Gay Marriage - The Pagan Difference

By Jason Pitzl - Waters

As I have pointed out before, laws against legally recognized gay marriage unfairly benefit those religious traditions who have a vested interest in GLBT folks remaining second-class citizens. The melding of a civil contract and (mainly Christian) religious ceremony in America has created the erroneous idea that the State should have some role in defining and blessing (with legal benefits) which two consenting adults should be able to be joined before their god(s). In a theocracy that might be understandable, but in a theoretically secular nation (one that harbors a vast diversity of religious viewpoints) such "traditions" of mixing religious law with secular law are absurd at best, and harmful at worst.

The Pagan attitude towards gay marriage is a very different one than the so-called ‘Judeo-Christian' attitude that rigidly defines a sacred bonding, a marriage, as only possible between mating couples of the opposite sex. An example of this difference recently popped up in an Icelandic newspaper, where a former Asatru high chieftain blasted his government for its double standards concerning the legal status of gay and straight marriage in his country.

"Jörmundur Ingi Hansen, former high chieftain of Ásatrúarfélagid (a religious organization for those who believe in the pagan Icelandic/Nordic gods), has criticized the new laws on religious associations being able to confirm cohabitation between individuals of the same sex for being too vague and not really including marital rights. "The laws on confirmed cohabitation are mostly an optical illusion," Hansen told Fréttabladid. "They neither give gay people nor straight people any rights to my best knowledge." "Various people have claimed they give the same rights as marriage, but that is unfortunately not true. They do not include a reversionary right and do not provide the kind of safety that marriage is supposed to provide," Hansen explained."

While Iceland has long had civil unions for gay couples (called "registered partnership"), they have steered clear of allowing "marriage" for gay couples. The situation Hansen describes, is in regards to a new law that allows religious institutions to solemnize a "confirmed cohabitation". While some are calling it "marriage", others, like Hansen, point out that it doesn't grant the same rights and status as a straight marriage.

"Separate laws are valid for the confirmation on cohabitation for straight and gay couples and the traditional definition of marriage, as a union between a man and a woman, remains unchanged. In October 2007, the State Church decided not to change the traditional definition of marriage. "I think it is poor behavior to make people believe that this is marriage when it isn't," Hansen said, adding, "If confirmed cohabitation is supposed to be such a good thing then why can't priests confirm the cohabitation of straight couples?" "Until now I have not had the right to confirm the cohabitation of a man and a woman. There is no law that states that the cohabitation of two individuals of the opposite sex can be confirmed," Hansen claimed. "I just don't understand what the legislator is trying to achieve with this. It is like a band-aid for an undefined wound," Hansen concluded."

What these Icelandic issues illustrate is that "separate but equal" civil union compromises usually only emphasize the "separate", and hardly ever confer true "equality". Civil unions for GLBT folk in America might be seen as a step forward for awhile, but eventually those "not-marriage" contract compromises will start to chafe.

"We are all the same people, all of us. You're no different than I am. Our love is the same. To me - to me, what it feels like - just, you know, I will speak for myself - it feels - when someone says, ‘You can have a contract, and you'll still have insurance, and you'll get all that,' it sounds to me like saying, ‘Well, you can sit there; you just can't sit there.' That's what it sounds like to me. It feels like - it doesn't feel inclusive...It feels - it feels isolated. It feels like we are not - you know, we aren't owed the same things and the same wording." - Ellen DeGeneres