Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Marriage Equality

As you may or may not know I'm taking a short hiatus from my job until I get my new car in August. In the meantime I'm doing a job that is incredibly hard, intimidating at times, and something I'm just as passionate about. I'm canvassing local registered voters and talking to them about marriage equality.

Every day I knock on 60-80 doors, and I have this conversation at least ten times:

Okay, maybe not that exact conversation, but something similar.


This is something my great state of Maine voted on in 2009. At the time the opposition rolled out a series of commercials claiming that gay marriage would be taught in schools and that teachers would encourage homosexuality, and other outlandish things. Since that campaign ended the leader of the opposition has admitted to those claims being exaggerated hyperbole. You can see that video here:

The one claim I hear the most often is that the government shouldn't have anything to say about marriage because marriage is a religious thing. I have to say, I can see this side of the argument. However, if marriage is a religious thing why do couples get a legal marriage certificate? For the legal protections, of course.

Should the government have anything to say about marriage? Probably not. I would say that means that they should withdraw all marriage licenses entirely and only recognize the religious/spiritual/personal ceremonies people held as proof of their commitment to one another. And don't tell me that they can't do that, because they already did. For the short period of time that it was legal in Maine many homosexual couples were married, only to be told later that their marriage was no longer legal.

There is a reason the government is involved. Marriage isn't just about that personal commitment. It's about the recognition that you are now family. Marriage isn't just about promising to love one another forever. It is what gives a wife the right to make medical decisions for an incapacitated husband. It is what proves that your commitment is serious enough for you to share financial responsibilities or health care. It's about committing yourself to raising children and buying houses together if you so care to. If marriage is entirely about the religious aspect why don't heterosexual couples just go to the church for their wedding and skip paying the $40 fee for a marriage license?

But marriage is not about the church, and the church is not (supposed to be) about the government. This country is built on diversity. From its earliest days we have had neighbors who didn't agree with neighbors. Through many wars we have had fathers disagreeing with daughters. That right to disagree, have our own opinions and speak our own minds and still be protected by our government is the beauty of living in this country.

I am not asking to infringe on religious marriage. I have no interest in being able to marry in someone else's church and I can marry at any time in my own church without the state recognizing it if I want. What I am asking for is the legal recognition that heterosexual couples already have. What I am asking for has absolutely nothing to do with religious marriage and everything to do with civil marriage.

If you don't want the word marriage involved because that's a religious thing you need to examine why your marriage is legal. Marriage was taken out of the church when they pinned a legal document to it. Don't violate my first amendment right to religion by claiming that only religions that recognize heterosexual marriages are allowed to marry their followers. In my church marriage is a commitment between two people who love each other regardless of gender. Are you ready to deny my religion just because you feel your religion holds the monopoly over a single word?

If marriage is a religious thing, let it be a religious thing. But if it is a legal thing, it needs to be made available to everyone.

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