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?