By now, many people interested in the nation’s evolving views regarding gay marriage are aware of Democratic representative Nancy Pelosi’s smart remark regarding Republican Michele Bachmann’s expressed opposition towards the legalization of same-sex unions. In response to Bachmann’s assertion that God defines marriage as an institution between a man and a woman and her subsequent conclusion that the government should not seek to alter these parameters, Nancy Pelosi responded with this (perhaps inciting and insightful) remark: Who cares?
Much could be made of Pelosi’s statement. Indeed, every aspect of the utterance warrants analysis, assessment. Yet because recent DOMA developments have put the controversy and contention regarding gay marriage in disquieting perpetuity, I wish to concentrate on the political (as opposed to personal) import of Pelosi’s comment. In essence, her statement-which seemed to suggest that arguments against gay marriage grounded in the notion that God only sanctions heterosexual unions have become increasingly irrelevant-is provocative yet questionable. As made evident by various polls such as Gallup, the nation remains pretty evenly divided on the issue. Thus while many people do not view divine edicts regarding how people should act as sexual beings to be binding on the government’s decision-making process, there are many other individuals who have expressed opposition to legalizing gay marriage on religious grounds. Ultimately then, it seems that roughly half of the American populace shares the sentiment that Pelosi may have articulated through her demonstrated indifference towards Bachmann’s religious-based arguments. The other half of the country, however, seems to side with Bachmann.
In a country where liberal slants on politics and almost every other issue under the sun seems to be gaining precedence, it’s important for progressives to gain an understanding of the ideological suppositions that buttress conservative views regarding gay marriage. Doing so can foster mutual understanding as well as deepen one’s awareness of why such values should be reviewed yet ultimately rejected as recidivistic religious rationale that privileges the philosophical framework of a select group of people while eliding the interests and ideas of others who do not conform to its edicts. In short, the anti-gay marriage sentiment expressed most prevalently by Republicans and conservatives undermines a slew of ostensibly American principles (like equality and liberty) which evince the country’s commitment to reverencing the humanity of all its citizens rather than confining the concept of having innate value and the ability to actualize one’s free will to heterosexuals.
Several aspects of the anti-gay marriage worldview trouble me, including the fact that Christianity is the undergirding principle used to legitimate the logic behind it. By simply asserting that God defines marriage as a covenant which can only exist between a man and a woman, individuals who oppose the institution of gay marriage on religious grounds claim the authority and approval of an omniscient and omnibenevolent power who-in taking their side-is adamantly opposed to anyone who adopts an antithetical worldview. This type of spiritualized argument is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the secularization of government means that individuals from all religious backgrounds as well as those who do not believe in God are participating in the political system. Many of these individuals pay taxes and also make a plethora of cultural and social contributions to communities throughout the country, and they should not be required to express accedence to the values of a God whose prescriptions and proscriptions do not parallel their own interpretations of what a human’s sexual identity and existence should encompass, entail.
In addition to constituting an egregious error on account of the fact that its undergirding principle is rooted in a select group’s interpretation of a religious text and the God whose values it represents, the anti-gay marriage sentiment espoused by ostensibly pious people also misrepresents the world view of many Christians like myself who-in spite of the fact that they interpret sacred scriptures regarding sexuality to indicate that homosexuality is a sin-do not believe that this reading of biblical passages should entail informing others what they can and cannot do with their bodies through legislation. If indeed progressives and Christians who do not believe that their personal values deserve immediate replication in the political system want to move the country beyond rhetoric about liberty and equality, engendering the reality represented by the abstract nouns will require understanding and adamantly opposing the parochial and specious arguments advanced by individuals persuaded that their interpretation of the Bible should function as the foundation on which we predicate our laws and love lives.