Tuesday, October 9, 2012

LGBT Civil and Spiritual Rights to Marriage

By Gregory Allen


The popular opinion on marriage equality is shifting and becoming more tolerant, with the Supreme Court expected to weigh in on the issue and more potential states looking toward legally recognizing same-sex marriages. Opponents, however, still provide obstacles for those wishing to practice a cultural tradition in their private and public life.

The most vocal opposition to marriage equality recently has been from organizations citing religious faith and practice as their motivation for denying the rights of others. Brian S. Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has appeared on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC.

Despite many public media appearances, the group does not represent every member of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other organized religion; nor does NOM speak for a majority of the American population, religious or secular.

However, their justification for why marriage should be limited from certain parties and available to others is drawn from religious tradition and supported by passages in religious texts.

It is important to note this, because religious justification and defenses of marriage directly imply the LGBT community is not experiencing religion correctly, or by sharing a same-sex lifestyle, incapable of practicing certain religions genuinely.


NOM provides several religious defenses of “traditional marriage” across its website. On behalf of Catholic tradition, the site proclaims, “For Catholics, marriage is a sacrament. A loving, faithful, permanent union of husband and wife mirrors Christ’s sacrificial love for us; through marriage we also experience his grace.”

NOM’s website also provides further support, drawn from its Protestant section, “Most Christians know from the Bible that marriage is part of God’s original order.” This is followed by quotes from Genesis (2:18) and Mark (10: 6, 7, 9), while further elaborating on the ties between marriage and a family unit previously kept reserved from same-sex couples because of reproductive implications.

A Jewish justification of why marriage should be limited to heterosexuals is also present in NOM’s online propaganda, “In Jewish tradition, the joining of a man and woman in marriage is known as kiddushin, from the root kadosh, or holy.” Immediately after this, the group’s webpage declares marriage is a means of mimicking Adam and Eve.

A religious definition of strictly opposite-sex marriage applying to everyone, regardless of what or any faith they practice, is an ignorant insinuation; and directly opposed by religious groups who do recognize LGBT rights. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism (as well as other religious denominations) contain groups that identify as LGBT and consider themselves genuine members of these traditions.

Believe Out Loud, The Evangelical Network, Dignity USA, Integrity USA, and numerous other Christian organizations believe sexual orientation does not limit one’s ability to understand or follow the messages of Jesus or Christianity.

Islamic organizations like Salaam Canada, CALEM, Al-Fatiha Foundation, Muslims for Progressive Values, and the Masjid Al-Nural Isslaah mosque in Washington D.C. welcome Islamic LGBT community members and recognize their faith. Jewish groups like Keshet and Nehirim also support Judaism’s LGBT followers.

Members of religious groups are not privileged to decide who is and who is not a member of a particular faith based on whether they agree with their lifestyle or oppose the differences between them.

While religions often attempt to define marriage, they only present one particular style. Members of religious organizations are entitled to practicing their traditions, but only in a manner which does not inhibit others from doing the same, regardless of the source of practices or ideals.

The United States government does not represent any one style of religion, and its purpose is to provide all of its citizens with opportunities for happiness. If every person is created equal – the Declaration of Independence identifies this truth and our right to pursue happiness – then all persons deserve equal opportunities and rights.

1 comment:

  1. I don't follow this post and disagree with much of the word choices.. and feel that you make contradicting points. The article seems to be saying that leaders in some religions have created stark definitions of what it means to be a part of that religion (i.e. not being LGBT), but there are people who identify with those religions who don't fit into that criteria. While I agree with this idea, you fail to make the point clearly.

    1) "While religions often attempt to define marriage, they only present one particular style." Since there are religious people who don't necessarily fit into the accepted definitions, it's not "religions" who attempt to define marriage, but rather it is mainstream religious leaders. And it's not a "style" they are representing, but rather their viewpoint.

    2) " Members of religious groups are not privileged to decide who is and who is not a member of a particular faith based on whether they agree with their lifestyle or oppose the differences between them." Again, it's not always the members, but the leaders who are making these decisions. In addition, I hate to say this but they do have a right to decide these things, just because that is how groups are by human nature. Even in LGBT groups, we pass judgement on people as part of human nature and we talk about how everyone identifies, and we have issues fully accepting transgender people or intersex people. The same is true with race issues (is he black enough?/you're only 1/16 Native American). I'm not saying this is right; I'm saying it's just how things are in the world and it shouldn't be surprising if religious groups are no different. Groups define who their members are, and that definition is usually done by leaders.

    Although I have many other concerns, I would suggest reviewing your word choices and articulating your argument more clearly.

    I'll just add one more. Is your central point that religious institutions should be forced to accept and/or marry their members who identify as LGBT? if so, that's a tough point to make (they don't eve accept women into the clergy and the govt can't force them to) and whether it is right or wrong, the government can't force it upon them. It's freedom of religion, which is actually a great thing about the USA, since many other countries have persecution of religions. I fear that sometimes in our efforts to advance LGBT rights and equality, we push other minority issues to the side, just as white LGBT members with more privilege often push the issues of LGBT people of color to the side.

    That said, we can all hope that the government and supreme court continue to move forward with LGBT rights and marriage so that we are all equal and can go through our lives with without (or at least with less) discrimination.

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