By Timothy Cichon
The North Carolina ban on equal marriage has caused another round of discussions to crop up on television and the Internet, and also provided President Obama with the perfect opportunity to state his personal support of equal marriage. Mitt Romney took the chance to polarize the issue by stating his stance against equal marriage. I recently discussed the issue with a friend on his Facebook wall.
He stated that he supported equal rights for same-sex couples, citing his experience with gays and lesbians as “great and ordinary [people]” but that it shouldn’t be called marriage. When I asked him what it should be called and why, he told me:
Civil Unions. Because, in my eyes, marriage is a sacrament that I hold as a matter that should be held in the [same] eyes that the Lord has judged [it] to be. A same-sex marriage is not described by the Word of God.
Our conversation didn’t last much longer, but I did respond to him with a brief suggestion of the following, which actually prompted me to write this article.
Proponents of equal marriage are consistently demanding that same-sex couples be allowed to get the exact same legal union opposite-sex ones do, namely a “marriage.” There is a lot of opposition from churches and individuals who believe that homosexuality is a sin or that their holy book does not provide for same-sex marriages. But our founding father, Thomas Jefferson, called for a “wall of separation” between church and state. Jefferson understood that religious persuasions would impede an unbiased interpretation of the Constitution.
So the church does not want gays and lesbians to receive marriages? The church only wants to perform heterosexual marriages? That’s fine by me. But the church better be prepared to make the necessary compromises. If “marriage” is to be treated as a religious or god-evoking term, then it has no place in the government. This has big implications for churches.
First, churches should be willing to relinquish their tax-exempt status if a constitutional law makes them practice something they refuse to. Specifically, if a minister refuses to perform a legal marriage on discriminatory grounds, he should gladly let go of his tax privileges. He can chalk it up to suffering for the gospel.
Alternatively, since some people want same-sex unions which have the same privileges as marriages to be called “civil unions,” let’s call all types of unions just that, opposite and same-sex alike, and only allow government officials to legally administer them. If a couple wishes to receive divine sanction on their legal union, they could then go to their church and get married before the eyes of their minister and their god. Then they could have their marriage certificate which would hold as much legal weight as a certificate of water baptism. Religious gay and lesbian people would then find out which churches are truly loving and accepting, and could receive marriages from such institutions.
Of course, some religious folk in America will tell you that there are scientific studies which indicate that a child with two committed, loving, opposite-sex parents is the best situation. Don’t back down, because the actual science overwhelmingly confirms the equal marriage position. Two parents are good, regardless of the parents’ gender and/or orientation. One study indicates that children of lesbian parents are even better off, even if it is just because they chose to be parents and are typically more dedicated than unplanned parents.
Our LGBT brothers and sisters are consistently under attack and subject to discrimination. This is not just their fight; it is all of ours. To fight against and overturn the ingrained discrimination against LGBT people in America, it’s going to take more than heterosexual people saying they support LGBT rights. It takes a vote, a letter, a conversation. It takes making every opportunity to say, “I love my LGBT brothers and sisters and will not tolerate their second-class treatment.”
Timothy Cichon is a Sergeant in the United States Army currently stationed in California. He joined the army in 2007 and has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The views expressed in this article do not represent the Department of Defense nor the United States Army.