part of the cycle of life that God intended since our genetics have continued throughout time in new generations.

What is our purpose and why are we here? Have you ever gotten that feeling that you were meant to do great things and that there was a greater purpose? I have and maybe, just maybe, the Gnostic writings that Stuffed Animal introduces to us is a hint of who and why we are. We'll never completely understand, but for those after God's own heart, shouldn't we try?

As our society continues to fight against and grapple with GLBT rights, it's important that our allies, family, friends, and our own community seek a deeper understanding of our place so we can fight the evil invading this world in the name of God.

The full discussion is here and below are a few snippets of the discussion.

It's fairly long but worth the read. The concepts of "essential orientation" vs. sexual behavior, the role of GLBTs in the faith, and androgyny and its impact on "reaction formation" in society should be discussed much more.

Dr. Maneker: I think one of the main reasons, if not the main reason for anti-Gay discrimination, is that the androgynous nature of Lesbians and Gay men just highlight, bring to consciousness, the androgynous nature of virtually everyone! That's the fear of those who are particularly sexually insecure; that's what they seek to deny to themselves and to others; hence, the hostility, and even the rage, directed against Gay people. We can never underestimate the role of what Freud called, "Reaction Formation," which occurs when a person feels an urge to do or say something and then actually does or says something that is effectively the opposite of what they really want." ...I'm still not convinced that Gay people have more of an androgynous nature than do Straight people. I think the crux of the matter is that Gay people make or seem to make that androgynous nature much more palpable and obvious to people; the ones who are the most uncomfortable with their androgynous natures, who insist they are "straight," are the ones who are the most threatened and lash out in any way they can to both remove the "threat" and to convince themselves that, after all, they are "real men," and "real women."

"Our souls are part of the eternal battle between good and evil." That's all true, except that NOTHING and NO ONE can separate us from the love of God! One of my favorite verses of Scripture is: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37) That's what makes the fundamentalists and biblical literalists so dangerous. Not only do they preach a false gospel, but they seek to put people in bondage and characterize Christianity as a harsh, legalistic, judgmental "religion," that has the effect of scarring others, particularly children, for life so that they either become little "stepford children" or rebel (the healthier alternative) and never set foot in those kind of churches again. Some, unfortunately, are lost to the Church forever, though not to God! God knows His own children and He will NEVER let us go!

Stuffed Animal: There's support in Gnostic scripture for what you say, Jerry. In the Secret Book of John, the Savior teaches about the destiny of LGBT souls. There are three paths for them: Those who know themselves and remain true to their nature will be taken up into Heaven. Those who do not know themselves and behave contrary to their nature will be reincarnated, paired in life with another androgynous soul and (hopefully)awakened to the truth in that way. Those who know themselves but willfully defy their true natures will descend to Satan's realm where the angel Tartarouchos awaits!

This teaching, of course, applies only to eunuchs and virgins, and it doesn't mean that people who lack androgyny aren't eligible for salvation. All souls are eligible, and those that rise from the dead will be androgynous (Luke 20). I have no idea how large a segment of humanity is androgynous, Jerry, but I do know that far more androgynous human beings exist than would be willing to acknowledge it. That's why it's impossible to estimate how many Gay people there are in the world. That's also why some of the most vicious enemies of Gay people are themselves Gay!

Stuffed Animal: That reminds me of another question I wanted to ask you. Do you believe that human sexual orientation is fluid? We've both heard people claim that they were Gay and then became Straight. I've personally heard a man say he was Straight until he became Gay by falling in love with a man. I've also encountered a blogger who claimed to be Lesbian although she wasn't attracted to women and prefers having sex with men! A co-worker of mine strongly believes true bisexuality doesn't exist; I disagree, although I must say, most bisexual folk I know about seem to take their heterosexual relationships far more seriously. I agree with him, though, that sexual orientation is NOT fluid; it's the same at birth as it is at death, and it doesn't change during one's lifetime based on who one sleeps with. What's your take?

Dr. Maneker: What I'm suggesting is that sexuality is multifaceted and it's in that multidimensional matrix that sexual orientation is frequently malleable to the point that some radical lesbians in the 1960's, for example, fell in love and married men a couple of decades later.

It's that very multidimensionality and malleability that helps create so much homophobia! That's where the Reaction Formation comes in. And that's why there is so much venom directed against Gay people, because of the interaction among one's neurobiology (that is by no means necessarily fixed at any one point in one's life regarding sexuality) and one's environment.

Stuffed Animal: I believe there's a difference between sexual activity and sexual orientation. I also believe sexual orientation isn't truly sexual orientation, but an expression of gender identity. Lots of people have discovered that orgasm can be achieved regardless of the genitalia of your partner. When I read about the sexual practices of ancient Greece and Rome, I think a lot of people knew as much in antiquity. You can never draw conclusions about someone's sexual orientation just by looking at their behavior...Deep inside, people know which gender they prefer to mate with, and by mating, I don't mean who they want to knock boots with. I mean who they'd be willing to settle down with. There are bisexual folk out there who claim to be Gay but who know in their hearts they'd never form a life partnership with someone of the same gender. "Questioning" doesn't mean orientation isn't fixed. It just means the questioning person doesn't know where it's fixed! She learns with time. I don't know what it feels like to question, and I'm thankful for that. I suspect it would be an excruciating thing to go through!

Lesbians and Gay men go through the process that Jesus Christ described in the book of Thomas, that process of awakening and realization, knowing yourself to be different. The difference involves much more than sexuality, and it's hard to explain to someone who hasn't felt it. You may be surprised to know that the first time I was touched by another man, I was repulsed. The second time, too! I didn't want anything to do with those men. Yet, both times I knew the touch of another man was natural to me, and the second time I experienced the awakening.

Sexual desire is superficial emotion that gets accorded far too much importance. I'm as convinced that homosexuality isn't its own entity as I am convinced that male doesn't attract female. Homosexuality is merely the expression of an entity: Androgynous nature. It's not the only expression, either! Androgynous gender affects more than sexuality. It also affects perception and inclination and other things I can't explain.

Me: Could environmental availability be the reason for certain sexual behaviors? As we know, sex is a perfectly natural desire, behavior, and human need. Sex makes us feel connected not just to another human being, but to the larger universe around us. Therefore, it's a necessary part of our nature as humans. Would or should that be expected to change in environmentally stringent situations?

My partner and I talk about this from time to time but she's asked me if I would feel differently about her, love her any less or find her less attractive if she had a sex change operation? At first, I think it would have been hard for me to imagine such a thing. I just can't imagine her as a man, but I also know that my love for her is about much more than her body parts. I love her soul, her mind, her personality, and even her idiosyncrancies (excuse my spelling!).

Another proposition: what if I was stuck on an island with no women around, just a man, would I have sex with him? Yeah, probably. That would be purely about "environmental availability." The man would be my only option for engaging in the natural behavior of sex. However, it wouldn't be performed out of love but a purely primal desire for satisfaction. I would certainly prefer a woman that I could possibly emotionally bond to.

Dr. Maneker: Callie: I think you touched the crux of the differences between "identity" and "essence" that has been a good deal of the focus of this discussion. My contention is that changes in neurobiology and/or environment can seemingly change sexual orientation; Stuffed Animal (and I hope I'm doing his argument justice, here) thinks that sexual orientation is fixed at birth and he/she will die with that sexual orientation, even if he/she is unaware of his/her sexual orientation, due to assorted factors.

From what you suggest, we may both be correct. "Self-identification" may be a function of behavior, belief, attitude, environment, etc. "Essence" is the result of what is immutably innate, independent of the realization of the person. Unfortunately, as you say, "It's a fascinating discussion and probably one we won't be finding any conclusive answers to anytime soon."

Me: Exactly! For instance, in that "stranded on an island" scenario, I might self-identify or simply be inferred as heterosexual; however, my essence, whether I know it or not, would be homosexual.

Having sex, a purely physical act, with a man doesn't necessarily make my straight. My spiritual and emotional orientation would still be towards women, but it wouldn't be what is available at the moment.

Stuffed Animal: It's the concept of the importance of self-knowledge that comes up so often in the Gnostic Gospels. The texts say that some of us will recognize the fullness (androgyny) within ourselves, and others of us will be in denial about it. This certainly describes how Gay people experience sexual orientation.

Jerry, you asked me yesterday about the lineage of Lesbians and Gay men. I didn't answer immediately because I was trying to think of a good way to summarize what I've been reading. Let me put it in purely clinical terms: The Secret Book of John indicates that there's a recessive gene passed from generation to generation through sperm that, when joined to a certain kind of ovum, produces an LGBT child. This genetic code first appeared in Seth, the first son of Adam (Gnostic scripture claims that neither Cain nor Able were fathered by Adam). Therefore, in theory, all LGBT people can trace their ancestry to Seth. The Gnostics referred to Lesbians and Gay men as "the unshakeable generation," "the priestly order," "free men" (Gay man), "virgins" (Lesbians) and "attendants of the Holy Wedding Chamber" (the etymological meaning of the word "eunuchs"). Beings who possess the fullness (homosexual people) are thought to defile themselves by sexual contact with those who lack the fullness (heterosexual people). For that reason, we are lacking heterosexual desire. The texts indicate this is according to God's will.


Reclaiming the Gospel

In this interview with the Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, the gauntlet is laid bare for all of those who call themselves Christian.

The time to speak up is NOW! The time to reclaim the truth of the Gospel is NOW!

All decent people, particularly Christians, must confront the perversion of the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: the Gospel of grace (God's unmerited favor to us), faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness. There is no other Gospel in Christianity! We must fight against the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion that is promulgated by the modern day Pharisees in our midst who are attempting to hijack the terms "conservative" and "evangelical," just as they are trying to hijack the term "Christianity" itself.
If we don't confront them, we are culpable in their sins! ("Illegal immigrants," or another vulnerable minority group is now waiting in the wings for the haters' full venom to be expressed when they don't perceive there to be as much mileage to be gained by condemning and oppressing LGBT people as they thought.) It is important to remember, as I've written before, every single drop of blood shed by LGBT people, either through suicide, bashing, and/or murder is on the hands of homophobic clergy and their followers, and this message must be hammered home as loudly and as often, in as many venues as possible, for Christianity to have the credibility that it deserves.
And it's high time that that fact was recognized and proclaimed as loudly and as vociferously as possibe, both for the well-being of God's LGBT children, for the well-being of other vulnerable people and minority groups, and for the well-being of Christianity itself!


Only in "America"

Ah, I see! Apparently it's considered illegal and wrong for the general public to vote on increasing taxes, but not on one of the most intimate and personal decision a person makes: who they want to marry.

God, only in our twisted version of "America" can this happen!

Opinions differ on tax vote's legality
Letting voters decide increases yet to be tested

I don't like high taxes either and I don't like the idea of folks voting on it, but I don't like being told I can't get married either by strangers.

We are one f***ed up country!


The Meaning of Family

This is what happens when people focus on their own damn families. They're not so worried about destroying everyone else's. I think I would have given anything to have had parents like this.

Let's Show the Nation that Tennessee Respects Loving Couples

It is widely assumed that passage of an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution will guarantee that no same gender marriages will take place in our state. But that is not exactly true.

Having spent my career as an ordained minister, I am keenly aware that there are two primary dimensions of a marriage: one spiritual and one legal. At its heart, a marriage is a deeply personal and spiritual covenant between two persons who love each other and pledge to spend their lives together.

In this primary sense of the word, we have had gay marriage for a long time and we will continue to have it for as long as liberty survives in America.

How true! All through history gay couples and families have existed, in spite of all the difficulties society threw at them. If you're unsure of this, watch the movie "Aimee & Jaguar" sometimes. It's the true story of two women (one Jewish, the other a German officers wife) who fell in love during the reign of Hitler. Unfortunately, they didn't have the happy ending we all yearn for. When the relationship was discovered, the Jewish woman was taken to the concentration camps. The other tried to find her and prayed she'd survive the camps, but she didn't.

An amendment and all the laws in the world can't defeat love. We will be together no matter what society tries to do to us. The only question then is if we can't be stopped then what's the point of these amendments?

Seems to me the point is to be mean spirited and cruel. Once you understand the consequences of what I wrote about previously and you understand that we won't disappear because an amendment, what other reason is there?


What is Marriage Anyway? The Introduction to the Arguments

Last week I went to a forum at the Nashville Jewish Community Center on “What is Marriage Anyway?” It was brought together by Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, and Tennessee Equality Project. The issue was to discuss the role of marriage in contemporary society and to hear various points of view on the topic of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. The upcoming vote on Nov. 7th on a constitutional amendment barring gay couples from marrying is what has made this discussion so necessary. Most of the people in attendance were supportive of marriage equality for gay couples; however, that wasn’t the intention of the groups involved. In fact, they purposefully invited local spokespeople of the Family Research Council, the two members of congress co-sponsoring the state amendment, and even a representative from Bill Frist’s office, since he co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, but all of these people declined to participate. While much of it felt like a preaching to the choir, there were some interesting points of view and a great discussion of the complexities and problems with a constitutional amendment. I thought I would share some of those with you. If nothing else, perhaps having a variety of arguments will help us discuss this issue better.

First of all, what is the amendment? What does it say?

Vote No on 1, the Tennessee grassroots organization fighting this amendment, has it posted on their website:

The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state.

Panel Speakers included:
Rabbi Alexis Berk, The Temple Ohabai Sholom
Shelley Klein, Director of Advocacy for Hadassah National
Gene Floyd, Member of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Chris Sanders, Tennessee Equality Project President
Abby Rubenfeld, Attorney and Former Legal Director of Lambda Legal Defense
Julian Kanter, A Father's Story

It is my hope that the three arguments I have broken this down into (Personal/Family, Civil Rights, and Religious) will help our community and our allies in formulating a sound discussion of this issue. Use what you need of this, add your own twist if you want. Even once all the amendments have been passed or not, remember that the fight goes on. New challenges will be thrown our way. New angles of fear and hatred will be tossed at us. We need to know where we stand and what we need to say. I hope this helps.

What is Marriage Anyway? The Personal/Family Argument

The discussion covered nearly all of the primary issues involved with this amendment. I want to try to point out those here. First of all, marriage is a personal and family issue so this amendment is harmful to the well-being of couples, their current families, and the families they plan to create. Gene Floyd and Julian Kanter were perhaps the most touching of the panelists, approaching this issue from a very personal point of view. Mrs. Floyd, a strong Southern Baptist, took issue with individuals using their faith to hurt others, especially her son. She said in true Southern Belle fashion that she “didn’t take to kindly” to the horrible things people were saying about her son. Mr. Kanter, who has no organizational affiliation and thus perhaps no organized agenda, asked to be on the panel so he could discuss his perspective of the amendment as an average father with a not-so-average daughter who just happens to be in a 13 year committed relationship with another woman. He simply stated that he worried about his daughter being harmed by this amendment and that he was concerned about how it would leave her and her partner of 13 years vulnerable in their time of need.

All parents worry about their kids, but parents of gay children worry even more so. They know that the world isn’t kind to difference and they know their gay kids will have difficulty. It’s good to know that unlike what many of us have experienced that there are good parents out there that are trying to make the world a safer place for their kids. It’s not always easy though. As Mrs. Floyd said, “Your child comes ‘out of the closet,’ and you go in.”

In other cases, the couples have children, whether within their current relationship or a previous one, and the amendment could possibly cause long-term harm to their created families. On this particular point, it’s personal for me. My partner and I have been together almost 11 years and we have a difficult decision to make. We want to have a child, but from everything we’ve read, there is no guarantee that the known donor or a third party wouldn’t or couldn’t challenge the legality of me as a parent to our child. An argument many people make who support these amendments is that we (gay couples) can get the same protections through legal contracts. Do some reading about this because it’s simply not true, not for gay couples. The closest we can get to protection is to do insemination through a doctor who gets the sperm from a sperm bank. For us, the nearest sperm bank is Atlanta and our doctor didn’t even know there wasn’t on in Nashville or what to do to help us. Supposedly, rights of the father are automatically written off if the donor’s sperm is donated through a bank or a doctor.

On top of that, this particular amendment mentions marriage as a “legal contract”. What about other “legal contracts”? Audience members were able to ask the panelists questions by writing them on cards for the moderator. That was basically my question to Abby Rubenfeld. What about the contracts we make? Can they be void or undone or invalid if this amendment passes? She said that typically contracts can’t be retroactively invalidated because the constitution is set up to avoid that. However, that same inconceivable retroactivity also was used by the state supreme court to get the measure on the ballots without enough time being allowed for review. That has a long complicated discussion so I won’t really bother with it. However, we see how laws are being retroactively used elsewhere. Massachusetts, even though they allow gay marriages, is retroactively using an old 1912 law to stop out-of-staters from getting married. The fundamentalist groups are trying to retroactively outlaw civil unions and domestic partnerships (even just domestic partner benefits) because amendments have passed in other states. In one breath they say that the amendments won’t eliminate the possibility of civil unions or DP’s but then as soon as they pass, they start working to do just that. Once Ms. Rubenfeld put all of that out there, she concluded that there isn’t a way to stop the attempt by those wish to try to invalidate our legal contracts. So, my partner and I are basically screwed. Actually, I’m more screwed than she is. If something happens to my partner, our contracts may not be recognized and they can even be challenged. It all depends on the whim of a judge. If he/she wants to use this amendment against us, he/she certainly could.

A question was raised about what is the next battleground area for marriage equality and that very example was brought up. I believe it is Minnesota that is going through this right now. The amendment passed because the citizens thought it left an open door for some kind of separate system for gay couples. Now that it’s passed, the fundamentalist groups are trying to get the state to do away with domestic partner benefits because the amendment doesn’t allow for the recognition of anything other than married couples as defined by their new law. It’s the opposite end of the “slippery slope” theory. Fundamentalists fear our relationships will lead to the approval of polygamy or bestiality, but they’re following the slippery slope on the other end to ensure that no gay relationship is ever recognized in any form or fashion.

As for the whole polygamy/bestiality comment, (yeah someone made that comment) the panelists didn’t even acknowledge the absurdity of the bestiality issue. However, Abby did comment that polygamy was outlawed because of its power issues. There is inequitable power in a polygamist society so it was deemed detrimental to society. I’ve heard another argument about this too. Basically, for as long as we’ve had statistics, the male/female split in society has hovered around the 50/50 range. Now if one male gets to “marry” so many women what kind of inequity and problems might be created for the males who don’t get to marry anyone. What will become of these men without partners? Wouldn’t eventually this cause a bit of an inbred situation? After all one man having children with many women means those children would be blood related. If this occurred enough, wouldn’t eventually the children or grandchildren have a higher chance of procreating together? Then again, with all of the divorced and remarried couples over and over again, what’s the difference? Perhaps men are getting their polygamist tendencies out of their system but in a different way, i.e. serial marriages. The only thing I can say about the bestiality thing is, how can a dog sign the marriage contract and how will the dog say the marriage vows? Yeah, exactly, now end of that stupid point of view.

What is Marriage Anyway? The Civil Rights Argument

The argument about marriage as a family issue and one where damage can be done to the family structure could go on and on. However, there are many other arguments to discuss. Another huge argument concerns the civil rights of gays and the constitutionality of these amendments. One speaker, Shelley Klein, of the national Hadassah, a Jewish women’s organization dedicated to righting social injustices, expressed her concern over the imposition this amendment made to individual civil rights. Though there has been some contention in Hadassah over gay rights, one thing they couldn’t ignore is that no matter what they may feel over “gay rights”, per se, is that a trend is occurring where these amendments supersede simply gay rights and transition into a civil rights issue. In other words, one group is pointedly left out of the social equation with these amendments and as such the Constitution is being used as a tool for discrimination, instead of its traditional use in expanding rights to the disenfranchised.

Other speakers, like Chris Sanders and Abby Rubenfeld, reiterated this point several times throughout the night as well. For them, this was the basic argument no matter what our religious or personal views were on the amendment. It is wrong and discriminatory to cut out one group from the social fabric of our society, to single them out for inequitable treatment. The constitution, whether state or federal, has never been used for this purpose. It’s contrary to our very essence as a country where we have worked hard and used the constitution to expand rights for the disenfranchised, not remove rights. Another thing we have not done as a society until now is put the majority in charge of voting on the rights of the minority. The constitution states that it is there to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. What’s more tyrannical than saying you can’t marry the person you love? What connotes more control and dominance over an Americans personal rights and decisions than to say we don’t like it so you can’t do it? And, as I pointed out above, this is about more than marriage but about trying to control even our ability to provide health insurance (DP benefits) for our partners. A “benefit” which by the way we pay huge taxes on. My partner and I both had DP benefits for the other at different times. We lost an extra $200 a month on taxes to cover this “benefit.” Heterosexual couples don’t pay that tax.

Some groups will claim that with the obvious argument that our marriage rights aren’t about civil rights that the majority has been determining the rights of the minority since the founding of the country. However, those were not through direct votes but through their legislators. We’ve seen how much backbone our legislators can have with this issue (please note, I’m being highly sarcastic) so why not use the tried and true process of letting the elected officials make these decisions. Because history has shown as well, that anytime a majority tried to undermine the rights of the minority it was found to be unconstitutional. The proponents of these amendments think that by being able to say that the voters directly said they don’t want gays to marry that it will have more weight. It won’t. These actions were found unconstitutional once and they’ll be found unconstitutional again, an affront to our basic civil rights. What is more basic of a civil right than marrying the person you love? Sure, our opposition say we have the right to marry as long as it’s someone of the opposite sex, but how would they like it if the rule applied to them. Sure, they can marry as long as it’s someone of the same sex. Why marry someone you don’t love? Wouldn’t such behavior only perpetuate the problems surrounding divorce and broken families?

Abby Rubenfeld made a tongue-in-cheek observation but still one that is very true. She said she began her legal practice in the 1980s in NY at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Back then, there was railing and ranting about how gay people, especially gay men, were so promiscuous. However, gays now are wanting to settle down, be responsible, but are told that they can’t by these very same people. As Abby said, “Someone needs to make up their mind.”

What is Marriage Anyway? The Religious Argument

Now, the final argument is the religious argument. You know, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Chris Sanders pointed out that if you get in a discussion with someone whose main point is that one-liner, then don’t bother discussing it further. The argument is lost. In many cases, those who want to make their arguments against gays based on their religious beliefs are lost. We won’t be able to reach them so it’s not beneficial to knock our heads against the wall trying to get through.

However, let’s look at this from a different angle. Not all faiths recognize ONLY heterosexual relationships. The United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists, (of course) the Metropolitan Community Church, Reformed Judaism, and some Episcopalians and liberal Baptists are just a few that do perform ceremonies for same-sex couples. Rabbi Berk mentioned that she had performed quite a few ceremonies for gay couples, but just as with a heterosexual couple, her signature on the contract has no power unless approved by the state. If a heterosexual couple came to her for a ceremony but didn’t have the marriage license, the ceremony would only have religious significance afforded by the couple’s faith, but it would hold no civil significance. They would be no more married in the eyes of the state than a gay couple.

So, the bottom line is that religious marriage and civil marriage are two different concepts. This amendment is about civil marriage, that which is recognized by the state, not by all religious groups because in essence, this amendment doesn’t recognize the practices and beliefs of ALL religious groups, just those that don’t recognize gay couples. In this sense, it contradicts the separation of church and state and it discriminates against the religious freedom of those who do and want to perform ceremonies for gay couples. As history has shown us with interracial marriage, churches can choose to perform or not perform a ceremony. If it goes against their teachings, the couple can find another church. My home church, a Southern Baptist church that was started by my ancestors, told one of my distant cousins that they wouldn’t perform a marriage ceremony for him because he was marrying a black woman. Did that stop the civil recognition of their marriage? No. He went to his to-be-wife’s church and had it done there. The same holds true here. A church can and should be able to decide they won’t marry gay couples, but it shouldn’t be the practice of the state to enshrine that discriminatory practice into law or to allow for only certain religions recognition of their practices.

There could be a lot more said about the religious argument, perhaps too much to mention now. I did find it interesting that Rabbi Berk, when confronted with the whole “Old Testament condemns homosexuality as an abomination” argument that she simply said that the Old Testament, like the Torah, is the historical foundation of our faith. It tells the story of how we as a religious people came to be, but with the coming of Jesus for Christians and the Rabbinical text for Jews, a new story was told. One where we weren’t tied to the old ways but were allowed to recognize God through new ways. For Christians, Jesus brought a new covenant epitomized in the Gospels where “love thy neighbor,” “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” and “judge not lest ye be judged” were the guiding principles of the new Christian faith. A discriminatory amendment is contrary to these teachings of Jesus.

Kind of on the heels of the religious argument is the phrase in the amendment “historical institution.” If we looked at marriage solely as an “historical institution,” wouldn’t that mean that married women whose husband dies has to marry their husband’s brother or that parents get a dowry for choosing the right husband for their daughter or that a man can have a concubine of 300 wives? It seems that describing marriage as an “historical institution” opens more doors to a “slippery slope” than anything gay couples could possibly bring to the table.