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How to Talk about Same Sex Marriage - Yet Again - Mo's Journal
March 29th, 2011
07:18 am

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How to Talk about Same Sex Marriage - Yet Again
This research study, showing USAmerican Catholics having greater support for gay and lesbian rights than other USAmerican Christians, has gotten quite a bit of attention. One thing I thought particularly interesting was that phrasing the question about support for same sex marriage made a huge difference in the response. If asked whether same sex couples should be allowed to marry, 43% said yes. If asked if same sex couples should be allowed to have civil marriages "like you get at city hall" the yeses jumped to 71%. The researchers noted that there is a similar pattern in the general public, but that the difference is greater among Catholics.

It made me think about a recent discussion on marag's journal about how best to talk about same-sex marriage in order to gain support. The right wing is out there talking about same-sex marriage as a threat to religion. Maybe people are intelligent enough that if we talk often and loudly and clearly about civil marriage as a non-religious, governmental institution it will help. After all, religious people - Catholics especially - are familiar with the idea that certain people can't get married under the auspices of their particular religion: people who don't adhere to their religion, or in the case of Catholics, divorced people who are remarrying. No one is suggesting that anyone who can't get married in Church A should not be allowed to have a civil marriage. Maybe this is a useful way to frame the discussion and cut through the lies.

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From:marag
Date:March 29th, 2011 11:33 am (UTC)
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That's an interesting point. I think of marriage as primarily a secular thing that has religious trappings, but obviously I'm farfarfar in the minority there!

Yes, civil marriage is nonreligious and governmental. We're not insisting that churches should be required to marry everyone who walks through the door.
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From:mofic
Date:March 29th, 2011 01:42 pm (UTC)
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I think of marriage as primarily a secular thing that has religious trappings, but obviously I'm farfarfar in the minority there!

I think of it as three things at once: a religious institution, a social institution, and a legal structure. Let's look at each:

- It makes sense to me that individual religions should be able to decide what marriage means in their religion and who is eligible and that individuals can decide what, if any, religious institutions they choose to affiliate with. I, for example, belong to an egalitarian Conservative shul where same sex marriages are performed but where intermarriages are not and where someone would not be deemed Jewish (for marriage or other purposes) unless s/he had a Jewish birth mother or a conversion including tvilah and, if male, milah. If that bothers me, I can choose to complain and argue (the usual Jewish response) and if it bothers me enough, I can choose to unaffiliate. Religious affiliation is a matter of choice.

- Social affiliation is also a matter of choice, but less concrete and clear. A same-sex couple may be accepted as having a valid marriage by some of their social circle but not others. It's up to them what they do about it. They may choose not to include the parents or friends who don't recognize their marriage in some activities, or they may include them in everything and hope to persuade them. Again, their choice.

- Government, though, should not choose who gets the right to marry and who doesn't, and certainly should not choose based on a religious standard, because there are many religious standards and they aren't the same. Loving v. Virginia established civil marriage as a basic right and, in this country, many rights and privileges are attached to civil marriage.

So I keep coming back to the rights argument...

Edited at 2011-03-29 01:42 pm (UTC)
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From:st_crispins
Date:March 29th, 2011 12:49 pm (UTC)
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Catholics especially - are familiar with the idea that certain people can't get married under the auspices of their particular religion: people who don't adhere to their religion, or in the case of Catholics, divorced people who are remarrying.

Yes. This. We Catholics [and I'm a liberal one] make the distinction between church weddings and civil marriage. I'm betting that most Catholics would have no problem with a civil city hall marriage [shrug]. The Church would have to approve an in-church wedding and we realize where the hierarchy is these days, in hypocrisy land, so we're not going to even discuss it.

The other very important thread in the church, especially among the Jesuit educated, is the idea of Social Justice. I don't think the idea has as much currency among conservative Protestants, but it can be a big deal with us. It arose with Liberation Theology and while there's not too much talk any more about Lib Theo, Social Justice ---ie: defending the rights of those who have no or limited voice --- is still a big thing.

On top of that, many Catholics, even your average rosary-praying grandmas, are aware of the large percentage of the priesthood who is gay.

While the official Church is rather good with social issues, it still can't seem to handle anything to do with sex or gender in a mature, sophisticated way. So, as with birth control and to a smaller extent, abortion, what practicing Catholics actually practice is often quite a long way from official Church teaching.

The hierarchy tends to talk about ideals, while the rest of us in the pews deal in practicalities.

Honestly, even among my elderly Polish aunts, I personally know no homophobic Catholics.

[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 29th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
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I've always been impressed by the strong progressive strain within the Catholic Church - care for the poor, social justice, opposition to the death penalty. These are all core Catholic values, but sometimes it seems like all the Church hierarchy wants to talk about is working against women's rights and gay rights.

On the marriage thing - in Massachusetts Catholic Charities no longer has a contract with the state to place children for adoption. The church hierarchy claimed that allowing same-sex marriage and requiring that they not discriminate violates their religious beliefs so they opted out. But... they never complained about having to place children without discriminating against lots of people who couldn't get married in a Catholic Church - non-Catholics, Catholics who divorced and remarried, etc. What's more, they did place children in homes with same-sex parents, both before and after same-sex civil marriage in Massachusetts. They continued to do so until the Archdiocese told them they couldn't anymore, and when the Archdiocese issued that edict more than half of the board (Catholic lay people) resigned in protest.
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From:st_crispins
Date:March 29th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
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They continued to do so until the Archdiocese told them they couldn't anymore, and when the Archdiocese issued that edict more than half of the board (Catholic lay people) resigned in protest.

Not surprised, particuarly in Massachusetts.
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From:mofic
Date:March 29th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
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Yeah but what irks me so much is that this gets presented as the state interfering in religion when it was really the religious hierarchy interfering in a religiously based charity, and only for political purposes. If it were for religious reasons - if they truly felt that a Catholic charity should not place children in homes where the parents would not be allowed to marry in the Catholic Church, then they never would have had contracts with the state in the first place, because the state would not have allow them to set those limits, long before same sex marriage was legal. And even when the archdiocese told them they could no longer place children in gay/lesbian homes, they didn't tell them they couldn't place children in divorced/remarried homes or non-Catholic homes.
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From:sabra_n
Date:March 29th, 2011 11:58 pm (UTC)
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Yes, that's been a basis for opposition all along - people's vague feeling that this would force churches to perform gay weddings. And the wingnuts are happy to have that misperception continue.
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2011 10:55 am (UTC)
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And even to foster it.
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From:soukup
Date:March 30th, 2011 08:47 am (UTC)
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What an insightful thing to say. I almost wish I knew more people who opposed same-sex marriage, so I could point this out to them.
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2011 10:55 am (UTC)
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LOL!
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