Thanks to everyone who’s been commenting on my series on Math and Morality. I’ll be returning to some of the outstanding questions soon (especially those posed by Dylan and Hendy), but I’m finishing work and moving out of DC this week, so I’m focusing this week more on politics than philosophy.
Don’t forget, if you’d like to respond to a Monday Call to Arms in longer form as a guest blogger, please email me at leah (dot) libresco (at) yale (dot) edu.
A lot of the arguments in the gay marriage debate are baffling to me (and I’m not just talking about the connection between gays and inclement weather discovered by NOM).
Many Christians argue that gay marriage is an oxymoron since no marriage between two people of the same sex can be fully a sacrament, resulting in the couple being united in each other and in Christ. I’m certainly not going to argue the point with them. As an atheist, I cannot have a sacramental marriage, regardless of whether I marry a man or a woman, but I don’t see Christians lining up to turn atheists like me away at the county clerk’s office.
What is more, conservative Christians cannot stop gay parishioners from receiving ‘Christian’ marriages no matter how the court battles turn out. Plenty of denominations already perform gay weddings, regardless of whether they are recognized by the state as such. These marriages may hurt the position of more conservative sects, but they have no more right to ask the state to intervene than they would if they asked the government to prevent liberal Christian groups from ordaining female bishops.
The solution seems obvious; the state should administer civil unions and churches should preside over marriages, neither of which would be a precondition for the other. This isn’t a new argument, but it never seems to cross over from the blogosphere to actual policy proposal.
I understand why gay rights activists are reluctant to sign on. There’s no denying that gay people are hurt when shunted off to a hodgepodge marriage substitute that lacks social recognition as well as 1138 benefits and privileges for families. Secular and atheist groups are the logical leaders on this issue (except, perhaps, from a PR perspective).
As an atheist, I don’t see marriage as a fundamental phase change in a relationship. Atheist weddings more closely resemble college graduations. The date chosen is somewhat arbitrary and commemorates a change that really occurred when you turned in your last paper or moved off of campus. All the showy ceremony is arranged to give you one moment of leave-taking that is synchronized with your friends (and, of course, to give parents permission to get all verklempt in public).
Secular weddings serve much the same function. The only extra feature is that the public/community component of wedding vows serves as a spur to stay together rather than lose face by going back on your public oath (admittedly, a very weak motivation these days).
So what exactly are Christians defending and gays claiming for their own?
Are secular marriages any more valid than gay ones?
How do you address the social ramifications of other denominations performing gay weddings, regardless of whether those marriages are legally recognized?
What does marriage signify for you?
Do you have any reason to prefer that you and your partner have a marriage rather than a civil union (assuming civil unions carried all the federal benefits of marriage)?
What do you think an atheist wedding should entail?