The Right Tries and Fails to turn Marriage Into a Religious Institution

Most people understand that marriage, matrimony, or wedlock is a social union or legal contract between people called spouses that creates kinship, and its definition varies according to different cultures, but is usually an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged. The concept of two human beings making a commitment borne of mutual love predates what the modern world refers to as organized religion, and the notion that two people cannot engage in a legal contract to live together without religious approval or definition is the height of absurdity, and yet in America, a secular nation, Christians attempt to control which two people can be married, but that is changing. Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court blog announced that thus far, the nation’s high court will not take up any number of cases or actions on same-sex marriage.

The entire objection and outrage against two people of the same sex entering into wedlock has its basis in Christianity, and the constant refrain from same-sex marriage opponents is that marriage is “the union of one man and one woman” as defined in the Christian bible. Same-sex marriage opponents back up their claim with the fallacy that America is a Christian nation as intended by the Founding Fathers, therefore the Christian bible, and evangelical fanatics, should dictate who gets to marry whom. However, the Founders never said the nation was beholden to the bible and in fact, they claimed America was not a Christian nation. In the Treaty of Tripoli (1796) George Washington, first president of the United States and affirmed Founding Father wrote, “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

Another confirmed Founding Father, and second president of the United States, John Adams, established that Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli proclaimed “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.” The Treaty was sent to the floor of the Senate in June, 1797, where it was read aloud in its entirety and unanimously approved before Adams, having read the treaty, signed it and proclaimed it to the nation. There can be little doubt that in the 1797 Senate, there were several Founding Fathers who heard the Treaty read aloud and unanimously approved it without contention over Article 11’s statement that America is not, in any sense, a Christian nation and yet conservatives persist in their assertion that same-sex couples are forbidden to marry because as a so-called Christian nation, the bible sets the nation’s statutes defining marriage.

It is phenomenally offensive that there were any cases Justices considered hearing to decide if the Christian bible supersedes the Constitution, or to decide whether or not Christians could enforce the discrimination engendered in opposition to same sex marriage. Out of ten cases, eight are about the federal definition of marriage, the Christian bible’s definition of marriage, and whether it holds in states that have legalized same-sex marriage. One of the cases concerns a similar restrictive definition of marriage under Arizona law, and the final case is about California’s Proposition 8, the voter initiative that banned gay marriage after the state courts allowed it. Proposition 8 has been ruled unconstitutional in several courts, but most recently in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In the real law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, the 14th Amendment clearly states that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution does it remotely mention god, Christianity, Jesus, or assign any standing to religion, or the Christian bible, as the foundation for discriminatory laws or prohibitions of “equal protection of the laws.”

Prohibiting same-sex marriage does have financial and personal impact on same-sex couples by forbidding them right to file as married for tax purposes, and in many states, inheritance, survivors, and next of kin benefits are restricted to opposite-sex couples. Many states have provisions for filing as “registered domestic partners” that accommodates same-sex couples and those who are not married, but set up house together the same as a married couple. Even though California’s Proposition 8 ban on same-sex-marriage has been struck down on grounds it is discriminatory, and thus unconstitutional, proponents argue the will of the people supersede the Constitution. However, that argument is absurd on its face because if the people voted unanimously to discriminate against left-handed or red-haired people, the law would be declared patently unconstitutional.

At least one Supreme Court Justice has already decided against same-sex marriage in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute promoting his book. Antonin Scalia explained to an audience that he was a constitutional “textualist” that means he applies the words in the Constitution as they were understood by the people who wrote and adopted them. He then listed a few of his favorite statutes “as they were understood  and written” including the death penalty and abortion, but the Constitution’s framers did not write about abortion so it is curious how he “textualizes” something not in the document much less applies the words “as they were written or understood” by the Constitution’s writers. Regarding same-sex marriage, Scalia gives a clue as to how he would vote; he said “homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state,” and that may well be true, but it is not in the Constitution and it also informs that Scalia only believes “homosexual sodomy” should be a criminal act, and not opposite-sex-marriage sodomy.

It has been too long in coming, but Americans are beginning to see same-sex marriage as what it rightly is; a personal choice between two people in love, and worthy of equal rights protections every opposite-sex couple enjoys. Same-sex marriage opponents have attempted every possible argument to restrict same-sex couples from marrying, including the lunatic claim they are “protecting traditional marriage,” but whatever absurd claim or excuse  they make, the basis always comes down to the bible definition. The recent election witnessed four states approve same-sex marriage and although it is a victory for the gay rights movement, it is a victory for equality and a sign that voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington are fair-minded and acted to see that equality prevailed by rejecting discrimination. It is noteworthy though, that many so-called Christians who claim they have nothing against the gay community are the first to oppose same-sex marriage and embrace discrimination belying their assertions they have “nothing against the gays;” except denying them equal rights.

Whether bible-loving opponents of same-sex marriage like it or not, marriage is not a religious institution and this country cannot allow religion to mandate who can, or cannot, engage in matrimony. America is a secular nation as the Founders intended, and regardless how often or loud evangelical fanatics preach otherwise, the Founding Fathers did not intend for America to be, or become, a Christian nation and they certainly did not prohibit same-sex marriage; so why does the religious right?

Comments are closed.