Article by Byron Edgington for Caffection, LLC
Part 2:➣ Civil marriage & families: According to the 2000 census, there are 601,200 same gender households in the United States. Fully 20% of those couples are raising children. That figure represents an increase of over 300% since the 1990 census. Both poll numbers are considered skewed, however. The census bureau acknowledges that even in the improved political climate many same-gender couples are likely to hide their status, so the actual figure is likely higher. It should come as no surprise that a basic objection to civil marriage equality centers on families. But considering the numbers above, and that those couples referenced have clearly committed to creating stable, secure homes for themselves and their kids, thereby providing shelter, becoming role models for what society expects, and strengthening their communities, it’s clear that those households share the same ‘family values’ as those who object. It is no stretch to see that civil marriage equality has many benefits for children of LBGT couples. Two married people always have more financial stability, for one thing. They have more latitude in child care, educational opportunity, activities, dietary needs, and the range of issues that children present. As for the often heard claim that boys need a father figure, and girls need mother figures, that would seem intuitively true. The realistic response is that there are already more single-parent households in the U.S. than ever. According to the census bureau there were 12.9 million one-parent families in 2006 – 10.4 million single-mother families and 2.5 million single-father. There is no scientific evidence that children suffer ill effects from the absence of either parent unless their departure has left the remaining parent financially strapped. Legal efforts, and some recent successes to restrict adoptions to heterosexual couples benefit no one. Quite the contrary, a couple unable to procreate on their own are the perfect resource for many adoptable children. The same pre-adoption screening and procedure would be required in any case, and, as mentioned above, it’s probable that many same-gender households are more financially stable than single-parented homes. Plus, there is no scientific evidence or study showing that kids do worse in same-gender households. Quite the contrary, over 300 studies, some by such prestigious organizations as the American Psychological Association saw no difference in childrens’ development regardless of their placement in hetero or other households. The practical reality is, that kids in single parent households may do worse, only because those homes, though stable and secure otherwise, may lack sufficient financial support. The bottom line is that, as one study proved, kids thrive on one thing: stability. Lacking stability, and the security it provides, children tend to suffer from various social and psychological ills. This is yet another reason that civil marriage equality is indeed a true family values issue. Our LGBT brothers and sisters should be encouraged to enter into civil marriages, to provide stability to their children.➣ Civil marriage & religion: There are two premises we must accept before civil marriage equality can even be discussed in a meaningful way. Number one is that homosexuality is a condition of birth, like eye color, or left (or right) handedness; number two is that, regardless of how one feels about premise number one, civil marriage equality is just that, a civil, legal issue, not a religious one. Only when those two facts are accepted can any meaningful discussion take place. But once those two realities are accepted, the understanding comes easily to reasonable people. Just as it would be outrageous for the state in any capacity to dictate what is preached, or believed inside a church, it’s equally unimaginable that churches ought to dictate the business of the state and its institutions. When applying for a driver’s permit, for instance, we’re not expected, nor are we required, to bring along religious documents, the Bible, the Koran, passages from the Veda etc. All that’s required of an applicant for a driver’s permit is proof of age, driving school papers if needed, passage of a state-crafted written & vision test, and a bit of money. When applying for a zoning permit, or papers to run for public office, or tax forms, etc. etc. no religious tract is needed or expected. Now, some teenagers may pack a prayer book for the driving test if they believe it might help, but it’s not necessary. All these transactions are understood to be strictly legal, civil proceedings. Just so, a civil marriage license is a document created by, printed by and delivered by the state–likely in the same office–as the other certificates. The requirements for the issuance of a civil marriage certificate, in most states, are relatively simple: the couple must be sane; not coerced into the marriage; of proper age according to the jurisdiction; and not currently married to someone who is still alive. Beyond that, as we saw in the Iowa ruling, the state should have no interest in restricting the right of civil marriage to anyone desiring to make that commitment. Indeed, the states that have thus far endorsed civil marriage equality have recognized that encouraging stable, committed marriage is in the interest of all society. So we see that it is no stretch to understand civil marriage equality not only as a human rights issue, but as a family values issue. Instead of restricting marriage to our LGBT brothers & sisters, states should be encouraging them to marry & settle into long-term, stable, committed, safe and secure, child-friendly marriages. If ever there was a conservative friendly issue, this is it. Further, it’s gratifying to see the appearance of so many so-called ‘affirming’ churches, or reconciling churches. In several denominations–UCC, Episcopal, MCC, UU, and many other Christian and other congregations, the LGBT community is being welcomed and encouraged. While it does seem a bit odd that any church should have to advertise inclusivity, it is good to see the outreach becoming more widespread. And as more and more LGBT people and their families become more and more visible to the community at large the more acceptance will build on itself. When religious communities realize that the sun will still rise in the east, cows still give milk, and western civilization continues in its inexorable way.
But what about capital ‘T’ Tradition, the definition of marriage as we’ve always known it, and don’t see any reason to change? We’re fearful that same-gender marriage will truly undermine the institution of marriage. Period. Surely this is a concern rightly addressed and monitored by religious people? Here are a few interesting facts about the ‘Tradition’ of marriage: The Catholic church didn’t recognize marriage until 1215, and I don’t mean clock time, but Anno Domini 1215. And yes, the Church got around to making it a sacrament at that time, primarily to bring order to the chaos of who was married to whom. And that was a dilemma only because of, you guessed it, property rights. Here’s an interesting side note: until that same time, priests & bishops married and sired children right & left. The Church had to put a stop to that ‘tradition’, because children of those priests & bishops were inheriting property from their clerical parents, thus wresting it from the property books of the church. That’s why priests are celibate today, the vow of chastity notwithstanding. Not too long ago the tradition of marriage included a codicil called ‘coverture’. Simply explained, coverture was a legal attachment to marriage stating that only men could own property in that union. In short, a married woman was ‘covered’ (the definition of coverture), by her husband. The two were seen by the law as one person, and that person was the husband. The ironic part of that little legal twist is that, according to the law at least, a single woman had more rights than her married counterpart. Under coverture, a married woman couldn’t own property in her name, keep a salary for herself, or obtain an education against her husband’s wishes. Not too long ago marriages were little more than the best method of establishing alliances between neighboring–or often conflicting–landed families. If Romeo & Juliet had survived it’s likely they would have been at the forefront of the civil marriage equality struggle. Alas, they did not. As recently as 1967 sixteen states in this country had anti-miscegenation laws. Not until the appropriately named Loving Vs Virginia case did they go away. Rendering black/white marriage illegal now would seem ludicrous. As for Biblical tradition & the marriage issue, care must be taken. The old testament does in fact cite Abraham’s twelve wives. Solomon supposedly had 700. So much for one man one woman. Continuing with Biblical precepts, it is Tradition, according to the Good Book, that daughters may be sold into slavery, shellfish, wearing garments of two types of fabric, planting two crops in the same field, working on the Sabbath and other issues are an abomination against God. Speaking of long-discarded traditions, in this country slavery was a traditional practice, justified by Biblical passages. It’s readily apparent that our religious friends must tread lightly if they wish to deny marital rights to LGBT people. It may be better for them to seek wisdom and counsel in the simple truth that civil marriage equality offers protection for them as well: religious organizations are free to practice their faiths behind the doors of their sanctuary, where the state dare not intrude; the state is free to do the peoples’ business in the courthouse, where churches dare not intrude. Speaking of capital ‘T’ Tradition, this wonderful system has served us very well for 233 years, and promises to continue.
Byron Edgington with wife Mariah is creator of http://www.caffection.com, a webs based resource for happy, committed couples