Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wedding Bells

Wedding bells are chiming in California because today, gay couples there can legally get married.  So, what do we make of it?

Is it the end of marriage as we know it?  Will this encourage more people to be gay?  Maybe people will start thinking, "Wow, look at them getting married.  Maybe I should get married to someone of my same sex, too."

Of course that's absurd.  In fact, there are virtually no negative consequences to gay marriage, at least from a civil standpoint.  Most of the folks getting married in California have been monogamous couples for many years.  One couple had been together for more than fifty years.

Granted, there may be religious objections.  But think about it, religious objections are not on the same par as civil objections.  California has not required any religion to solemnify any marriage.  The Episcopal Church does not allow its priests to perform same-sex marriages, so even if I lived in California, I would not do it.

That doesn't take away from the fact that gay couples should have the civil rights accorded any other life-long couple.  They should enjoy the same rights that my wife and I enjoy.  Except for religious considerations, there is no reason not to.

And think about the good it does for there to be these marriages.  They can support each other when and if one has to go to the hospital.  They can formally commit to each other, strengthening their relationship and garnering a deeper level of support from their friends and family.  They can put to rest the lie that gay people are more promiscuous than straights.  

As a citizen, I fail to see any reason to deny marriage to a segment of the population that desperately wants to join into that union.  Whether we call it marriage or something else is entirely irrelevant to me -- I'd say we leave that to the people involved.  If gays choose to call it marriage, that's fine by me.

Of course, the question pops up about what would I do if the church ever did allow same-sex marriage.  It's a simple answer: I'd do it.  Why, if the bible is so adament against it?

First, because the bible is not to be read literally.  Those who do so are guilty of idolotry.  God is God and the bible is not.  Jesus is the incarnation of God, and he said nothing about gays.  We do not believe that everything in the bible is prescriptive, nor should it be.  Secondly, even taking the scriptures very seriously, many of the passages cited as indicating God's displeasure with gays are being abused.  They are, at the very least, of uncertain meaning, most of them open to other plausible and completely different interpretations.  You can't read the bible in English and think you understand it.  You can't really even read the Hebrew with any confidence that you get it all because the most ancient texts are incomplete or unclear.  Never believe anyone who points to their King James and says, "See, it says so right here, so that's the way it is."

As a point of reference, we in the Episcopal Church take scripture very seriously, noting that it contains all things necessary to salvation (but not that everything in it is necessary to salvation).  We also take tradition and reason as equal parts of our understanding of God's will.

So, when the church allows it, I'll celebrate such marriages.  But for now, let those wedding bells chime in California.