“There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” — Homer
Rumor has it that right after the Supreme Count issued its ruling on gay marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia went outside the Supreme Court building and met with Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and Mike Huckabee to see if the four of them could burn the building down.
This exasperated quartet is certainly not alone in feeling that the Court has committed a grievous error that threatens the traditional institution of marriage between and man and a woman. But this outrage mostly comes from religionists, especially those who are fundamentalists.
Take Christianity, for instance. For most of the last two thousand years, marriage for women was not exactly an equitable arrangement. In fact, marriage for the fairer sex was only one step above slavery. Consider Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV):
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
This gave rise to a bride’s wedding vow where she promises to “honor and obey” her husband. Although over the last few years, thanks to the feminist movement, that pledge has mostly been removed from the bride’s vows.
And note the quote above attributed to Homer. He uses the phrase “man and wife” as if it was “man and horse.” So, some 2,800 years ago, women were commonly regarded as unequal to men.
The driving principle of the Abrahamic religions, then as now, centered on the importance and power of patriarchy. Females are given their father’s surname at birth and take on their husband’s surname upon marriage. Unlike their sisters in more “primitive” cultures, such as native Americans, wives were denied their own unique identity.
Marriage is also a property transaction. In the days of yore, it usually involved a dowry of some kind. The bride-to-be’s parents would give a couple of goats and maybe a few chickens to the husband-to-be. In some cultures, the reverse is true; the groom pays off the bride’s parents with a few silver coins or livestock. These days, the dowry is typically an expensive, usually diamond, ring that the groom gives the bride at the wedding ceremony (and then has to pay for it over the next ten years.) And as if that wasn’t enough, the bride’s father is asked to “give his daughter away,” which just affirms the fact that he has transferred the wife-to-be to her husband so that she then becomes his property and takes on his name.
Of course, the conditions for marriage have changed over the years. Our little foursome of would-be arsonists should remember that interracial marriage was verboten for over 100 years until the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws in 1967.
They should also keep in mind that there are no laws preventing child molesters, wife beaters, and rapists from getting married, or even remarried. If morality is an issue, then those caterers serving weddings who refuse to make pizza and wedding cakes for gay weddings should also check the criminal records of the husbands-to-be in opposite sex weddings. The county clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples should do likewise. It could be that their moral indignation is merely a mask for their homophobia. Or maybe they are uncomfortable with their own sexuality.
Over the years, the gay community has managed to overcome its flamboyant stereotype and disappear into the crowds of just regular folk. As for marriage, studies have shown that gay couples tend to have more stable relationships and are even better parents than their opposite-sex counterparts.
In 2010 study from the University of California-San Francisco, “U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents” 2010 the conclusion was:
“The 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts”
I appreciate the dilemma that churches face in performing same-sex marriages. Jesus’s second commandment (Matt.19:17-19) compels them to “love your neighbor as yourself” and Luke 6:31 requires them to follow the golden rule.
Another complication for the Catholic Church is that gay marriages (for men only) may have been acceptable in the Dark Ages. Yale historian John Boswell, in his 1994 book, “Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe,” claims to have uncovered manuscripts that depict gay marriage ceremonies from the 8th to the 13th centuries. But gay marriages were stopped when church leaders decided marriage was only for procreation. (Boswell’s work has been called into question because of his bias as gay man.)
The Pledge of Allegiance ends with the phrase, “liberty and justice for all.” It does not say “liberty and justice for some.” Gays are full-fledged citizens, paying taxes, voting, making a contribution to the nation. And they are entitled to all the rights and privileges as non-gay citizens. Maybe Scalia, Jindal, Cruz, Huckabee and their ilk should think about that before they burn the place down.
This is a revised version of an Op-Ed by the Author that appeared in the Joplin Globe on July 26, 2015
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