Monday, August 6, 2012

Term of the Day: SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

[Something a little different today: a Term of the Day, instead of my usual Word/Phrase of the Day.]

In mid-July, the president and Chief Operating Officer of the Chick-Fil-A restaurant chain, Dan Cathy, took a public stance regarding same-sex marriage in an article in the Biblical Recorder, a weekly newspaper published by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.  He opposes same-sex marriage:
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit.  We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives.  We give God thanks for that."

On the weekly radio program The Ken Coleman Show, Mr. Cathy further explained his stance:
"As it relates to society in general, I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, 'We know better than You as to what constitutes a marriage.'  I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."

For anyone who has ever eaten at Chick-Fil-A, or at least knows something about it, the restaurants are somewhat operated under religious principles, specifically Christian principles.  Its most obvious example of that is being closed on Sundays, the Christian holy day of the week.  It is not unusual to go to a food court at a mall on a Sunday and to see every restaurant in it open except for Chick-Fil-A.  I don't think it is such a shock to learn that Mr. Cathy -- or anyone else in the upper echelons of Chick-Fil-A management, for that matter -- has religious views.

Personally, I don't have a problem with Dan Cathy having religious views; that is his business.  I couldn't care less what his religious views are, since they are his and his alone; I have nothing vested in what he believes.  He did, however, decide to go ahead and make his business the business of others with his public statements.  That does change things a little.  What it does not change, as far as I'm concerned, is whether or not anyone can openly air his/her beliefs.  That is his right to do so.  Period.  All of the outcry to shut down or ban Chick-Fil-A restaurants is silly; it wouldn't stop him, anyway.  I say that if you don't like what his beliefs are to a huge degree, then just don't eat there.

When he did make that choice to go public, albeit many will call it now open to "public scrutiny", he now must enter into public discourse.  Anyone with their own beliefs, religious or otherwise (but I'm focusing on religious here), who keeps them to him/herself is not doing anything that puts them in a position where they have to engage in public discourse.  (Not that any of them need me or anyone else as a "referee".  They certainly do not.)  Anyone who shares their beliefs with others, but on a smaller scale than nationally/internationally, must be open to public discourse between him/herself and others in those however-big-or-small circles.  Exponentially, sharing one's beliefs on the public scale as Dan Cathy has must be open to public discourse on an even larger scale.

Being open to public discourse does not mean he is required to change his position.  It means he must be allowed to say his piece and others need to listen, and others must be allowed to say their piece and he needs to listen.

The initial public response has included a "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day", put forth by former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, on August 1st.  Two days later, on August 3, gay rights groups around the country organized "kiss-ins" at various Chick-Fil-A locations across the country.  (Although, the Appreciation Day attracted more individuals than the Kiss-Ins.)  I do not believe Mr. Cathy's stance will hurt Chick-Fil-A financially, not one bit.

Mr. Cathy's stance is based on the Bible's definition of marriage: one man and one woman.  Okay, fair enough.  After all, the Bible does say that; there are no examples of men marrying men or women marrying women to be found within its pages.  If that is what he believes, then that's what he believes.  No one has to agree with it.  Most people know that, but does Mr. Cathy?  I think so, but is he okay with that?  I don't know for certain.  Only he can answer that.

If he is not okay with that, then I have a few questions for him.  One question I have is about the law.  You know, that thing under which marriages are deemed legal?  Now, the Bible says nothing about forbidding or shunning marriage from having a legal element to it.  However, if one man and one woman get married in a church, but do not obtain a marriage license (including getting it signed by all perspective parties and returning it to the relative authority for it to be properly processed), is the marriage legal?  No.  Is the couple married spiritually?  Certainly.  The spiritual aspect is irrelevant to the law and other pertinent matters, such as all marriage rights (i.e. access to medical information, visitation rights), just as the legal aspect is irrelevant to spiritual matters.  Thus, marriage, as we have it today, has both a spiritual and legal aspect to it, but only the legal aspect opens the couple to the benefits of marriage.  Anything in the Bible arguing against that?  Not that I'm aware of. 

That alone, tells me that any exclusivity of marriage being for one man and one woman only is Biblically-based -- thus, by extension, religiously-based -- and has no legal leg on which to stand.  Yes, I know that same-sex marriage is not an across-the-board law of the land -- and you have the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the majority of U.S. states defining marriage heterosexually -- but I, personally, do not see any legal basis for it.  Not all laws are religiously-based, even if certain religious understandings are in sync with those laws. 

Civil unions are a joke.  (I mean that with all deference to my gay friends and the gay community at large.)  It was supposed to be akin to "equal", but was more along the lines of "separate, but equal".  In reality, they are separate and unequal.  Let me be frank here: civil unions are not equal to marriage.  I know a gay couple who are good friends of mine who have now been together over thirty years.  When civil unions became legal in their state a number of years ago, they were joined at a civil union ceremony.  One of the two has been in the hospital a lot the past couple years.  Does his partner have the same rights to his medical information as a married spouse?  No.  In any legal matters, even though they are legally joined in a civil union, are they always recognized as a "married couple"?  Again, no. 

The argument that giving gay couples the right to marry will destroy the institution of marriage is also bogus.  It doesn't seem to me that heterosexual couples are doing the institution any favors.  How does Mike & Steve or Mary & Sheila getting married really hurt marriage?  What if you get you think that hurts marriage?  Probably not.  (You're likely to be busy being angry at your ex-spouse, or at least just glad to get away from him/her, and figuring out who gets what.) 

Maybe those people are afraid that "the gays are trying to takeover everything".

With regard to the term "marriage" itself, I don't have any vested interest in it and I think getting hung-up on terminology bogs the process down.  If all of the rights and privileges that go with heterosexual marriage are also given to same-sex couples, does calling it "marriage" or "civil union" or even "mutually agreed upon same-sex couple conjoinment" really matter that much?  After all, this is not a religious issue, although there are religious angles from which to view it; this is a civil rights issue.  Same-sex couples do not have the same rights when it comes to marriage as opposite-sex couples do.  Period.  That's not doctrinal destruction...that's civil rights.

Here's my take:  If you really had no problem with gay couples getting joined together and sharing in the benefits of "traditional" marriage, but didn't want to call it "marriage", then call it something else and give them the same rights as heterosexual couples.  End of story.  However, if you do the proverbial "tossing a bone" to same-sex couples by saying you'll give them a legally-recognized rite, but that rite doesn't come with all the rights normally afforded heterosexual couples, then you really don't want gay couples to get joined together for life...and taking it a step further by using the Bible as your defense for your exclusion.  

Say, are there any homophobes in the audience tonight?


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