According to their website the concern is:

“For over a decade, the institution of marriage, the very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning. Now, for the first time since its passage, the federal Defense of Marriage Act, (DOMA) is being directly threatened. And probably more threateningly, a federal lawsuit in California is challenging the validity of Proposition 8- a measure passed by voters defining marriage between one man and one woman- on core Constitutional grounds. All observers believe this case is headed for the Supreme Court, where 5 justices could create a “constitutional right for homosexual marriage,” which will put into question what marriage means for every American across the nation.

It is time for the people to stand up and make it clear that they will not let marriage be redefined. Now, more than ever, is the time to rally behind marriage and let our voices be heard. The National Organization for Marriage is launching the month-long, nationwide Summer for Marriage Tour 2010: One Man One Woman. The tour will criss-cross the east coast, mid-west and southern states to hold a series of 20 rallies to encourage supporters to stand up for marriage. Many of the states we are visiting are the key battlegrounds in this critical debate.”

In 2008 these folks raised $2,967,495. So let there be no doubt these folks are playing hardball and intend to destroy the sanctity of our relationships along the way. 

The reason for concern here is because NOM is not just your run of the mill homophobic group.  They are taking a new direction by saying our community is taking from them what is not rightfully ours.  With a slick marketing campaign they are attempting to throw us out of a room we have been in all along.

The brilliance of their approach is not so much in what they say but rather what they do not acknowledge, either by omission or a distortion of the truth.

On their website one of the talking points is as follows:

“Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is:

“Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage. Some modify it to “People have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

Language to avoid at all costs: “Ban same-sex marriage.” Our base loves this wording. So do supporters of SSM. They know it causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don’t use it. Say we’re against “redefining marriage” or in favor or “marriage as the union of husband and wife” NEVER “banning same-sex marriage.”

It strikes me this approach is a little like up North where I am from it was the “Civil War” or the “War between the States”.  Yet here in the south this same history is described as “The War of Northern Aggression”.  Let us be real here, marriage has been redefining itself for centuries.

So let us clarify some things here. Maybe the definition of the word would be helpful.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary marriage is defined as follows:

mar•riage
Pronunciation: ˈmer-ij, ˈma-rij
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English mariage, from Anglo-French, from marier to marry
Date: 14th century

1 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> b: the mutual relation of married persons: wedlock c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially: the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union <the marriage of painting and poetry — J. T. Shawcross>

Wow, would you look at that the LGBTQ community made it into Webster’s.  Folks, that is not we trying to redefine… that is scholarship’s recognition of what is.

NOM says, “The very bedrock on which civilized society rests, has been under attack by radical activists who want to redefine its very meaning.”

What poppycock.  There has been no real clear marriage tradition or understanding of just what exactly marriage is for centuries.  One man and one woman?  Please, in Old Testament times the more wives a man had the better.  Marriages prior to the 20th century had more to do with property rights, business agreements, and certain families being brought together to consolidate political power.

I said earlier they were trying to throw us out of a room we are already in. According to “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“Various types of same-sex marriages have existed,[40] ranging from informal, unsanctioned relationships to highly ritualized unions.[41]

While it is a relatively new practice that same-sex couples are being granted the same form of legal marital recognition as commonly used by mixed-sex couples, recent publicity and debate over the past decade gives an impression that civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples is novel and untested. There is a long history of recorded same-sex unions around the world.[42] It is believed that same-sex unions were celebrated in Ancient Greece and Rome,[42] some regions of China, such as Fujian, and at certain times in ancient European history.[43] A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3) issued in 342 CE prohibited same-sex marriage in ancient Rome, but the exact intent of the law and its relation to social practice is unclear, as only a few examples of same-sex marriage in that culture exist.[44]”

The States or the Government didn’t really have anything to do with marriage until the 1800’s and moving forward to now.  Since, the feds have gotten involved there has been an ever steady set of rights and privileges which go along with this thing called marriage.

Today Kathy Belge, from About.com Guide writes:

“According to Lambda Legal Defense, more than 1,400 legal rights are conferred upon heterosexual married couples in the United States. By not being allowed to marry, gays and lesbians are denied these rights. Here are some of the legal rights that married couples have and gays and lesbians are denied:

  • Joint parental rights of children
  • Joint adoption
  • Status as “next-of-kin” for hospital visits and medical decisions
  • Right to make a decision about the disposal of loved ones remains
  • Immigration and residency for partners from other countries
  • Crime victim’s recovery benefits
  • Domestic violence protection orders
  • Judicial protections and immunity
  • Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will
  • Public safety officer’s death benefits
  • Spousal veterans benefits
  • Social Security
  • Medicare
  • Joint filing of tax returns
  • Wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children
  • Bereavement or sick leave to care for partner or children
  • Child support
  • Joint Insurance Plans
  • Tax credits including: Child tax credit, Hope and lifetime learning credits
  • Deferred Compensation for pension and IRAs
  • Estate and gift tax benefits
  • Welfare and public assistance
  • Joint housing for elderly
  • Credit protection
  • Medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans

These are just a few of the 1400 state and federal benefits that gays and lesbians are denied by not being able to marry. Most of these benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted for within the legal system.

NOM also argues, “Religious groups like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army may lose their tax exemptions, or be denied the use of parks and other public facilities, unless they endorse gay marriage.”  It is also pointed out by this group that churches will be forced to do weddings they disapprove of.

Again, this is a flat lie… Church’s have never been forced to marry a couple which did not meet the requirements of a particular church.

I should also note there are several denominations including Unitarian Universalist, Metropolitan Community Church, Quaker, United Church of Canada, United Church of Christ, Reform Jewish congregations, several independent-progressive churches and some Anglican dioceses which now recognize what has become known as “Gay-Marriage.”

So, the debate concerning “gay marriage” continues to new heights of passion and meanness. There is now this national organization helping stir the pot.

NOM says they are concerned about faith communities. Frankly, NOM is just using that as a tool.  I suspect the basic reason for this is as with most right wing conservatives is centered on power and control issues.

Those who have defined marriage as the exclusive right of heterosexuals want to continue to control the rules. It is a “Members (who meet the standard) Only Club.”

Marriage in today’s sense is less about two people who love each other deeply and commit to living in a way that will enhance that love.

I find it just a tad ironic our people have always had to choose to be together for the most part because they love each other deeply and now simply desire the Government to recognize that.

After 28 years of “marriage” to my partner I can safely say we made this far not because of any encouragement or support society gave us. We made this far because our love for one another is as wide as any ocean and as high as any mountain.

So I wonder from a faith and spiritual stand point what God is more concerned with, love and commitment or power and control?

We live in a world where marriage vows are usually not worth the paper they are written on. 50% of all first marriages will end in divorce and 60% of all 2nd and third marriages will end before “death do us part.”

If Marriage is a social union or legal contract between individuals that creates kinship or from the church point of view a covenant between two people and God then we are talking about the total investment of those involved.

I wonder if God is more concerned about broken promises or covenants that call on people to go deeper in their relationship than simple vows.

Finally, I wonder from a spiritual perspective if a God who by biblical definition is both male and female is really concerned about the gender identity of a couple who are willing to live in covenant with each other.

After all, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, in other words which commandment should be the basis of who and what we are, his reply was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself: All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If these commandments are where it begins and ends — I believe our God is far more interested in covenants of love regardless of gender identification rather than alleged traditional marriage, which NOM is trying to save, and nowhere in any of their talking points do they address these two commandments for which all the law and prophets hang.

So how about NOM? Maybe take some of that 2.9 million you raised in 2008 and use it to give a drink to the thirsty, or feed the hungry, or cloth the naked or visit the sick and imprisoned.  Maybe while you are in town you could provide some beds for the 11,000 homeless in Metro Atlanta.  Or better yet how about taking your time, energy and resources and save the building for the “Task-Force for the Homeless.”

 


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org

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