The recent vote in North Carolina against gay marriages, and the recent statement by Barack Obama in favor of it, has people asking what is correct. Is gay marriage not an option because some interpretations of the Bible say that only one man and one woman can enter into this sacred contract, or is gay marriage just another step in the process of giving civil rights to a previously ostracized and persecuted part of our population?
As is true of so many, I was brought up in the South to question the equal rights of women, the equal rights of people with dark skin, and the equal rights of homosexuals. Many of these questions were based on isolated proof-texts from the Old Testament that are surrounded by long discarded laws and opinions written a very long time ago. For instance, the laws requiring things like circumcision, holy feast days, animal sacrifices, proper incense burning, anointing with oil, women’s exile during menstruation, death for not keeping the Sabbath, the banning of pork, and the details of the Levitical Priesthood are not taken up and followed by most of us today. And mixed in with these things there are also negative statements about women, people of different races or faiths, and homosexuals. Why? Because prejudice was just as prevalent back when these things were written as it is now.
In the New Testament, Jesus, who was a Jew, humbly gathered around him a community of outcasts. He welcomed people with skin ailments (then called leprosy), women who had no husband, Samaritans who practiced a slightly different religion, and even hated tax collectors, Greeks and Romans. The fact is that he was all-inclusive. He welcomed everybody. I have no doubt there were homosexuals in that group.
It now should be clear that it has always been the case that women are not in any way inferior to men, or that people of color are any lazier than people with white skin, or that people who are same-sex-oriented abuse young children more that heterosexual people. Many of the things that alter this perspective come out of our personal experience.
For instance I recently was reacquainted with an old friend who had been living with his partner for over 35 years. My wife and I visited two of the most responsible and charming people we have ever met. In our talks, they told us that they had always wanted to be married because without it things were always so complicated and hard. When my friend’s partner died last year, my friend related to me the problems he had getting in to see his partner in intensive care, and the mess around his partner’s will because of greedy family members when he left all of his money to my friend.
I have no question about the civil rights of women, or people of color, or homosexuals. I do not question that homosexual people who love each other and want to get a civil marriage should have the right to do so. I have no doubt that to deny them this civil ceremony is nothing more than another prejudicial denial of the freedom this country stands for.
Thank you, Obama. Shame on you, North Carolina.
The writer lives in Murrells Inlet.