Friday, August 26, 2011

Marriage is Like a Tree

Rick Santorum continues to limp through his embarrassing 2012 presidential campaign.  He keeps coming up with all sorts of analogies for why my marriage and others like it are not actually marriages.  Like when he said that napkins aren't paper towels and that's why gay people cannot get married.  He's also gone on records that a cup of tea isn't a basketball and that a cup of water is not a cup of beer.  That third analogy brought out the greatest response that I've seen in a long time by Think Progress commenter, Scott Boyd: "Jesus turned water to wine, so doesn't that mean marriage has many forms?"

Now Santorum has a new reason why gay people cannot (or rather should not, given that we can marry here in Iowa and in several other U.S. states): Trees are not cars:
Marriage is what marriage is. Marriage was around before government said what it was. It’s like going out and saying, ‘That tree is a car.’ Well, the tree’s not a car. A tree’s a tree. Marriage is marriage. You can say that tree is something other than it is. It can redefine it. But it doesn’t change the essential nature of what marriage is. Marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of the benefit of both the man and the woman, a natural unitive according to nature, unitive, that is for the purposes of having and rearing children and for the benefit of both the man and the woman involved in that relationship. And for the benefit of society because we need to have stable families of men and woman bonded together to raise children. That’s what marriage is.
Of course, there are married het people who have no kids and there are married gay people who actually do have kids.  Our kids benefit from having two married parents.  And society benefits from our marriage.  We're not sleeping around and spreading who knows what.  We're financially and emotionally responsible for each other.  We are happy and enjoy spending time together.  I would argue that's what marriage is.

Santorum is also concerned about the forest, as well as the tree (i.e., polygamy):
You can say two people who love each other is marriage. But then why limit it to just two people? Why not three people? Why not 10 people? If it’s just about love and everybody needs to be treated equally, then why not 10? Why not allowing nieces and aunts to marry? Why not? If marriage means anyone who is in love, well, then, let everybody who is in love get married. But it’s not what marriage is.
I've often said that if the biggest argument against allowing gay marriage is that you cannot then argue against polygamy, then you don't really have much of an argument against polygamy. Polygamy is its own issue. Most polygamists are actually social conservatives who oppose marriage equality. They believe is polygamy not just because they are "in love", but because they believe that God ordains and blesses plural marriages.

Which brings me to Rick's last point: marriage equality undermines religious liberty.  I argue just the opposite.  Marriage inequality undermines my religious liberty -- and, to be honest, opposition to polygamy undermines the religious liberty of others.  Not that I'm this huge polygamy cheer leader, but it's true.  The truth is that Santorum and those who believe like he does don't care about the religious liberty of others.  They just want to promote their own religious objections to gay families.

The truth is that marriage equality has been legal in parts of the United States for many years.  If you count civil unions, it's been around for a decade.  No pastor has been prevented from preaching against gay sexuality or marriage.  No pastor has been arrested for preaching against gay sexuality or marriage.  No church has lost its tax-exempt status for preaching against gay sexuality or marriage.  No church or pastor has been placed in the position where they have been forced to welcome a lesbian family into its sanctuary or where they have been forced to officiate at the wedding of a male couple.

Meanwhile, my own denomination does recognize the sanctity of all marriages and families.  So does the Metropolitan Community Church.  So does the Unitarian Universalists.  And many other religious denominations continue to inch their way towards full equality of gay families within their pews.  Why are the Santorums of the world unconcerned about the religious liberties of those folks?

Santorum will likely come up with more "gays cannot marry because X isn't Y" statements before his political career finally collapses in upon itself.  Sadly, this type of nonsensical response seems to be taking off.  Just this morning on the Patheos website, I had a variation of Santorum's argument tossed out at me ("You can call an orchid a rose, and it might be a very beautiful flower, but it is not a rose" -- and f*ck me very much for allowing myself to stumble into that stupid debate about the legitimacy of my family with someone who clearly doesn't care, but I am digressing...).  At least with this latest assertion, one could argue that a rose isn't an orchid but they're both flowers.

Either way, it doesn't matter.  A car might not be a tree.  But my family is still a family just like Santorum's family is still a family.  We both exist.  We both are valid.  We both have worth.

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