Observing the evolution of marriage in this country feels like watching a VHS movie on fast-forward; you can see all the events happening, but you’re not exactly sure how we got there. It’s very clear that same-sex marriage bans will soon be as much of the past as Betamax and VHS.
I grew up in a home that was open-minded when it came to same-sex couples. My mother had a few male friends in her life that happened to be gay, and their sexual preference was never a focus of conversation or ever even allowed as a way to frame how we discussed them.
I value the fact that my mom did not adopt the judgment so many Americans did back then, but it also makes it difficult for me to understand how things like North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment even passed.
Up until now, “defending” marriage has been championed by people who believe that same-sex marriage goes against their religious views. Late last month the United Church of Christ turned that argument on its head. The church filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying Amendment One violates the church’s constitutional guarantee to freedom of religion. It is believed to be the first legal challenge by a Christian denomination of a state’s gay marriage ban.
I attend a UCC Church, where the Reverend has not signed a state marriage license in eight years. He explained to me that he realized that he was “participating in a discriminatory system,” and until he could sign a state marriage certificate for everyone, he would no longer legally marry anyone.
When I talk to church members, they respect the fact that a church may not want to marry same-sex couples and that is acceptable to them. In turn, they would like others to respect their religion’s right to perform a ceremony their faith calls for as a matter of tradition.
The real problem comes down to legal recognition. You can deplore the idea of same-sex marriage, and feel certain those who participate in it will go to hell, but in our country—and others around the world—a legal marriage affords legal rights. Gay couples should have the right to be at each other’s bedside in ICU, the right to receive health benefits through their partner’s employer, the right to pay the most affordable tax rate by filing as a married couple. That has nothing to do with the Bible; it has to do with practicalities of life.
Take a look around the country, and same-sex marriage bans are crumbling. Just this week, an Oregon judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, and a Utah judge ordered officials to recognize more than a thousand marriages that had previously been in question. Yesterday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania – the last of the Northeast states with a same-sex marriage ban – declared the ban unconstitutional. It’s only a matter of time before our own state’s Marriage Amendment gets chipped away enough to crumble.