Killer of Sacred Cows
Monday, October 06, 2008
  CA Marriage Equality: Prop 8 IS a violation of religious freedom
You know that claim from the fundamentalist crowd that if same-sex couples are allowed to marry, if Proposition 8 doesn't pass, it will violate their religious freedoms?

Well, if Proposition 8 passes and encodes discrimination into my state constitution, it will violate my religious freedoms, and the religious freedoms of every Unitarian, liberal Christian, liberal Jew, liberal Muslim, and any other religious person whose faith supports the inherent worth and dignity of every person and their right to choose their partner. Why? Because we'll only be allowed to marry those couples who fit the state standard of "one man, one woman." Our freedom to choose who we can marry as a denomination will be taken away.

It's interesting how the fears the fundamentalists have about the passage or non-passage of an amendment banning marriage equality actually do apply to people and churches of a liberal faith tradition. Let's be honest: Proposition 8 is an outright attack on the liberal faiths and values of a number of religious groups.

For those who didn't already know, I am a Unitarian Universalist. I believe strongly in the principles of my faith tradition, including the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Like the United Church of Christ across the street, my church marries same-sex couples gladly and openly. It's part of our belief and value system that same-sex couples deserve marriage equality. We have a big banner on the side of our church annex building which says "Civil Marriage is a Civil Right." We've heard several sermons on the topic over the summer, since the Sunday following the May 17th decision, and the church community is united behind defeating Prop 8. Groups from our church handed out roses and wedding cake to couples getting married down at the courthouse on the first day it was legal, and one of those groups stood around myself and my husband as our pastor married us on the courthouse steps on June 17th. Last Sunday there was a phone-banking event organized in our church annex by Equality California. Yesterday, two of our friends and members of the church, John and Bill, celebrated their wedding.

So as Unitarians, we talk the talk and we walk the walk.

Even so, our sermon this morning was on marriage equality. It was titled, "Why do we need yet another sermon on marriage equality?"

Our pastor, Matthew, talked earnestly about Proposition 8, and how important it is, as a faith community, for us to defeat it. He's afraid, he said. And he has good reason to be. Despite all the wonderful Field Polls that have come out saying that Californians are 55% against and only 38% for the amendment that would negate recognition of my husband's and my marriage, our pastor is afraid. In fact, the polls made him more afraid, not less.

First, he pointed out that right now, we're ahead - but at the time that poll and all the ones prior to it were taken, no advertising and no campaigning had happened for or against Proposition 8. Not one bumper sticker. Not one yard sign. Not one television or radio advertisement.

I can see his point. Once the media saturation of anti-gay and pro-Prop-8 messages starts, with claims from "Our churches will be FORCED to marry gay couples!" to "Homosexuals will force your children to be taught their lifestyle is normal!!!" we could easily face a huge backlash. We can't afford that. And it's coming. We won't know if we're really successful at getting the message out until the next poll comes out. And then, it may be too late.

Pastor Matthew also said he was afraid because those polls could easily lead to complacency. He talked about the Olympics this summer, and Michael Phelps' bare-split-second win in one of the races. He said, "Phelps' competitor thought he was ahead. He coasted the last few inches. And because he did, he came in second place when he thought he was in for gold. Do we want to be that guy? Or do we want to be Michael Phelps, and push on as if we were ten seconds behind in the race all the way to the wall?"

And then he talked about how angry this proposition makes him. Angry, as a person of faith. This proposition would encode discrimination into our state constitution. It would violate our rights as a religious faith that affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person, by restricting who we were allowed to marry in our churches. He talked about how angry it makes him, that we might just let this proposition pass out of complacency, and let our rights be violated as a religious tradition and faith community.

It would, in fact, severely impact our religious freedom.

Now, let's be honest here. The fundamentalists cannot say that. A defeat of Prop 8 would not force them to suddenly start marrying same-sex couples in their churches - and as I said to a couple of our lesbian friends over lunch in the church hall after the service, if anyone tried to force that issue, I'd be out there with the fundamentalists fighting on their side, to protect their religious freedoms to choose whom they will marry. And everyone at the table agreed with me. But if Proposition 8 passes, it would force us to stop marrying same-sex couples, in clear violation of our religious beliefs.

Finally, Pastor Matthew called for action. He called for us to do more than just vote against Proposition 8. He called for us to talk to that 20% - those people who were on the fence and undecided. He called for us to phonebank, to emailbank, to put a bumper sticker on our car and a sign in our front yards. To talk to our neighbors, our co-workers, and our extended families.

In short, he called us to follow our faith tradition, and get the word out that Proposition 8, in addition to violating personal liberties, violates religious freedom. And that if that chink into religious freedom happens here, it can happen to any religion's freedoms, anywhere, anytime.

This must not happen.

I was pretty shaken after the service was over. So were a lot of other people in the church. I'm terrified of calling strangers on the phone. But as you all know, I can write fairly persuasively. So I'm going to start emailing my family and friends, and most especially my in-laws, who are having severe problems with the idea of marriage equality because of their own religious faiths, and see what I can do to spread the idea that this proposition is an attempt to interfere with religious freedom - not the religious freedom of conservatives, but that of liberals.

Actually, it would violate the religious freedoms of everyone. It would provide a precedent for other anti-religion amendments to pass. If the fundamentalist crowd isn't aware of that, and isn't afraid of that, they should be.

In fact, it could mean that someday, their right to practice their religion could be limited or halted by the imposition of a legal definition that belongs to some other religion - and if this amendment passes it will set that precedent. They are trying to impose a religious definition on a civil practice. How would they like it if someday a religious definition that came from a tradition they weren't part of was imposed on them?

And yes, I know that certain people will say "but then we should allow child abuse, or polygamy, or bestiality, or the use of drugs, or human sacrifice! There have to be some standards!" Yes, and we have standards. Those standards are:
- The integrity of the individual and his or her choices - The ability to consent to participation

The consent issue wipes away bestiality, child abuse, and human sacrifice without even a second thought. The other two issues - what's the problem? Look at it through the lens of integrity of the individual and their freedom of choice, and through the lens of consent, and as long as those standards are met, it is not an issue.

So maybe this frame - that religious beliefs and practices ARE being violated if Proposition 8 passes - will help get the point across. Any suggestions on how to word it are more than welcome.

And please - spread the word.

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