It is a truth universally acknowledged that the subject of marriage is guaranteed to get one’s knickers in a twist. Look at the Katy Perry video for ‘Hot N Cold’. Now that is a riot in stereotypes. And really, that is what this subject is about: the upkeep of an institutional stereotype. Marriage. It is the current hotcake in US politics. One only has to look at the school-playground fight currently dubbed ‘the culture wars’ by the right-wingers.
In April, the Washington, D.C. City Council voted twelve to one to recognise gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions. Two groups are committed to countering the work of these Commies and their talk to civil liberties. Reverend Patrick Walker, a DC resident, heads an organisation that represents around 500 churches in the area. (500? DC? It’s tiny!) Stand 4 Marriage DC, which has links to larger country-wide lobbies, is headed by Bishop Harry Jackson, the owner of multiple homes who only registered to vote in DC this April. The idea, it would seem, is to exploit the black vote, if there can be said to be such a homogenous thing, and divide the city.
DC is an important battleground because it is the seat of government. “The City Council took action on this issue without bringing it to the residents of the District of Columbia in any form or fashion,” according to Walker. “It was almost a back-door kind of thing,” he added, in what was perhaps a Freudian slip. The rhetoric is typical: when a minority looks to be gaining a foothold, spout some vague idea about the will of the people. That’s right: let’s go back to mob rule and flout the principles of democracy.
This is fairly typical fare. The National Organization for Marriage recently launched an ad campaign. It seems the citizens are concerned that the legalization of same-sex marriage threatens their freedom as Americans to impose their values on others. Apparently, churches that do not get behind the law are threatened with losing their tax exemption, and some such stuff. “Religious liberty experts have said that these sorts of conflicts just scratch the surface of what we are likely to see if same-sex marriage becomes widespread,” they claim. Are these people in arrested development? Have they merely not progressed beyond the age of five?
I am not sure what this is doing in the church anyway. This is a civil debate in a democracy and as such it should be secular. I know that eighteenth century legal documents are not the easiest to read, but the first of the amendments to the US Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state. Quibble though they might, if this separation is not guaranteed one is living not in a democracy but a theocracy. You either believe in freedom or you do not. You either believe in equality or you do not.
In the fundamental document in US political history, Thomas Jefferson states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The Creator is a wonderfully vague phrase, and one that was added by the Congress and is not in Jefferson’s original draft. It could mean anything, all in all. The point is that it is not a core principle that one can brush aside.
This argument is really about civil partnerships anyway, and to call it marriage just makes it easier for the right-wingers to stir people up. But let’s face it, we’re going to call them marriages. This is what has happened in Britain, where the Civil Partnership bill of 2005 makes a mockery of the American political process. You wouldn’t say that a heterosexual couple joined in a registry office were not married. Let’s just get it out of the realm of religion altogether.
In the end, this not about marriage but about equality. These lobbyists do not believe in the principles that underwrite the US Constitution. Their allegiances lie elsewhere, and their rhetoric is that of the playground.
Links & Further Reading
The Political Cortex reports how Jamie Raskin, a constitutional historian, became a champion for same sex marriage by illustrating the separation of church and state.