Never Sit When the President Stands

December 12, 2011

Political Theory


The political theories of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, as discussed in lecture, cover topics such as political equality for all, as well as the freedom and pursuit of happiness granted to each citizen of the United States regardless of race, ethnicity, class, religion, or sexual orientation.  This last topic, sexual orientation, has become increasingly controversial over the past few decades.  Starting with the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, and the several state legislations passed in years following that both recognize and/or grant same-sex marriages and/or civil unions (source).  The Defense of Marriage Act outlines that the federal government defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.  However, state governments are neither required nor discouraged from following suit.  The following states have passed significant legislation to recognize and grant same-sex marriage; Massachusetts, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington D.C.  Connecticut and Maine offer civil unions and domestic partnerships (source).  36 states, however, have statutes prohibiting same-sex marriage, and 30 states have constitutional amendments to do the same (with obvious overlap in states).

Studying the practices of Dr. King in particular has reminded me of how significant an impact the Civil Right movement made on American History.  It has also reminded me how when I was younger, and learned about the Civil Rights Movement, I was baffled by how blind and ignorant I thought all white supremacists were.  But we are taught that these racists were raised that way and that it was just the only world that they knew.  However, as we all know, ignorance does not excuse the hate, racism and discrimination that took place.  This has made me think, are there any cases in modern day society where we as citizens might be blind or ignorant to hate, discrimination and justice.  Some reading this blog may not like the correlation I will be drawing between the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement.  They might argue that the two are different, or maintain different levels of severity.  However, in light of studying Dr. King and his efforts toward declaring liberty and equality among all American’s, regardless of color, orientation, religion or class, I feel that there is a correlation and that there are citizens in the United States who are blind to the injustice placed upon the lives of gay rights activists and the gay community.

The rest of this blog will be devoted to approaching the issue of gay rights, in particular gay marriage, and the debate between those that support and oppose this freedom.

Gay marriage is widely debated both as an issue of freedom, and as an issue regarding separation of church and state.  Not to directly point fingers (this blog is not meant to identify certain factions that should or should not change their ideals, but rather to bring awareness) but a common form of adversity towards the passing of gay marriage legislation comes from conservative Christians who believe that gay marriage imposes upon their religion, and God’s intent for marriage to be a sacred act limited to a covenant between man and woman.  A common tactic used in debate is quoting scripture from the Bible to show that God has intended that marriage be limited to only man and woman, and that “homoerotic acts” infringe upon this divine law.  As seen in the following video, Leviticus 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind, it is an abomination.” (King James Bible) is used to defend the conservative Christian’s argument that homosexuality is an abomination.

This video however is a written script and has obviously been portrayed by actors to no doubt elicit the beliefs of the writers (the West Wing has been regarded as a liberal leaning TV show).  Therefore, I will also post below a response video, submitted by conservative Christians, that was found under “related videos” via YouTube.

The speakers in the second video make a valid point.  The scripture cited in the TV show, and often used in gay rights debates, focuses on homosexual behavior, as opposed to homosexual orientation.  That means that this argument is only made in an effort to stop homosexual behavior, and that homosexual orientation is not an issue.  However, this would imply that issue of homosexuality is no more offensive that pre-marital sex or contraception.  This does not address why gay marriage is still banned in over 30 states.  The church cannot hope to intervene with a homosexual’s choice to partake in homosexual behavior any more than they can hope to intervene with a heterosexual’s choice to partake in heterosexual behavior.

This brings to point the issues of separation between church and state.  At what point do we draw the line.  Many conservative Christians find it offensive that gay couples would be married in a church.  The church is viewed as a sacred house of God, and those that attend would find it unacceptable that an offensive act (such as gay marriage) should be allowed in their place of worship.  But this is a private matter, right?  Conservative Christians maintain the right to practice wherever they wish.  Freedom of religion.  But is it the responsibility of the government to say that a gay Christian cannot be married in his/her own place of worship?  Isn’t that a private matter too?

Citizens of the United States function on belief and a moral compass, and given that the United States was created to serve the will of the people, is it too much to assume that the Church has influence over how the government is run?  What about those who are governed by the United States but do not share these beliefs?  Atheist Americans?  Muslim Americans?  At what point do we say that disparity in religious beliefs cannot dictate our political decision making? At what point do we recognize that perhaps our beliefs impede upon the freedom of others and even if we refuse to change our beliefs, in order to live in harmony as one nation, we need to learn to advocate freedom and acceptance of others, as Dr. King preached?

You may be able to guess from this post that I am an advocate of gay rights and equal opportunity, but I am also born and raised Catholic.  I have lived these debates and been caught tongue tied and unable to respond some very legitimate arguments.  Therefore, this blog is not meant to bash beliefs in opposition to my own, but rather encourage debate and learning, to spur on awareness.   We are taught, and I firmly believe, that Dr. King and Gandhi’s biggest strengths were bringing awareness and question to their causes.  What do you think?

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4 Comments on “Never Sit When the President Stands”

  1. tyhughes2014 Says:

    I really like where you took this article and the points you made. In my opinion, the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement have a lot in common and share more similarities than most realize. Both now and then, people are simply use to the norms and seem resistant to change. Both scenarios are clear violations on individuals rights.

    As you said, in today’s world the white supremacists are commonly viewed as being ignorant and blind. I believe that we as a society today are being just as blind and ignorant in reference to gay rights. We are unwilling to change the world as we know it and are letting individuals walk all over the rights of others. I stand firm by the belief that regardless of what I may believe and how I choose to live my life, I have no liberty to tell anyone else how they should live their life.

    The biggest roadblock in the gay rights movement is the church. The church has a lot of leverage in a society that is a majority christian. I find it absurd though (and this is mentioned already in the blog) that our constitution grants individuals the freedom of religion but then we use region as a block to other personal liberties. If an individual chooses to practice a religion that allows gay marriage, doesn’t it only make sense that the individual should be allowed to marry whoever they want? If we as a society allow individuals to practice whatever religion they desire, we should not then use religion as a basis of argument against another personal liberty.

    I hope that down the road, in the history books, that myself and the individuals around me are labeled as ignorant and blind just as we label white supremacists with these descriptions now. This way I know that our society has undergone change and began allowing gays to marry and practice the personal freedoms they have been guaranteed by this country. I predict this issue will continue to gain steam and soon put this country in a situation similar to what we were in during the civil rights movement.

  2. hannahlevitt Says:

    I agree with you that both sides of this argument present valid points that would lead anyone to be tongue tied during a debate about the issue. However, I also think that if there is any issue that we will look back on and be appalled that we even justified our actions as a country (similar to the conditions pre-Civil Rights Movement), gay marriage is that issue.
    There are two key legal points that come to mind when I think of gay marriage. The first point is separation of church and state. I am of the opinion that there is a very clear line between church and state. Yes, there are some trickier issues, but this is not one of them. Any religious argument against (or supporting, for that matter) gay marriage on the legal level is invalid, regardless of how good of an argument it may be.
    The second key legal point having to do with gay marriage is the Defense of Marriage Act. As mentioned in the blog post, this act defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This act was instituted to protect the sanctity of marriage; however there are a lot less sanct marriages than gay marriages. A few examples: drunken Vegas weddings that are annulled the next day, Kim Kardashian’s wedding/marriage/divorce, and many more. The people who are trying to get married and have a family are not the ones ruining the sanctity of marriage regardless of what sex they are.

  3. mimirofl Says:

    For many years now, conservatives, as well as the church, fighting against same-sex marriage have done so by defining it (as posted in the blog): “Marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.” The act’s nature was part with its heterosexual nature, meaning it couldn’t be broadened to include the LGBT community because eliminating the man-woman imperative unravels the holiness of the whole thing. But what that definition assumes is that marriage is holy in the first place. And as Hannahlevitt pointed out, there are many marriages that do not mean anything anymore. Back then, marriage was considered a serious connection between two lovers, but now in our generation, it seems like something a couple would do if it’s trending, or if it would get you fame and big bucks. Kim Kardashian is a great example because before Kris Humphries’s two-month marriage, she married Damon Thomas at a young age of 19 which only lasted four years. Honestly, at the mere age of 19, should marriage even be an option? You are still growing up and still experiencing new things and meeting new people so why are you tying the knot so soon? The thought of this disgusts me because there are people out there like Kim who are abusing their marriage privileges while the LGBT community do not even get a chance to experience it.

    Our generation, however, has become more accepting of the new changes of our nation so hopefully in the near future, every single person will be able to actually have EQUAL rights and liberties.

  4. parijog Says:

    Honestly i have never given too much thought to the issue of gay rights. Topics such as abortion, the war on terrorism, etc seem to always dominate my political conversations. Reading this post however has brought me into an entire new awareness about the issue. I am in complete agreement that Dr. King’s teachings can apply to the civil rights of the LGBT community, although I tend to believe the suffering of the two minorities we are comparing was and is quite different. As you stated in your post, the factor that lead to these cases of civil unrest was the unwillingness or inability of the majority to change their outdated and ignorant perspectives on the worth of the minority.

    I was raised Catholic as well, but I was always told to treat the Bible as an enlightened interpretation of Divine Truth, not as the truth itself. Just as society as evolved and changed significantly over the past 2,000 years, so has the nature of the practices the Bible teaches of. The actor in West Wing points this out in the video. Also, the Bible was written by men capable of error, even if they were for the most part enlightened in their scripture. Additionally, significant parts of the Bible have been lost or cut out over the years by different men to give us the King James Bible today. After all of these modifications, we must be careful not to take the Bible too literally.

    I don’t believe the controversy over gay marriage will go on much longer because I am hopeful that Americans will have the mental strength to realize they are making the same mistake that white supremacists made 50 years ago. The messages from the Bible that I do see as divine truth teach us to “love thy neighbor,” and allowing equal rights to the gay community is a way to do just that.

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