Should Christian Leaders Be Made To Perform Same-Sex Weddings?

Since the wave of marriage equality first began to sweep the globe, many Christian leaders have expressed concern over what this might mean for them. Many worry that the state (whichever state or nation they hail from) may impose upon them a legal obligation to perform same-sex weddings against their convictions. It is indeed true that in some places this has happened, but by and large it hasn’t been an issue … until now. People are starting to call for this, citing discrimination, and a defeated bill in the U.S. state of Georgia this week would have protected against such a law. The question I wish to discuss today is whether or not the state has any business making Christian leaders perform same-sex marriages at all?

It may surprise you when I say that I am strongly against making church leaders perform same-sex weddings. Allow me to explain.

Among the many values that I espouse, separation of church and state is high on my list of priorities. The church is, of course, subject to certain laws (though not enough in my opinion as I feel they should be paying taxes) – governance is, after all, the role of government. But when it comes to matters of faith, religious conviction, doctrine, and things of that nature, well, we have the protection of religious freedoms for a reason. Now, I am all for fighting against the church. I criticize Christianity, and a number of churches in most of my writing, and I have good reason for it. They have no right to influence us in the public square unless we are all afforded the same opportunity, but their practices within their houses of worship are some of the many things freedom of religion is meant to protect. As distasteful and hurtful as their refusal to accept same-sex couples is, it does not fall under the category of religious practice that has to be banned for obvious reasons (ie: human sacrifice, sharia law, etc). When we do ban such things as a church refusing a couple wishing to marry, we venture onto shaky ground. A precedent for restricting freedoms is set, and that puts us all at risk.

Marriage is NOT a religious institution. It is a legal institution in which the marriage license, at least the one that is binding, is issued by the state. As a structure responsible for ensuring free and equal protections under the law, it is incumbent upon the state to legalize and legitimize marriage equality. Not so for the church. While I think that churches that do not perform or recognize same-sex marriages are wrong and should be confronted about their discriminatory beliefs and principles, having the state mandate their actions in this regard would be an actual violation of religious freedom.

At this point in a growing number of nations, marriage equality is the law of the land. Same-sex couples can get married the same as heterosexual couples can, and enjoy the legal benefits that go along with that. There are also a small number of Christian denominations and churches that do believe in marriage equality. The United and Presbyterian denominations, some churches and dioceses within the Anglican/Episcopalian communion, and a scattered number of others, for example. LGBTQ+ Christians who wish to get married in a church can make that happen, and I do hope to see more churches open their doors to them in the coming years. But none of this happened through legal mandate. The churches that solemnize same-sex marriage decided to do so on their own. This is what has to happen in places where church and state are recognized as two different entities with very different roles.

If things were different, if the church issued legally valid marriage licenses for example, I would feel very differently about this. And it’s not that I think churches should be given a pass on their exclusion. It’s just that marriage equality as a matter of law, is a legal issue. Many churches believe and do things that I and others are disgusted by, but they have the freedom to do those things because we have freedom of (and from) religion. I wouldn’t want to live in a country where this was not the case. Passing legislation that makes Christian leaders perform religious ceremonies that go against their religious convictions is, in my opinion, a step too far. Such a restriction on religious freedom effectively puts my own freedoms at risk, and that is something I am not prepared to accept.

 

Advertisements

Why Two?

The question has been asked, and it’s time it was answered. A select few mainstream evangelicals are posing this question, and although responses have been attempted, none have yet proved sufficient. “Why Two? Why not three, or four, or ten?” This question, of course, is about marriage. Having won the battle for the rights of two people of the same sex to marry, we now face a question designed by evangelicals to trap us into a moral corner. The assumption is that we are insistent upon marriage being confined to only two partners, and because they see our victory as a redefinition, they want to hear our explanation as to why we insist upon two. “If you are redefining marriage anyway, why stop now? Why two? Why not more?”

Now, if you are in the pro marriage equality camp, and you do feel that marriage must be confined to two partners, I would love to hear it. But our movement was never about just two. It’s about equality, and the historic fight won in the U.S. Supreme Court was about people of the same sex being able to enter into a marriage contract with one another – two because that’s the marriage convention we have. If a group of polygamists/polygynists began demanding the right to marry tomorrow, I for one would not have a problem with it; and here’s why:

Relationships that have a sexual component, in this case marriage, hinge on consent. The reason we do not allow children to marry children, or adults to marry children or animals, is because children and animals do not have the mental or emotional capacity to understand the meaning of such relationships; and cannot appropriately give consent. In the case of adults, be it two or more than two, consent can freely be given. Polygamy may not be right for you, it certainly wouldn’t work for me, but where consent is present, I see no reason to impose restrictions on it based on my own distaste. I can’t answer the question “why two,” because I am not of the mindset that it must be only two.

I must admit, I find this question a bit curious, considering where it comes from. Those posing it are firmly in the “only two” camp, and every time a progressive says what I just said, they feel a small sense of victory. “Ha! See? They have no morals! They say they are good people, but they just contradicted themselves!” The problem is that nobody contradicted themselves at all. I am a good person, and believing that marriage between consenting adults is okay, be it between two or more people, doesn’t make me a bad person. Among the many assumptions these opponents make is the belief that we agree with their morality, at least to a certain point. “We believe marriage is between two people, they agree with us on that, so if they say polygamy is okay, they have made a moral contradiction.” The reasoning behind this question is ludicrous, and based on an unfounded premise. Many of us do not agree.

The first five books of the Bible talk positively about polygamy frequently, and it’s used in all sorts of contexts – economic necessity, social organization, even by divine command. Two-person marriage is not the only God-ordained form outlined in the scriptures, yet it is seen as a fundamental issue of morality today that only two people, one man and one woman, be granted the right to it. The question “why two” is a good one, but it is being asked of the wrong people. Those asking “why two” need to have the question turned back on them. To the evangelicals asking us “why two,” I ask the same of you. I never said “two,” and the funny thing is your Bible doesn’t insist upon it either. So why two? Why is it that you are so adamant that marriage be between two people? Let’s be honest, you have more scriptural support for your arguments against same-sex marriage than you do against polygamy; and that’s not much. So why two?

As a final thought, consider this. We on the progressive left are being challenged on moral grounds by people who believe a book that says a woman, subject to the will of her father, can be forced to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Exodus 22:16-17). We are being asked “why two” by followers of a God, eternally unchanging, who allows polygamy under certain circumstances (Genesis 16:1-11), and is arguably generally accepting of it when you take all of scripture into account. We are being asked “why two” by people who assume we think “just two.” They don’t know if we feel this way, they just assume we do, and cry moral foul when it turns out we don’t. To our evangelical opponents, perhaps you would care to answer the question: Why two?

 

Trans Rights In 2016

2016 has to be the year of Trans rights. On November 13, 2015, an article appeared on theguardian.com, outlining the very pressing dangers facing Transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States today. It was devastating to say the least, and it serves to warn us all that the struggles of Trans people deserve more attention in the year to come.

2015 saw the landmark SCOTUS ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout America, and that was just one of many victories won this year. Despite the fact that LGB people are still facing discrimination, harassment, and the ever-present fear of violence, things have gotten better overall. 2015 has been a great year for equality! We must keep this momentum going in 2016, and at the same time prioritize our push for the same progress in Trans visibility and understanding.

As of Nov 13 (the publication date of the article above), there had been 21 Trans homicides in 2015; almost all of whom were Transgender women of colour. Of the 53 Trans murders between 2013 and 2015, NOT ONE had been reported or prosecuted as a hate crime. Due to social pressures, stigmas, and threats of further violence, we know that most violent crimes against Trans people go unreported, leading to the safe assumption that these numbers are not even close to revealing the reality of the situation. It should be noted here that these are U.S. statistics, but that the struggle for Trans people across the world, including my country of Canada, is just as real.

A Congressional group dedicated to the rights and equalities of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. has taken the step of putting together a Transgender Equality Task Force, and we have to put our passions into this as well. Governmental and grass roots groups have to both work hard for this, a combined effort that has seen success for decades now. We have to fight just as hard, though hopefully not as long, as we have for the rights and equalities of LGB people.

Note what was just said about the victims of these crimes – in 2015, most were Trans women of colour. It is rightly pointed out in the article that the issue here goes much deeper than mere Transphobia; a definite issue to be addressed, but it only scratches the surface. The deeper issue lies at the intersection of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Immediately clear, and again rightly pointed out in the article, we can no longer afford to address these issues separately. Where do we begin? By listening to the people already talking about it, and asking questions to gain a better understanding.

The push against traditional gender roles, against sexism and for Feminism, against transphobia and for equal rights and dignity, against continuing systemic racism, and many more problems, are here all wrapped up into one. Trans people have become the most at-risk group among the LGBTQ+ community, Trans women of colour especially. Their voices are not being heard loud enough. Their struggles are not being addressed to the proper extent. They are being decried as freaks, perverts, and liars by evangelical activists like Dr. Michael Brown (you can find him, and object to his misinformation, at askdrbrown.org, and ‘Ask Dr. Brown’ on Facebook). Most importantly, the realities they face are not understood. We have to correct that in 2016, before more lives are taken.

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, preferring instead to make lifestyle changes when the time is right. This time, though, right now, is the right time for all of us to make a change toward asking, listening, empathizing, and acting to make things better. Countless LGB people died while we sat and passively argued against inequality. It was only when things reached a tipping point that the push got real and things started to change, and they still have a long way to go. That tipping point came too late for people who never should have suffered the way they did, people who could have been effective voices fighting for their own lives. Are we going to continue to repeat that history?

In every single state but California, “Trans Panic” is currently considered a valid legal defence. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, “Trans Panic” is the argument that upon learning that the person they were involved with was Transgender, the murderer panicked, lashed out in an uncontrollable rage, and cannot be held responsible for their actions. Since Trans people are seen as such a shockingly disturbing bunch to an aging white cis-male legal establishment, “Trans Panic” can be used for nearly any situation – from brief social interactions to a romantic relationship. After all, who’s to say that panic and murder aren’t warranted when you buy someone a drink at a bar and find out they have unexpected genitalia, right? “Trans Panic” frees the guilty and blames the victim. It says the victim deserved to die, and this somehow makes sense to the legal establishment in every American state but one. This has to change in 2016.

The good news is that there are people already talking about this. What we have to do is start listening to them. It took a long time, but many people have come around and taken the time to understand what it means to be gay and/or lesbian. It was once thought that bisexuality wasn’t a real thing, but people know differently now; and bisexuality is better understood. Two-spirited people are beginning to be celebrated in some communities, Queer people are entering the discussion and we’re telling our stories, and asexuality is beginning to be talked about as well. The challenges and dangers facing these groups are still there, but things have improved greatly. Let’s make 2016 the year we give Trans issues the attention they deserve. Let’s make 2016 the year we force the discussion about the intersectionality of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Let’s make 2016 the year we tell our legal representatives that “Trans Panic” is a disgusting and dehumanizing argument that has to be thrown in the trash where it belongs.

2016, I must admit, is also going to see me asking more questions. I intend to ask about terms that confuse me – terms like “transage,” and “trans-species.” I want to learn more, to know if my inclination toward dismissing terms I find suspect is valid or the result of my own ignorance. Humanity is complex, we are all very unique and fascinating creatures. Before venturing an opinion or point-of-view, especially for a person who chooses to live as an outspoken ally, information has to be sought out and carefully taken in.

My plans for 2016 are many, but where my Trans advocacy is concerned, I intend to ask, learn, act, and aggressively fight for the equality, rights, dignity, and acceptance of the Trans community.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

 

Caitlyn Jenner Is Not An Expert

I am quite annoyed with Caitlyn Jenner’s stance on marriage equality (despite her back-peddling and justifying, she’s opposed). I am also annoyed with the fact that she’s a republican. I am even more annoyed with how those in the anti-equality camp use people like Caitlyn to make their case. From their perspective, an LGBTQ+ person against LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms is tremendous support for their position. The lack of support from a prominent LGBTQ+ figure can be surprising to us as well, but there’s something we should all keep in mind … being LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean you know anything about the issues facing the community, or the first thing about social equality.

Activists on both sides of history, take note because this is important. Being gay, lesbian, bi, pan, trans, queer, etc, doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Imagine the absurdity of expecting a cisgender female to know everything about the suffragette movement, or expecting an African-American child to be born with an innate knowledge of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We learn things by seeking out information, and even though being a member of a minority community does afford useful insight, it does not come with any particular knowledge.

Caitlyn Jenner is affluent, famous, and lives in a world that most of us can’t imagine. She is the most famous Trans woman in the world, and she should probably educate herself on LGBTQ+ issues before offering an opinion. I see no reason why we should necessarily view her as a credible voice on marriage equality. She is a person with her own interests and pursuits. She knows what she has sought to learn. Being Trans does not make her an expert of any kind.

During university, and ever since, I sought and absorbed as much information as I could. My knowledge of church doctrine, my reading of scripture, my understanding of struggle and how it affects those involved, my arguments against those who seek to deny rights and protect privilege, all came about because I worked for it. My identity as a Genderqueer person gives me insight into living that, but offers no knowledge. We earn what we know.

Caitlyn Jenner’s stance on marriage equality should not hold any weight in arguments for or against. She came out to the world, and for that she has rightly received accolades for her courage. She has spoken out against the mistreatment of Trans youth, and that is to be commended. She is not, however, an expert on LGBTQ+ issues, nor does she appear to understand what life is like for those outside of her economic class. We must not take her position on this to heart, and our evangelical opponents would be best advised to not jump to using her as an example of support. It bears repeating that being LGBTQ+ doesn’t mean you know anything about the issues facing the community, or the first thing about social equality.

Today Is The Day

Today is the day. The final showdown in which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear closing arguments in a case that will change the United States of America forever. Following today’s final arguments, in late June, the court is expected to issue a ruling that, if justice is served, will make same-sex marriage legal in ALL states.

It has been a hard fought battle, one that is not likely to end entirely even after the Supreme Court ruling. Outspoken Ally began writing in late 2013, when the marriage equality debate was reaching a fever pitch. For years, advocates, activists, allies, and others who believe in equal rights have been pushing and fighting for this. The U.S. Supreme Court has made some very good rulings toward marriage equality in the past, and if they rule in favour of the 14th Amendment (which is legally what this case is about), the institution of marriage will finally be open to people who have been denied it for no good reason.

As allies, advocates, and activists, we must keep a watchful eye on this. Outspoken Ally operates out of Canada, and our readers hail from all over the world. For those of us who are not Americans, this Supreme Court ruling is still important. Among the developed nations, the so-called “1st World” countries, the United States has perhaps the most reluctant population in regard to change. The evangelical and fundamentalist brands of Christianity are so deeply imbedded that diversity is sneered at by many; yet what America does will serve as an example for other countries wrestling with the same debates. Countries with influence set the pace, and although reluctant and slow to progress, this court decision will demonstrate what hard work, determination, and fighting for humanity can do in a nation with a less-than-stellar history of accepting difference.

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to change their nation for the better. Making marriage equality the law of the land will give legitimacy to families who have been humiliated by draconian laws and ideas; ones that have kept them from enjoying the full legal rights afforded to heterosexual couples.

From Outspoken Ally, we hope for success and remind the United States Supreme Court that the world is watching. Those of us who have legalized marriage equality, and those who have not, are watching. We hope that, in June, you join the many progressive nations on the right side of history; and in so doing encourage all others to do the same.

Marriage News-Watch clip: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2015/04/marriage-news-watch-april-27-2015/

Homophobic Slurs: Silence Only Gives Ignorance A Free Pass

As pro-marriage equality legislation sweeps the American landscape, many of us are right to celebrate this wave of progressive legal action taken on by U.S. lawmakers. The steps being made in this respect are very positive, but as we boldly celebrate, some of us are becoming complacent in a fight that is long from over. Just a couple of days ago I was reminded of this when I was made aware that a few people in my life are still being subjected to homophobic slurs and ridicule … they are adults, it is 2014, and the “friends” present when these things happen just step back with cowardice rather than step up with courage.

When I speak on the power of words, I identify four very particular homophobic slurs. I use the literal meanings of these words to demonstrate why their pejorative use makes the user look like a complete and total ass. If any of these are currently in your vocabulary, I urge you to pay close attention to what you are about to read.

Faggot
Faggots are small sticks used to start fires, just like kindling. For many years, this word has also been used in reference to cigarettes. When someone is called a faggot, they are being told that they deserve to burn. There was a time in our history when homosexual people were indeed burned at the stake, and the use of this vile word only re-enforces a belief that it should once again be an accepted practice.

Queer
The word queer means peculiar, not gay. Queer can apply to any number of things not considered “ordinary” or “normal.” People who identify outside of the societal conventions, and therefore queer, should be proud of that. The people I know who identify as queer do so largely because they reject the idea that they must be defined by any specific term. They are uniquely individual, they do not adhere do social constructs of sexual normativity, and they are most comfortable identifying with a term that best reflects that. The word queer is a term of individuality worthy of celebration, but instead has been made offensive by people grossly ignorant of its meaning.

Fruit
Seriously? I have no idea how or when the word fruit became a slur against LGBTQ people. My only guess is that somebody equated the stereotype of homosexual men as somehow “effeminate” with the graceful and sweet nature of fruit, and decided that they would use it as a slur to indicate weakness. Whatever the origin, those who shout “fruit!” out of their car windows only demonstrate their own simple-mindedness. It’s just a stupid and non-sensical thing to call somebdy.

Homo
Ummm, okay. Homo is a taxonomic classification. We all belong to the genus Homo. Our species is called Homo sapiens. So, when you call someone a homo … what’s your point exactly?

I have written before about the origin and meaning of the word homophobia. It was coined in 1972 by Psychotherapist George Weinberg, and he defined it as an irrational state of mind causing one to hold prejudice against people who are homosexual. I agree with this definition, and I extend it to prejudice against all LGBTQ people (ie: transphobia). To hold prejudice based upon sexual orientation, gender identity, etc, at a time when all available information points against the reasons for said prejudice, is inherently irrational. This is true regardless of the reason, whether it be religious or otherwise, and the use of the slurs discussed above – words that have nothing to do with homosexuality or gender identity – further reveal an irrational mind. Nobody can literally be a faggot, queer, or fruit, and we are all members of the genus homo. To use these words in reference to human beings in 2014 makes one look, as I said earlier, like an ass.

My friends do not ask to be ridiculed and demeaned by people ignorant of their own language, but it happens anyway. Progress is only achieved when it is fought for. The progress that has begun will continue as long as we continue to fight for it. If you are present when homophobic slurs are hurled at somebody, don’t stay silent. Stand up, say something. Silence only gives ignorance a free pass.