As the governor’s race in Iowa begins to heat up, I am increasingly disturbed and dissatisfied with many of the planks of the Republican platform concerning same-sex marriage. More and more we see this idea that same-sex marriage in Iowa needs to be put up to a popular vote and then annulled or upheld on this vote. A similar campaign can be seen outside the state as more and more states move closer to provisions for same-sex marriage, this idea that popular vote can dictate who is and is not a citizen of the United States of America and deserving of equal protection under the law.
So what is this doing on the AAS blog? Well, let me tell you.
One main reason that this sticks in the craw of many atheists, myself included, is that this idea of “one man and one woman” as the sole definition of marriage stems from religious beliefs. This is nothing short of attempting to legislate from holy scripture. Time and again when cornered, enemies of same-sex marriage legislature are backed into the familiar corner of citing scripture and “tradition” over reason and evidence. Why this is so alarming is that instead of being called on this, they are being supported by right leaning citizens! Instead of crying foul of religion trumping civil rights these people gain support and increased campaign contributions! And the only reason that any of these people have to deny others their Constitutional rights is that “the Bible says so”. How are these people still viable candidates in the year 2010?
Now, I have seen some concessions from those on the Religious Right to those that have different sexual preferences than themselves:
“Why not just have a Civil Union that affords all the same rights, but not call it marriage?” Well, for one thing I’d like to point out is a case that I’m sure we’re all familiar with : Brown vs. Board of Education where we found that separate but equal is inherently unequal. How can we essentially segregate those that choose to marry the same sex from those that are heterosexual? Also, what if the two people are religious themselves? Are you now going to deny them their religious rights based on upholding your own? Now, if you are reading this you are probably getting a kick out of this conundrum because I know I am, and this just speaks to the inherent contradictory nature of religious belief. But I digress, how does the Religious Right justify denying a fellow religious person on grounds of their own religion?
“Marriage is a religious institution, government has no right legislating on the matter.” Oh, but it DOES! For all intents and purposes the role of marriage in government has absolutely nothing to do with religiosity but everything to do with household income, tax status, social services, and census data. If you want to get married in the Church of Saint Mattress, then that is all fine and dandy! The government doesn’t care where you got married, you are now a family unit. Now, if for a particular individual marriage is a very religious ceremony held with the utmost respect that is perfectly fine. That is up to you and your church to recognize it as such, but when it comes to equal protection under the law the church is out and the Constitution is IN. Nowhere in these same-sex laws does it say churches must recognize same sex marriage, they only note that the state must recognize same sex marriages. This is a key fundamental difference between a law that is inclusive and a religious law that is inherently exclusive.
“We should vote on the matter, we can’t have activist judges making up these laws!” Ah yes, just like we should have put Women’s Suffrage up for vote or the desegregation of high schools and colleges up to vote. I think we all know that in the 1950’s and 60’s when these issues were at their peak absolutely none of these demographics would have the same status they do today if it were put to a popular vote. In certain states in the South it’s easy to believe they still wouldn’t today. This is why we have a Constitution and Bill of Rights; to ensure every citizen has their rights protected equally under the law. To ignore equal protection under the law is to legitimize legislating racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and bigotry by popular vote. We have enough of these evils in our world, we do not need popular votes enacting them into law. We must examine issues and see how they measure up to the Constitution and then interpret and create our laws from there. Our judges are correct in ensuring that ALL citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, has the same opportunity to enjoy their rights as anyone else.
“Historically marriage has been between a man and a woman, it’s tradition!!” True, it is a tradition that marriage has been recognized as between a man and a woman, however, that is to ignore that homosexuals have existed throughout all the ages. These are times when religious superstition pervaded every aspect of society to a point that homosexuals were threatened with death- or worse in some cases. Thankfully we have made quite a bit of progress in the area and are no longer bound by the mystic dogma’s of superstition, at least when it comes to the secular documents of the United States. Whom you have a relationship with has nothing to do with how pious or devout or even what kind of morality you hold dear. It is simply a choice to enjoy the same rights as others that have been guaranteed throughout the history of legal union between two people. We can probably skip the parts about how slavery and misogyny are also tradition as even those on the Religious Right have a hard time defending that one. Tradition in and of itself is not a justification for perpetuating systematic institutional discrimination.
Those are just a few of the points brought up by those that hide behind religiosity as their last refuge for bigotry and discrimination. You’ll note that nowhere is there an appeal to “push some kind of atheist agenda” on anyone, but rather an idea of including every person in our state and country in the protections of our Constitution. I implore anyone that reads this to talk to their friends about this issue and any other that uses religion as replacement for reason. These questions need to be asked of our political leaders and community members so that they too can see the fallacies within their own reasoning when they hide behind religion.
Only by dropping the handicap of religion and freeing our mind to reason and debate these very important issues can we truly be a more free and just society.