Sometimes I just don’t get it…I do not understand the ‘dialog’ or discourse around marriage. While I agree that from a faith based stance, marriage is a sacred covenant or sacrament, there is nothing in the scriptures to state that marriage between a man and a woman is the only possible type of marriage. It appears to me that initially marriage was often polygamous and that servants or handmaidens could be ‘given’ as consorts or for that matter, a man could have many consorts. And, from a society that was patriarchal (and history is written by those who win and are in power) the scriptures were written from that societal perspective. Men and women were not equals nor were women independent. Women in large part were considered property, so a wedding constituted a sale – for women were bought and sold in the power game. Remember the story of Leah and Rachel. The father, Laban, owned the rights of his daughters in relationship to marriage and therefore delayed the marriage of Rachel and Jacob by replacing Rachel with Leah during the wedding. Jacob had to work seven years to win the right to Rachel’s hand initially and then had to work a second seven years to actually win Rachel as his wife. This may have been about love, but in reality it is about property and subjugation of women to men.
Individuals who say that the marriage enshrined in the Bible MUST be continued in fact want a reversion to the days when women were chattel. I know of no women (there may be a few) who want to be owned with no right to vote or to own their own property or to make choices in conjunction with a partner. In the United States today, women are not property. When they marry they do not lose their selfhood or perhaps I should say personhood.
Needless to say, most of us also would not support a return to multiple wives and/or consorts. To use the Hebrew Bible as the context for marriage would, however, require us to return there.
Just this morning while watching a political talk show I was reminded that as late as 1976 prior to a Supreme Court decision stating that individuals of different races could marry, a black person could not marry a white person in many states. The court decision was based on personhood – that race did not define personhood.
Ten years ago I dated and almost married a black man. We were quite the couple – this very pale, white woman and this incredible ebony man. We stood out. But, we met no resistance as a couple. It was our acknowledged right to be a couple.
My point here is that the restrictions to civil marriage have been diverse. Many of those restrictions have been overturned because of the reality of human rights. Some objected on theological grounds to changing the status of women as property or of race in relationship to our human rights. The interpretation of scripture and of our constitution has changed culturally. And, I believe that our view of marriage needs to continue its revision.
The dialog around marriage and marriage equality is one largely based in fear of the unknown. If we do not understand something or it is beyond our experience, then we fear it. Men have now recognized the benefits of equality of the sexes. We as a society no longer fear interracial relationships. It is time to end the fear associated with marriage of same sex partners.
Part of the reason we can end this fear somewhat easily is because there are couples who live in our neighborhoods who are in essence married – just not in a recognized, authorized way. They are families of all sorts – with children, without children, lasting 50 years, breaking up after five years, with or without familial support. These families are just like ours – some dysfunctional, most filled with love and respect with hopes and dreams. You know them. And, in part, they are us.
One of the premises of my religion is the worth and dignity of every person. That is coupled with another principle of the interconnectedness of all life. Why, when we who love our partners and happen to be heterosexual, do we deny our connection and similarity to those of the same sex who love each other and have families together with all of the associated headaches and benefits?
There is nothing to fear from offering equal rights for marriage. I don’t say this from a theological perspective particularly, but rather from an experiential perspective. That is, I have known many same-sex couples who are productive, loving, capable, caring benefactors for the community. They have contributed greatly.
Love knows no boundaries, but historically there have been walls raised to limit loving relationships. Initially they were restricted by the concept of women as property. And, it was restricted by race. Those barriers are now gone. Let us remove one more barrier to loving partnerships – let us remove sexual orientation as a consideration in the question of who can marry.