Alabama, Equal Marriage is Here February 9th

Alabama is a special breed.  On February 9th the stay that Judge Granade placed on her rulings on two cases that Alabama’s constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage is unconstitutional will expire. The 11th circuit has refused to extend the stay until the SCOTUS rules in June.  The backlash has begun. First we had the the Probate Judge’s Association stating that the first ruling only applied to the couple in the law suit and therefore they did not need to heed her ruling. Attorney General Strange applied for and received a 14 day stay on her decision. Her second ruling clarified she meant the entire state must comply.  Then we have the ongoing chest beating of Chief Justice Roy Moore stating the federal courts have no jurisdiction over the state in matters of defining marriage. And now we have the magistrates and counties stating that they will simply no longer officiate civil unions of any marriages regardless of gender make-up.

“Marriage licenses and ceremonies are not available at the Pike County Probate Office,” the judge’s office said on Facebook Friday afternoon. “Pike County residents who are seeking marriage licenses can do so at any Probate Judge’s office in the state that offers that service and are not required to apply for their license in their county of residence.”

[Pike County Probate Judge Wes] Allen  said in a news release that the decision allows him to obey the law and his Christian beliefs. He cited state law that says marriage licenses “may” be issued by probate judges. “I am choosing to take the Pike County Probate Office out of the marriage licensing business altogether.”

He is not alone.  Several counties in the state are taking similar stances.  And some magistrates have reportedly resigned rather than fulfill the court order leaving a void for Monday’s enactment of the court ruling.

Before this latest protest stance against enforcing same sex marriage, I have been in several debates with colleagues within Unitarian Universalist circles, as well as with gay friendly clergy of other faiths regarding the sanctity of marriage and what we should be doing come February 9th.  Should ministers rush to the court houses to marry gay couples in a civil union when it is not a religious service?   The concern is an ethical one.  Clergy see marriage as a holy union, sanctified by a higher calling and therefore should not be a commitment that one enters into lightly.  They require pre-marital counseling.  The style of counseling varies with faith tradition.

One non-Unitarian Universalist clergy person who has been officiating holy unions between same gender couples for decades stated this is a spiritual journey that requires prayer, contemplation, discernment and the development of a covenantal relationship before entering this path together.  Therefore, on the 9th, they will only sign marriage licenses for those couples who have already under gone a holy union ceremony. This is according to their doctrinal beliefs and the state is merely catching up in recognizing the spiritual reality of their holy covenanted union.   If a couple comes to them on February 9th seeking to be wed in their church, then they will have to under go their traditions prescribed process which takes time. No jumping on the quick-marriage-ceremony-just-because-it-is-legal band wagon.

Many Unitarian Universalist clergy also require some form of pre-marital counseling.  And there have been UU clergy who are concerned with the suspension of pre-marital counseling for same gender couples when equal marriage rights are first enacted. Pre-marital sessions have been used by clergy to get to know the couple and to discern with the couple any areas of potential concerns that might need addressing in order for the relationship to thrive in a legally binding marriage.

I understand the debate.  But here is where I am in my internal debate with myself. There are factors that need to be considered.  I know many same gender couples that have raised and are raising children together. I know many same gender couples who have already spent up to 50 years together. I have a difficulty making a couple that has already proven their commitment to each other over the years  in the face of severe prejudice and down right hatred to go through pre-marital counseling as if this is the beginning of their journey together.  Doing so discounts the reality that their relationship commitment is already further down the journey than most newlyweds. By my denying services unless they jump through our unique hoops is in my mind and heart creating an injustice upon injustice.  Who does this hoop serve–the couple who has been together already through thick and thin or the minister?   For same gender couples already committed to each other for years– my role as officiant is in restoring to them the affirmation that society should have already affirmed.

After this law has been in effect for a few years and those looking to marry have been together for a brief time then yes, I will resume pre-marital counseling for same gender couples.  They are beginning a new journey together and are seeking to deepen the relationship. But it is arrogant of me to insist on this as a requirement of marriage for a couple who already have raised children together and maneuvered through their children’s experience of being taunted for their parent’s relationship.

But we now have counties where courts are saying — ‘fine, the federal courts are making courts give out marriage licenses to same sex couples then this court will not offer the service of a civil marriage to any couple.’ One court said about 42% of the couples receiving licenses have the magistrate perform the marriage. Because I am a minister willing to officiate same gender marriages, should I insist that they have a religious service which includes the pre marital sessions because that is my personal preference religiously?  Especially when they do not want a religious service and a civil service is not being offered to anyone? This is another form of oppressive coercion that is in my mind equally as unjust as Alabama banning same gender marriage in the first place.

Unlike my Non-UU ministerial colleagues, I am not bound by an ecclesiastical doctrine of marriage that requires a series of steps in order for a person to enter into marriage.  I interpret my UU faith to see the sacred in the ordinary.   For me, justice is not served when I mandate a set of religious requirements on a couple who have been denied recognition of marriage status for decades and now have the freedom to marry.  For clergy to do this is what the courts who are refusing to perform civil ceremonies are hoping for. By denying all marriage licenses to couples or denying the service of a civil union is an attempt to prevent same gender couples from getting married because they know that here in Alabama, the majority of clergy will not officiate their weddings as a matter of doctrinal belief.

Yes, Alabama is a special breed.  And I am sure even after February 9th when equal marriage is the law of the state, we will not have heard the end of this.  There will be people who will angrily protest. Judge Moore will  beat his chest some more until he is once again removed for disobeying a federal court ruling.  And the legislature will dream up new ways to circumvent the federal ruling as they have in every federal civil rights issue in the past.  Integration of schools, voting rights, and reproductive rights to name a few.

Alabama, equal marriage is here February 9th!  It is a victory but it is a victory that will come with a price. In Alabama employers can still fire a person for being gay or transgender. If there is any deterrent to marrying on the 9th, it is the injustice of being fired on the 10th.  My willingness as clergy to officiate on the 9th is not going to be one of them.

North Carolina’s vote

When I heard of the news that North Carolina had voted to place its ban on same sex marriage in their state constitution, a constitution that was last revised to ban interracial marriages, my heart just broke.

Two songs came to me which seemed appropriate in my twisted mind,  especially when juxtaposed with each other .

 

Standing on the Side of Love–a Spiritual Practice

Yesterday I went to the Statehouse in Montgomery to testify against HB 56, Alabama’s version of Arizona’s SB 1070.  As I listened to the testimony of those who were for this bill, I was struck by the anger they felt towards the values I hold dear.

Values like compassion for others.  Values like acceptance of diversity.  Values like equal opportunities for all.  Values like honoring the integrity and dignity of others. Values like having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness accessible for everyone.

My faith denomination, Unitarian Universalist,  has been the sponsors of the Standing of the Side of Love Campaign.  It has been used in several ways.  It is prominent in the ongoing immigrant rights struggle in Arizona and elsewhere.  It is prominent in supporting Muslim’s right to freedom of religion in Tennessee and in New York City and other places in America.  It is prominent in the right to marriage campaign across this country.  And most recently, it has been supporting workers rights for collective bargaining in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.

One of the criticisms lobbied at Unitarian Universalists is that we are not spiritual, that we are too much of the head and not enough, if at all, of the heart.  It has been a fair criticism.  We Unitarian Universalists value reason and critical thinking skills as a way to cut through the unprovable and the improbable in order to see the core of the matter in the hopes that we can make a difference for the better of all of our lives.  Sometimes we have succeeded and sometimes it has been our thorn in our side.

The Standing on the Side of Love campaign is in its very essence a remedy to that criticism.  Many years ago now, I decided to join Rev. Mel White, founder of Soulforce, in a seventeen step journey towards preparation in confronting the homophobia and violent rhetoric within the Christian Church.  This was a series of essays and reflections which I was invited to journal about and discuss with a friend before joining Mel White in Lynchburg, VA to speak with the late Rev. Jerry Falwell about his vitriol against gays.

One of the things Mel White wrote was this:

“When we seek freedom for someone else, we find freedom for ourselves. When we finally make the decision to take a stand against oppression (or the rhetoric that leads to oppression) that stand itself leads us to spiritual renewal whether we win or we lose the battle.”

Those who begin to engage in Standing on the Side of Love have an opportunity, to not only achieve the desired goal of undoing a grave injustice but also to experience a spiritual renewal within themselves.  Okay so that sounds self-centered and not altruistic in the least.

Yet, it is only ourselves that we can change. I cannot make someone else love their neighbor as they themselves would like to be loved.  But I can do that.  I can choose to love my neighbor.  I can reflect on what that action means to me and reinforce it into my behavior.  I can join with others who also choose to love their neighbor and together we can reflect on our common experiences of doing that act and build that into our way of being together.  This is what our Unitarian Universalist congregations aim to do every Sunday.

We can role model that behavior for others to witness.  Standing on the Side of Love is spiritual work.  It is not simply wearing a yellow t-shirt or placing a heart logo on our facebook page.  It is and can be a spiritual practice that helps us be fully in touch with our humanity’s soul.

I do not know how I will be able to face the anger that I faced yesterday if I do not choose to stand on the side of love daily.  I do not know how I will address that anger and possibly soften their anger to seeing another way if I do not choose to stand on the side of love daily.

I invite you to join me to stand on the side of love as if your life and faith depends on it.  I know mine does.  Blessings.

I Thee Wed: The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights

I Thee Wed:  The Battle for Equal Marriage Rights
Rev. Fred L Hammond
7 June 2009 ©
Our Home Universalist Unitarian Church
14 June 2009 ©
Unitarian Universalist Congregation Tuscaloosa

Reading    From “The Irrational Season” by Madeleine L’Engle

Ultimately, there comes a time when a decision must be made.  Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble.  Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created.  To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take.  If we commit ourselves to one person for life, that is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation.  It takes a lifetime to learn another person.  When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling.

I recently officiated at two weddings.  Both couples wanted a service that would reflect their theology and not the theology of their home congregation.  One couple was not comfortable with the notion of God and therefore wanted a service that would limit the presence of God in their service.  The other couple did not want a Christian service but rather one that embraced a God that would appeal to all people.   I was happy to do whatever service they wanted.  It was after all their wedding day and it needed to be meaningful to them as the couple began their lives as one. 

I was therefore a bit surprised when the couples insisted on some very traditional language.  The first wanted the ring ceremony to include the phrase, “with this ring I thee wed.”   It rarely is used any longer.  All of the wedding scripts I have seen in the recent years do not include this phrase.    The bride told me since she was a little girl, it was this phrase that stuck with her as being the pivotal moment in the wedding.  So yes, we included it. 

The second couple inserted this line, “If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else forever hold your peace.”  Again, a line that rarely appears any longer in wedding services except for those TV dramas but for this couple, if there was any doubt they were not to be married, this line would ensure that would be erased.  

I was fascinated by what each couple needed to have in their wedding ceremony in order for their marriage to be a real marriage.   The dreams held since youth of being married are romanticized.  I think we all have fantasized at some point what our wedding would be like when we found that certain someone to cherish and hold all the days of our lives.  We each have idealized what would constitute the perfect wedding ceremony for us. 

Parents also fantasize about their children’s weddings.  Fathers’ walking their daughter down the aisle is a rite of passage as much for the father as it is for the daughter.  It is an important moment—a vital moment in the life of the family, in the order of things. 

This is how when we were children were told it would be. We would grow up and marry, have kids of our own, raise them, and then walk them down the aisle to marry another… and the cycle continues. 

 If I had sound effects for this sermon this is where the needle would scratch across the recording in a loud halting stop. 

We all like the notion of having a traditional wedding ceremony.  Regardless of religious connotations, the wedding ceremony is a tradition that is held in honor.   It wasn’t always a tradition.  In fact, marriages were not always just between one man and one woman.  Former President Bush is quoted as saying, “Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization.”[1]   I wonder what type of marriage and which civilization he was referring to here. 

The earliest records of marriage include those in the Hebrew Scriptures.  See if you recognize these as traditional marriages:  Abraham marries his half sister Sarah. (Genesis 20:11-13).  Isaac marries Rebekah, his first cousin. (Genesis 24:14-16)   Jacob married his cousins, first Leah and then her sister Rachel and then takes Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah as a wife, and then Leah’s maidservant Zilpah as a wife.  (Genesis 29)   Ashhur had two wives, Helah and Naarah. (1 Chronicles 4) King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. 

These forms of marriages are considered taboo in today’s society.  We are not to marry our siblings or our first cousins, this is considered incest.  We are not to have more than one wife, this is considered polygamy.   

Marriage is an evolving institution.  How one marries has changed as much as who one marries.  In the marriages described in Hebrew history, one of two things happened.  The man looking for a wife asked the father for the bride or the father looking for a husband for his daughter, offered her hand in marriage.   The woman had little say in the matter because the woman was considered property and property could be bartered.  In the case of Jacob, he bartered for the hand of Rachel by working for her father seven years and when the seven years was up the father gave him Leah instead and then had Jacob work another seven years for Rachel’s hand. 

The line my couple wanted in their service: “If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else forever hold your peace.”  This line was to make sure there were no marriage impediments preventing the marriage in the eyes of the church.   One such impediment in the mid-15 century might have been being related to each other to the 6th degree.[2]  Since the belief that the two would be made one, a person marrying into a family would prevent anyone else from marrying into that family as well.   Divorce was not permitted so the only way to get out of a marriage was to then prove that there was an unknown or overlooked marriage impediment to then have the marriage annulled.   How many of you know your 5th and 6th cousin?  Or know that your 4th cousin married your partner’s 3rd cousin thereby preventing you and your partner to marry?

How is marriage defined in this country?  In the 1690’s love between spouses was discouraged because it was thought it would weaken the man’s authority over the woman[3].   Most marriages were declared by the couple declaring it so; churches and government were not involved.  This form of common-law marriages[4] is still recognized in eleven states. Many states removed common-law marriages from being recognized in the 1970’s[5].

Prior to Queen Victoria, women were often considered the lustier sex.  Queen Victoria’s elevation of chastity[6] changed the perception of women to be seen as chaste and pure in and out of the marriage.  Prostitution increased as a result.   Also prior to Queen Victoria, it was customary for the newly weds to do a bridal tour, visiting relatives that were unable to attend the wedding.  By the mid-19th century, the honeymoon began to replace this traditional event but it was still not what we consider to be honeymoons today.  The bride brought her girlfriends with her[7]

In the mid- 1800’s there were experiments[8] in how one defined marriage.  The Oneida Community in upstate New York had what they called group marriage.  Each person was married to each other adult in the group.  The community would decide by matching characteristics which male and female would procreate.  The Mormons allowed polygamy within their religious circle.  When Utah applied to become a state of the union, the only way it would be admitted was if the state would outlaw polygamy.   It did so. 

Before the Civil War, slaves[9] were not allowed to marry as they were seen as property.  Ceremonies might have occurred between partners but they were not honored by the slave owners.  Inter-racial marriages were banned in 16 states until Loving v Virginia decision of the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1967[10].   In the early 1900’s, there was a national law stating that if a woman married an Asian;  even a US born Asian, she would lose her citizenship[11].  This ban was also lifted in 1967. 

The law now recognizes the marriage partnership is made up of equals. Previously the law stated that the male was the legal head of household or rightful owner of property.  

So when people state that marriage has always been a certain way, they are speaking from ignorance because marriage is evolving.  Marriage today isn’t even what marriage was 50 years ago.  So the request of gays and lesbians to have marriage rights is not without historical precedent.

According to John Boswell, church historian, the relationship of David and Jonathan in the Hebrew Scriptures was a marriage.   Boswell writes, “ [A]ccording to 1 Samuel 18:1, ‘it came to pass… the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.’ The two made a ‘covenant’ together—the text employs the word used for a marriage covenant elsewhere in Hebrew Scripture –and David and Jonathan lived together in Saul’s house, even though Jonathan had children. David was still unmarried.  He later took Jonathan’s surviving heir into his household to eat at his table, which he did ‘for Jonathan’s sake’.  After Jonathan was killed, David lamented publicly, ‘I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of a woman.’ ( p 137 Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe)

 It seems that David and Jonathan had a covenanted relationship that was akin to a marriage.  David cared for Jonathan’s children after Jonathan was killed.  Much like a spouse would do for his or her partner’s children even if there was a previous partner involved.

Currently six states have same sex marriage.  One state has civil unions and three states have domestic partnerships.  Three additional states recognize same sex marriages performed in other states but do not offer same sex marriages to their citizens.   

In the Defense of Marriage Act brief (aka DOMA) released on the 42nd anniversary of Loving v Virginia, which by the way, made the marriage of President Obama’s parents legal in every state, the federal government is claiming neutrality on the issue of state sovereignty regarding same gender marriage.  The federal government is not a neutral party. 

One of the rights afforded to heterosexual couples is the right to grant citizenship to the foreign partner through marriage.  No state, not even the six states that currently grant same sex marriage rights can offer this right.  Only the federal government can grant citizenship. The federal government cannot be neutral when it has a vested interest in this matter.  And I haven’t even mentioned the other 1,048 rights and benefits the federal government bestows on heterosexual marriages. 

But neutrality over state sovereignty is not the half of what this particular DOMA brief claims.   This brief dares to argue that laws prohibiting same sex marriage are as valid as laws prohibiting incest and pedastry.  It further states that comparing same sex marriage rights to arguments presented by Loving v Virginia are invalid.

In my blog I wrote,  “Loving V Virginia declared the laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages as unconstitutional and “designed to maintain White Supremacy.”  In referring to the Loving V Virginia case, the Obama Administration argues that with DOMA there is  ‘No comparable purpose is present here, however, for DOMA does not seek in any way to advance the ’supremacy’ of men over women, or women over men. Thus DOMA cannot be ‘traced to a … purpose’ to discriminate against either men or women.  In upholding the traditional definition of a marriage, numerous courts have rejected an alleged analogy to Loving.’

Sexual orientation is not a recognized suspect class needing protection.  If it were then the analogy would be clearer to the courts, because what DOMA does is assert heterosexual supremacy over homosexuality.  DOMA places the heterosexual orientation above all other orientations of sexuality as supreme and therefore entitled to rights and privileges.[12]

President Obama, when he was a candidate for office, in addition to vowing to repeal DOMA, advanced an argument to offer civil unions to gays and lesbians while maintaining marriage as between one man and one woman.   Let’s look at this argument a bit further.  Why would it be important to offer civil unions to gay and lesbian couples?  It will allow for hospital visiting rights of the partner when one of them is ill or dying.  It will place inheritance rights to the partner above the deceased’s immediate family. 

This last one is important.  I remember a couple that lived together for over 20 years and one of them was dying with AIDS.  The couple had built a life together.  They were not able to have joint property rights because they were not married so the house was in the partner’s name.  The partner who was dying did leave a will in which he left everything to his partner.  The will was contested and the family won as being the closest blood relative.  And when the partner died, the family swooped in; removed the body to be buried in their home state, removed items from the house and had the partner evicted and eventually sold the house.  Everything they had built together was taken from them.  A family that had no contact with their son since he came out of the closet had legal claim to everything he had built with his partner.   Yes, a civil union might have prevented this from happening if the state where the family was from also recognized civil unions. 

Civil unions and domestic partnerships are about death and illness protection.   Marriage is about life.  Marriage is about the building of a life together.  Yes there are similar protections in a marriage.   But marriage also has federal benefits; 1,049 benefits.   Yes many of these have to do with death and illness but they also include; joint parenting, joint adoption, joint custody rights,  immigration and residency for partners from other countries, veterans’ discounts on medical care, education, and home loans; joint filing of tax returns, and many, many more.   These are about building a life together. 

There is the fear that by allowing gays and lesbians to marry that it would somehow force conservative religious entities to performing marriages against their doctrinal beliefs.  This is such a palpable fear that Governor Lynch of New Hampshire stated he would not sign any same sex marriage legislation unless there was a provision stating that religious groups would not be forced to perform same sex weddings.     I can assure you as a minister, I am free to refuse to marry anyone that I want for whatever reason.  I am not under any obligation to marry anyone regardless of who they are.  I did a wedding last year for a couple whose minister refused to marry them because minister’s belief required him to only marry born again Christians.   That right is within the minister’s or priest’s jurisdiction.  It is a fear that is found-less and completely false. 

There is a fear that somehow by allowing same sex marriages it would diminish or invalidate opposite marriages.  The Roman Catholic Church believes that it diminishes the true purpose of marriage which according to their church teaching is procreation[13].  The difficulty I have with this doctrine is that the Roman Catholic Church does not refuse to marry couples who are past their child bearing age or couples where the woman had medically life saving surgery that resulted in an inability to have children.  If procreation was the sole purpose of marriage then these other couples should not be allowed to marry because the purpose can no longer be fulfilled. 

 There is, I believe a higher purpose for couples to marry than procreation.   In Christian theology, marriage is often seen as being symbolic of the love god has for humanity.  The devotion that the couple is to show each other is similar to the devotion that god would show them.  

There are many examples in the Abrahamic Scriptures of God making covenants with his people.  David Myers and Letha Scanzoni point out in their book[14], What God Has Joined Together? “that the Hebrew prophet Hosea has God liken his covenant with Israel to a betrothal: “I will betroth you to me for ever. … I will betroth you to me in faithfulness” (Hos. 2:19-20).

“Perhaps,” Myers and Scanzoni write, “rather than thinking in terms of gender, we might instead consider the characteristics of that covenant …. justice, fairness, love, kindness, faithfulness and a revelation of God’s personhood. … If these characteristics define an ideal marriage, might two homosexual persons likewise form such a union? … If we can think in those terms, might we … accept these (same sex) covenantal relationships as indeed a joining of two persons by God?” 

To join together in a covenanted relationship to emulate these characteristics of justice, fairness, love, faithfulness, isn’t this a modeling of behaviors that is needed to be seen in this world?  

Isn’t it these values that the two couples had to have in their wedding in order for it to be a real marriage ceremony?  The words are different, but listen for these values in the vows the couples made to each other: “To have and to hold, From this day forward, For better, for worse, For richer, for poorer, In sickness and in health, In sorrow or in joy, To love and to cherish As long as we both shall live.”

Why would anyone want to prevent that kind of commitment to love from being made?   Why indeed.  
 


[1] As found on the internet at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11442710/  on  5 June 2009

[2] as found at  http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/ATLAS_EN/html/history_of_marriage_in_western.html

[3] as found at  http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20050506-000006.html

[4] as found at  http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/ATLAS_EN/html/history_of_marriage_in_western.html

[5] as found at http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20040329&slug=marriagehistory29m

 [6] as found at  http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20050506-000006.html

[7] IBID

[8] as found at  http://www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/ATLAS_EN/html/history_of_marriage_in_western.html

[9] as found at http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20040329&slug=marriagehistory29m

[10] as found at http://www.ameasite.org/loving.asp

[11] as found at http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20040329&slug=marriagehistory29m

[12] Fred L Hammond, Heterosexual Supremacy essay at Unitarian Universalist in the South as found at http://www.serenityhome.wordpress.com

[13] The Threat of Same Sex Marriage as found at http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=3627

[14] I have lost the source for this section.  Ultimately it is from the book, but this section was a quote from the book for a review of the book.

How would You Feel?

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 11:19 am  Comments Off on How would You Feel?  
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Inherent right to love who you love

A recent comment on one of my posts has led me to reflect more the matter.  I love when that happens.

The argument the commentator made, if I am understanding correctly, is that human rights are not inherent but rather bestowed by the ruling government and in our case by the democratic process of a referendum.   There is certainly many governments, including the USA, that are listed as being in Human Rights violation for not recognizing legally those inherent rights or for trampling on the human rights of others.

That’s a pretty strong statement that reinforces my argument that if California’s Supreme Court upholds this constitutional ban, and it is a ban regardless of semantics used, that other groups of people could be told that their existence is also not “valid or recognized in California.”

What impact does it have to be told that you are not valid or recognized? What impact does it have on people to have something (domestic partnership) that sort of is like a thing that a certain class of people have but is not that thing (marriage)?

Have you ever been told that you are not valid or recognized by a government? Have you ever experienced that level of discrimination against your being? If you have then you might understand why it would be important to have one’s existence validated and recognized by the state and country in which they live.

We are talking about the inherent right to love who you love. It is inherent/unalienable–it is not bestowed. Love cannot be made illegal because it will exist regardless of what laws are passed. However, laws can be passed to recognize its existence and to honor its diversity. Laws do have a power that validates people. Laws can equalize the “legal rights” people in a state experience. And Human Rights, those rights that are inherent by simply being human, in a free society such as ours should be legalized as a matter of honoring our American ideals as found in the Declaration of Independence–the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If insisting on fulfilling our founding ideals is “intolerant” of me then sobeit. If it is “unethical” for me to state that love is inherent in humanity and should be honored in all its diversity legally, then I will continue to stand on the side of love and be “unethical.”

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 12:17 pm  Comments Off on Inherent right to love who you love  
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When Mississippi– Equal Marriage Rights?

Today, the California Supreme Court ruled in a decision 4 to 3 that California’s same sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.  They wrote: “As past cases establish, the substantive right of two adults who share a loving relationship to join together to establish an officially recognized family of their own – and, if the couple chooses, to raise children within that family – constitutes a vitally important attribute of the fundamental interest in liberty and personal autonomy that the California Constitution secures to all persons for the benefit of both the individual and society.”   (The full summary of the ruling can be found here. All quotes in this blog are from this summary. The complete Supreme Court Opinion is found here.)

A rose by any other name–NOT:  Domestic partnership is not the same as marriage. 

“One of the core elements of the right to establish an officially recognized family that is embodied in the California constitutional right to marry is a couple’s right to have their family relationship accorded dignity and respect equal to that accorded other officially recognized families, and assigning a different designation for the family relationship of same-sex couples while reserving the historic designation of “marriage” exclusively for opposite-sex couples poses at least a serious risk of denying the family relationship of same-sex couples such equal dignity and respect. We therefore conclude that although the provisions of the current domestic partnership legislation afford same-sex couples most of the substantive elements embodied in the constitutional right to marry, the current California statutes nonetheless must be viewed as potentially impinging upon a same-sex couple’s constitutional right to marry under the California Constitution.”

The institution of marriage is not undermined by same sex marriage.

“A number of factors lead us to this conclusion. First, [bold italics mine]  the exclusion of same-sex couples from the designation of marriage clearly is not necessary in order to afford full protection to all of the rights and benefits that currently are enjoyed by married opposite-sex couples; permitting same-sex couples access to the designation of marriage will not deprive opposite-sex couples of any rights and will not alter the legal framework of the institution of marriage, because same-sex couples who choose to marry will be subject to the same obligations and duties that currently are imposed on married opposite-sex couples. Second, retaining the traditional definition of marriage and affording same-sex couples only a separate and differently named family relationship will, as a realistic matter, impose appreciable harm on same-sex couples and their children, because denying such couples access to the familiar and highly favored designation of marriage is likely to cast doubt on whether the official family relationship of same-sex couples enjoys dignity equal to that of opposite-sex couples. Third, because of the widespread disparagement that gay individuals historically have faced, it is all the more probable that excluding same-sex couples from the legal institution of marriage is likely to be viewed as reflecting an official view that their committed relationships are of lesser stature than the comparable relationships of opposite-sex couples. Finally, retaining the designation of marriage exclusively for opposite-sex couples and providing only a separate and distinct designation for same-sex couples may well have the effect of perpetuating a more general premise – now emphatically rejected by this state – that gay individuals and same-sex couples are in some respects “second-class citizens” who may, under the law, be treated differently from, and less favorably than, heterosexual individuals or opposite-sex couples. Under these circumstances, we cannot find that retention of the traditional definition of marriage constitutes a compelling state interest. Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.”

Unitarian Universalists across this country will perform religious ceremonies celebrating the marriage of same sex couples even though the state will not recognize its civil legality.  Yet, heterosexual religious marriages, even those performed by Unitarian Universalists, are recognized for its civil legality.  I believe to not have these religious ceremonies recognized by the civil government is a violation of our religious freedoms. To deny recognition is a restriction and impingement of our religious principles that seeks compassion, justice, and equity in all human relations.  It amounts to an unequal religious authority to the majority in a country that claims separation of church and state. 

Mississippi equal marriage rights are coming to this state just as inter-racial marriage rights came to this state.  It is no nolonger a matter of if, it is only a matter of when.  May justice and equality be truly for all in this land.  Blessings, Rev. Fred L Hammond