Saturday, May 17, 2008

State Supreme Court Rules: Society Must Perish

Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The California State Supreme Court says that two men or two women who love each other should have the right to get married.

I gaze worriedly out the window for signs of chaos, but so far the world is quiet. Traffic seems to be moving along at the usual pace for a Saturday morning. There is nothing in the news about an explosion of immorality and wantonness. People are getting up, brewing coffee, and frying bacon like they usually do.

This ruling does not mean, as some have argued in the past, that religious institutions would be forced to perform same-sex weddings. That argument has always struck me as a transparent lie. Churches and their clergy always have a right to make their own rules about who can get married by them. My friend Rabbi Borak cannot be forced to marry me and Sarah - we're not Jewish. We could walk over to the Our Mother of Good Counsel Church on Vermont Avenue and ask to be married there, but we would likely be asked to convert and go to confession. They could ask that we live apart for some time before the marriage. They can refuse outright.

That right is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. It covers me, as well, as someone who performs marriages. The Kwan Um School of Zen is not required to offer marriage to anyone who walks in and asks for it. The School can require that the couple be members of a local Zen Center, or maybe take the five precepts first, and yes, it could refuse to marry same-sex couples. Happily, it has not.

But just in case, California's Supreme Court addressed this concern specifically:

“[A]ffording same-sex couples the opportunity to obtain the designation of marriage will not impinge upon the religious freedom of any religious organization, official, or any other person; no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

In other words, your church can still be anti-gay if it wants. Hooray for freedom.

Wouldn't you think people who are frightened of gays would want them to get domesticated and settle down into stable marriages? Aren't the advocates of marriage saying that marriage is a good thing for society? Why not proliferate it?

Here's why: because there are a great many people who do not want to treat homosexuals with dignity. It boils down to that. A great many people want to make sure homosexuals remain second-class citizens, for no valid reason.

Yet the Supreme Court has ruled, and the legislature has twice voted to approve a civil right of marriage (and yes, it should be called marriage) despite the state ban which has now been struck down. It will no doubt be challenged again, taken to a higher court. Let us welcome the dialogue. And may California join Massachusetts in taking a step away from ignorance and irrational prejudice.

Treating homosexuals as full citizens of our republic has nothing whatsoever to do with approving or "promoting" a homosexual lifestyle. Gracious me, it's none of my business! It is past time and shamefully overdue that we accord these men and women dignity and respect as human beings and fellow citizens.


One hour later, still no chaos or signs of divine retribution.

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