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The Unconventional Analysis of Marriage as a Practice

December 10, 2010

In the wake of the overturn of Proposition 8 in California and great progressive movement for the legalization of same-sex marriage, there is still a significant opposition against it. The majority of opposition is made up of conservatives and the Republicans are currently the majority in the House of Representatives. There is also a rise in the far right wing as the Tea Party movement has gained momentum in recent times. While opposing same-sex marriage is technically not part of the Tea Party’s agenda, New York Times polls indicate that only 16% of Tea Party followers support same-sex marriage. Most conservatives and Tea Party followers campaign under the banner of Christian values to validate and promote anti same-sex marriage sentiments, as we see it being heavily portrayed in today’s media.

I propose a logical and in depth analysis of marriage without idiosyncratic moral beliefs. The analysis will be a unique investigation in to a prevalently debated topic, as it will be in a viewpoint of a liberal Christian. It is a perception that is not depicted by the media as extremists often steal the headlines, despite the prodigious presence of prominent liberal Christian figures in support of same-sex marriage. This post will aspire to convey a rational and systematic argument for same-sex marriage in a historical, cultural, and religious context. It will also demonstrate that the interdiction of same-sex marriage is in violation with John Stuart Mill’s theory of liberty.

A conventional argument against same-sex marriage is that marriage must be defined as a union between a man and a woman. This relies on the notion that Christianity’s belief on marriage is the quintessential and exclusive definition. It would be ignorant and erroneous to assume such a belief. The institution of marriage is found in nearly every civilized culture throughout history. Christianity derived from Judaism and according to the experts of patheos, the formation of Judaism dates back to 2000 B.C. Christianity’s definition of marriage was then established even later than 2000 B.C. This indicates that the institution of marriage preexisted long before the Christian faith. The practice of marriage is found in Ancient Chinese and Mesopotamic civilizations, which date back to 9000 B.C. Separation of church and state should then allow different interpretations and practices of marriage or at least not limit it to one definition. Simply put, Christianity does not “own” the practice of marriage so any argument that asserts that marriage “should be” or is “supposed to be” blank “because of the Bible” is an invalid statement.

Throughout the years in the United States and arguably the world, marriage has become more of a cultural phenomenon rather than a religious one. Many observe the Christian sacrament of marriage regardless of the belief in faith. For example, many couples hold their ceremonies in a church even if they do not associate themselves with the faith. This is understandable because of the heavy influence of Christianity in America’s culture. Then it can no longer be considered a problem with religious definition, but rather the cultural execution of marriage. Perhaps new or different ceremonies of marriage should be formed or made more available for couples that do not practice the Christian faith. It is fair to claim that if same-sex marriage becomes legalized, then the ceremonies should not be held in churches and should be separated from Christian practice. But whether it should be separated or not, the fact of the matter is that marriage has become a cultural aspect of America; so all citizens should have the right to marry without the notion of gender and receive the benefits of it.

It seems to me that any religious resistance of same-sex marriage is on the basis of fear. The fear that the nation will be vulnerable to immorality as it is exposed to ways to living that is not in accordance to his or her belief. Another fear maybe that one’s faith may become less influential, hence cause it to diminish in number of followers. It is also seems immature and exaggerated when some conservative viewpoints claim that America needs to keep a moral political standpoint in order to remain in God’s favor. If God were to “punish” this country, it will not be for legalizing same-sex marriage, but it will be for many other things, such as for how we oppress and hate homosexuals. According to Christian doctrine, Jesus did not come to change governments or to condemn, but rather to love and teach. If a person claims that he or she has faith, then he or she must believe that the kingdom of God will not be stopped by a passing of a proposition. My arguments are in no way an attack on any organization or to cause discord within the Christian faith. Some may interpret the difference in opinions on social issues within the same faith as an inconsistency in belief, but in fact, Christianity does not lend itself to set concrete rules for every situation and issue in life. Also, unity is not the same as uniformity, similar to how each state has different laws and beliefs, yet are united as one nation.

The issue and state of same-sex marriage in the United States is what Mill describes as “tyranny of the majority.” It is a breach of Mill’s harm principle, which states that each individual has the right to act as however he or she wants as long as it is not harming others. When a people group is deprived of equal treatment then it is enacting harm. The homosexual community is simply oppressed, as they do not have the same and equal rights given to other citizens. It is against the core values of the United States and so the logical action would be to legalize same-sex marriage and includes equal benefit.

One Comment
  1. Hayley Sakwa permalink
    December 10, 2010 3:37 PM

    In support of your point, more political theorists than just Mill advocate that society should allow a variety of practices and opinions. Socrates argued that truth, rather than majority opinion, should be the standard of justice. Martin Luther King Jr.’s justification for civil disobedience proves that unjust laws do exist and should be refuted. Locke’s law of reason alludes to the idea that in addition to one’s own self-preservation, “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions”. Even Hobbes argues that the covenant provides a safe environment “whereby every man may know, what goods he may enjoy, and what actions he may do, without being molested by any of his fellow-subjects.” In short, there are many social theorists on your side.

    With that said, it could be said that time is on your side as well. The fact of the matter is that it takes a long time to reverse past trends and change enough minds to affect legislation. Take into account how long it took for civil rights (which many argue we are still fighting for) to be manifest in law or even for people to believe that the universe didn’t revolve around Earth. Changing minds is a long and sometimes disheartening process, yet Mill assures us that as long as all opinions are free to be heard, the truth will eventually manifest itself.

    Not to say that we should wait it out for years while the LGBT community continues to be treated unfairly, but there is some optimism in the frustration. Take comfort in the fact that by simply discussing and advocating this issue, we are taking strides towards permanent change. Legislation will come with time simply because we are the future legislators, voters, and leaders. As cliché as it sounds, ideas can change the future. Perhaps this is what Mill and the other theorists were alluding to all along.

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