The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics
Inspired by The Rite of Marriage, on Columbia Faith and Values
So much talk about gay marriage lately with the SCOTUS hearings and this being Pride Month at MU, it is really a blast for someone like myself that loves talking politics, religion, and philosophy, as this can encompass all three. It can, however, be frustrating at times when one comes across opinions like those linked above. For those unwilling to stomach another bigoted editorial, the argument can be summarized to:
Clearly, I don’t care what anyone’s religion says about homosexuality, there is nothing wrong with it, but I’ll set that aside for now, as I can deconstruct the argument without having to show why it is not wrong. It hinges on the idea that marriage is a solely, or at least foremost, a religious institution. Such a stance was decided upon by first consulting Merriam-Webster’s definition:
“a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>”
But, that included same sex marriage, so it was not good enough (although, the cited reason that it was disregarded was because it also said marriage was consensual and “that is not the case in all cultures, so there must be a better definition”). From there we naturally turn to anthropologists to see how they define marriage….Wait. What’s that? We went to Catholic doctrine afterward? But the MW definition didn’t say anything about religion or spirituality. It talked about contracts and legal recognition. Okay, well what did the Catholic version say:
“Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes. These differences should not cause us to forget its common and permanent characteristics”
I’m sorry but I fail to see how marriage is anything but a purely human institution. Currently only humans are capable of getting married or recognizing a marriage. This quote also does not explain what the “common and permanent characteristics” of marriage are. Luckily, the author agrees that this is also an inadequate explanation, although they accept everything stated. From here I’m sure we go on to the anthropologists or sociologist to figure out these common and permanent characteristics, right? NOPE! We turn to the Quran , The Torah (conveniently also considered canon in Catholicism), and the New Testament, where it largely details that marriage is between a man and a woman.
At this point, the argument is incapable of effectively being used to to explain why marriage should not be a right that is extended to homosexual couples. Marriage has existed long before these religions which makes them poor standards for deciding what is common and permanent about marriage. Additionally, this idea of “common and permanent” characteristics reeks of appeal to tradition, especially since no reason is given as to why such characteristics should be adhered to or even a good explanation of what they are. Finally, and most importantly marriage is not solely a religious institution in our culture. In fact, it need not require any religion whatsoever. A couple could simply have a marriage license signed by a government official and get the legal benefits. This is still referred to as a marriage, not some other term. If you want to use this argument to say that the Catholic church should not allow gay marriages, fine. By all means push the church further into irrelevancy. But with what has been provided here, there is no reason not to allow legal marriages for same sex couples recognized by the government. It does not hurt you, your church, or your marriage. You may think it is sinful, but you also think not being a christian is sinful, and you would not advocate for making it illegal to not be christian, would you? If not, then “because my religion says it is wrong” is not a good enough reason to make something illegal.
Tony Lakey is the President of MU SASHA. He interned with the Center for Inquiry On Campus in Amherst, NY and was a volunteer Teacher/Counselor at Camp Inquiry. He is an activist for atheism, secularism, feminism, and LGBT issues. He is in his fourth year at the University of Missouri – Columbia majoring in Philosophy and Sociology.