Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | March 8, 2004

Supporting same-sex marriage is simply right

“There’s a lot of controversy and rhetoric … and little reason and charity on both sides …” Rev. Bill Clancey, rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Gilroy, on the raging same-sex marriage debate.

Gay marriage has exploded onto the nation’s consciousness ever since San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ordered City Hall to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The gay marriages in San Francisco began the day before my family traveled to Ohio to visit friends and relatives in our former home town.

Newsom’s decision means I now share my Feb. 13 wedding anniversary with many same-sex couples who waited such a long time to share the benefits and responsibilities of marriage. I’m thrilled for them.

Even in Columbus, San Francisco’s same-sex weddings topped the news. The topic has even crept onto the front and opinion pages of The Dispatch.

While in Columbus, we visited an old friend who is very conservative, a big fan of George W. Bush, a never-met-a-tax-he-liked kind of guy. Over dinner, the topic of gay marriage came up; I braced myself for a heated debate.

“I asked myself two questions,” my conservative friend said. “‘Does it cost me anything?’ and ‘Does it hurt me?’”

Because the answer was ‘No’ to both queries, gay marriage is fine with him. He, like me, is horrified by the idea of amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage.

While it made my digestion much easier and the evening more pleasant, it’s not as much fun to preach to the choir.

Recently my 12-year-old son had a friend over for the afternoon. This boy is from a religious family and attended a Christian school at one time. When Headline News, which I was watching in the next room, aired a piece about gay marriage, he spoke up.

“I don’t understand; what’s the big deal?” he said. “If they want to get married, let them get married.”

Out of the mouths of babes. Like my son’s precocious friend, it all seems simple enough to me.

It’s apparent that gay marriage is a federal issue, not a state issue. Straight couples who wed in one state don’t have to worry if their marriages will be honored if they move to another state. Marriages that aren’t recognized nationwide are second-class unions.

Trying to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage is a shameful political ploy. As many have pointed out, George W. Bush is the first president to ever propose writing discrimination into the Constitution.

But beyond that dubious historical distinction, the reason Bush gives for amending the Constitution – to protect the sanctity of marriage – is itself a violation of the precious separation of church and state that safeguards all of us, especially the religious among us.

The federal government should have nothing to do with the “sanctity” of anything. Sanctity refers to holiness or sacredness, which is a religious concept if ever I’ve heard of one.

The reason, I believe, that gay marriage is such a sticky issue (aside from the markedly un-Christian hatred for homosexuality that many people mistakenly believe is biblically endorsed) is that marriage is both a civil and a religious institution. What many opponents of gay marriage fail to grasp, I think, is that allowing homosexuals to wed would only impact the civil side of marriage. No advocate of gay marriage is proposing that any church be required to marry homosexual couples – they’re only asking that the government not prevent it.

Many heterosexual couples have civil ceremonies without the endorsement of any religious group, and they are just as married as those who are blessed by a rabbi or a priest. In fact, there are many churches that would happily marry gay couples, but can’t because of current discriminatory laws. I’d argue that’s an infringement on their practice of religion.

Laws banning gay marriage, Bush’s proposal to amend the Constitution, the hateful rhetoric and the doomsday predictions will be remembered with shame and embarrassment by our children, and by many current gay marriage opponents.

Didn’t we learn from the civil rights movements that separate can’t be equal? We can’t have lesser unions, civil unions that differ from state to state, without making homosexuals a lesser class. We can’t deny our homosexual citizens the right to marry and still claim to be a nation where “all men are created equal.”

Here’s what the United States Constitution’s 14th amendment says: “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Seems pretty clear to me.



  1. […] I’ve written columns about controversial topics – from same-sex marriage to stem cell research to police station price tags to an overreacting sheriff’s deputy – I’ve […]

  2. […] As I’ve said before, no government agency in this country has any business protecting the sanctity – holiness – of anything. […]

  3. […] Black as Jesus; see how many other stars you can spot in this Funny or Die video. Jack/Jesus makes many of the points I’ve been making over the years as I try to counter Bible-based arguments […]

  4. […] passionate about the Constitution, about liberty, about separation of church and state, as I wrote in 2004: Laws banning gay marriage, Bush’s proposal to amend the Constitution, the hateful […]

  5. […] That means that I’ve often pleased those on the left — by supporting reproductive rights, marriage equality, and separation of church and state, and opposing union busting, for […]

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