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.
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.