Spouse for Life & the Fight for Gay Marriage by Marie Cartier


Marie & Kim’s Legal Marriage California 2008

Today, I am exploring the following question set:

What is the shifting conception of religious liberty as religious groups carve out exemptions in complying with laws on LGBTQI rights, particularly as they relate to marriage? As gay marriage becomes “normative” how does it change the structure and study of religion? How did the anti-gay rights movement in California, regarding Proposition 8, funded largely through religious organizations such as the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Catholic Knights of Columbus, have a direct impact on state decisions, and animate new conversations about the juncture of religion and politics?

Let’s start with this information:

Sociologist Brian Powell posed the question of why people were opposed to gay marriage. Do what people say match the legal arguments that justify the opposition to gay marriage? Since legal arguments are based on public policy, what public policy was shaping the legal arguments? The findings, published recently in Social Currents, show that the most common reason for gay marriage opposition was given as: “Because I don’t believe God intended them to be that way.” Running a close second was: “Well, they’re sinners.”

If public opinion drives public policy, then the motivation for banning same-sex marriage is moral disapproval. Or as stated in Powell’s findings—religious disapproval—and the belief that God is not “on the side” of the homosexuals; casting homosexuals as sinners in the faith choice of the person formulating the public policy critique. With these formulations, Powell suggested that public discourse —based on religious formulations such as “sinner” and what “God intended” are the primary agents erecting state laws that ban access to civil rights- such as marriage- for the LGBTQI population.

Prop 8 New Year's Protest 2008

Prop 8 New Year’s Protest 2008

Religious sentiment, such as “you are a sinner” should not make the case for legal judgment. In fact, it is unconstitutional to do so. However, what we have seen in gay history and the fight for marriage is that the religious argument has been the argument that holds fast in terms of creating and keeping legal sanctions against gay marriage in place in several states. How is this possible in a country that purports to keep church and state separate? What is the history of the conflation of church and state that has allowed gay marriage to be ruled by public religious opinion?

The legal definition of “animus” implies a law that intends to interfere with the exercise of a right. It has no public interest. Animus is motivated and propelled by disapproval and, in this argument, religious conviction so vehement that the law’s forward motion causes significant damage to those at which it is directed. This is the case with gay marriage as animus is fueled by anti-religious conviction and then funnels itself into public policy. This public feeling creates actual policy that, in the case of the LGBTIQ community, has caused egregious harm.

Much weight is levied onto the idea that traditional marriage—one man and one woman– is more beneficial to society and children, than gay marriage. This idea supposes that heterosexual couples are the only domestic unit that can provide this kind of societal advantage. Arguments against gay marriage are supposedly justified based on the fact that same sex couples cannot “naturally reproduce.” However, this argument does not preclude older heterosexual couples from marrying who also could not “breed” children. How is it then, that these justifications regarding public opinion based on religion have found their way into a politic that defines the lives of an estimated ten percent of the U.S. population—the gay population—when these same arguments cannot be used across the entirety of the population spectrum wishing to marry?

And let’s also look at this:

In early 2015 a United States District Court judge in Mobile, Alabama ordered a probate judge to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Within two months of this edict, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a halt to same-sex marriages in the state. How is it that states, which have a majority conservative leadership, can effectively halt federal regulations?

What Alabama and other conservative states have leaned on is this notion of marriage being legally sanctioned solely through the religious mandate of “one man and one woman.” In fact, the Alabama order stated marriage was so defined because it had been performed this way for “over two centuries,” and went on to add that the probate judges had “a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.”

So—in effect, the arguments in conservative states for same-sex marriage become a “sociological imaginative” construct like one employs in a gender studies class in order to imagine oneself outside the society in which one lives. In this case, the concept of gay marriage is framed as imaginative, and therefore postured in the realm of fantasy or science fiction. In other words, gay marriage is “not real,” only imagined in many conservative states.

Where are we “at” in the United States in regards to the separation of Church and State and the fight for gay marriage?

Let me hear from you, FAR readers, as I explore this topic further.


Marie Cartier is a teacher, poet, writer, healer, artist, and scholar. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting) from UCLA; and an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University. She is also a first degree black belt in karate, Shorin-Ryu Shi-Do-Kan Kobayashi style. Ms. Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.

Categories: Activism, civil rights, General, LGBTQ, Marriage

Tags: , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. We certainly are living in a world of alternate realities. Thanks for reminding us that patriarchal religion is not a neutral force in the fight against gay marriage. Sigghhhh.


  2. Thanks for this post and for your questions. I am an ordained interfaith minister who can sign marriage licenses, though these days I only officiate as a favor to friends. For awhile I stopped officiating at weddings altogether because same-sex marriage was not legal in my state, New York. Now it is, and I have officiated at several same-sex weddings. That said, I think it is a blurring of the boundary between church and state to have a minister sign a marriage license which is a state document. In some countries, all marriages are civil unions. People are free to have their marriages blessed as they please, but the religious officiate does not sign a state document, which makes more sense to me. I totally agree that all the arguments against same-sex marriage are rooted in people’s religious beliefs and violate our founding principle of separation between church and state.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, Marie. In answer to your question, where are we at now? I saw a PewResearch survey that showed that 54% of the population currently supports gay marriage whereas in 1996 only about 24% supported it.

    Another fascinating statistic is that a whopping 68% of the so-called “millennials” (born 1980-2000) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.


  4. This is a tricky issue for me to discuss, many different things popping up. The two biggies are:
    1. because religion is immersed in morality and ethics, it is going to have an impact on the law. Religious people are consumed with discussing (and judging) morality, ethics, and legalisms.
    2. not all of the 10% want to get married. Isn’t the institution of “marriage” a product of patriarchal society? By giving this patriarchal institution legitimizing authority, aren’t we then giving up the right to question its patriarchal, and unfair, underpinnings?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Change comes slow. Eventually the old die off and many concepts die with them.
    I have no problem with people believing what they want. There’s lots of variety. I don’t think churches should be forced to change their beliefs if that’s what they want to believe. There’s lots of churches – something for everyone. No big deal.
    But, my oldest cousin is 80 – and he and his partner have been together for over 30 years – never was an issue with our family. We did worry with “spouse” issues they dealt with for a while – insurance, finances, and especially with emergency/hospital policies if one was ill. (I have seen it go very bad with one partner getting very ill and his righteous family barging in and banning a life long wonderful partner – ignoring their wishes even those in what should have been official writings/document)
    State and local governments must be sensible and fair. My cousin(s) are more married than many. Individuals must be treated equally.
    Honestly, “marriage” itself is a religious ceremony. Only important to some. Let them keep their clubs.
    I’m more in favor of what E.Cunningham said above. All couples having legal civil unions through legal documents at a government office an signed by state official. Then if the couple wishes to trot off and have some sort of ceremony somewhere to celebrate, fine. Live and let live. Acting like elementary kids insisting their club is the bestest and smartest and you can’t join. Change is slow, but they do all die off and many problems with them


  6. This is not just a matter of church and state and the boundaries between… or lack thereof… it is the legacy and historic blight of patriarchy’s control of sexuality, particularly that of women… God was understood as the great hetero-normative patriarch even though he himself never had sex… human sexuality was there for the procreation of children… be fruitful and multiply… a love relationship or marriage that does not lead to the natural production of offspring did not fit into this patriarchal directive that continues to confuse, obviate, and befoul our laws.


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