The God Behind The Curtain
Magus Peter H. Gilmore
It should be obvious that the "gay marriage issue" exemplified in the recent vote in North Carolina rejecting such marriages is one of civil rights being abrogated by religion-fostered intolerance of American pluralism. When residents of that state are interviewed, supporters of the movement to ban not only marriage but also civil unions between same-sex couples always reveal that their God is somewhere behind why they "feel" that such couples are behaving in a way they find offensive. And that they have the right to put a stop to what they consider to be repulsive. Remember that God-believers always have a "heavenly mandate" for oppression of thoughts and behaviors differing from what their "sacred texts" have enumerated.
American society is secular by constitution. It has evolved towards advocating a plurality of points of view. There are no legal guarantees (nor should there be) that what others do to achieve their own happiness will be fully to everyone's liking. Contrary to this American tradition, many theists take the position that anyone who is not a fellow believer is not worthy of equivalent rights and considerations. Making their values law is the currently the "last stand" for theocracy in a world where the continued secularization of civil rights is necessary if equitability of opportunity is to be offered.
It should be understood that rights, civil or other, are privileges given out by the government, and so it is quite a simple matter for special interest groups to lobby to have more for themselves or to remove them from others. The current situation is not a surprise, as the struggle for dominion in our society by varied philosophies is part of the dynamic of the evolution of social order. So, understand the playing field if you want to be a part of this game. If you believe that rights are somehow inherent, and thus will ultimately be recognized, think again, Dorothy. Note that Kansas and North Carolina are "kissing cousins" on this issue, both black & white in their grim intransigence.
President Obama recently issued a statement in favor of gay marriage, apparently prompted by Vice President Biden's earlier statement of support, but the President's explanation for his "evolution of thinking" ironically reminds me of that 1967 film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" There a liberal aging white couple must deal with their daughter having a black fiancee. President Obama spoke of friends of his daughters having same sex couples as parents, and that discussing the situation with them as well as with his wife has lead to this current public statement of his present position. But it seems that he and other politicians are offering the idea that being "comfortable" dealing with same sex couples is the origin of their support, rather than it being an issue of equality of civil rights. I posit that such thinking is disturbing - "personal comfort" rather than a philosophical principle dictating policy. That opens the door to others using their own "comfort" as the criterion for what will be permitted by law. I propose that allowing states to individually legislate laws based on bigotry, regardless of its ideological source, is not the proper direction for a nation that has, over its history, instituted a broad-based support of individualism. Accepting (and even defending) the co-existence of contrary minority points of view with majority perspectives is a practice that has come to be championed in the United States as a fundamental principle. "Comfort" with these "other sides" should not be a consideration.
Would states be allowed - if a majority of voters supported the proposals - to disallow the vote to women, or to deny various rights to African Americans or any other people who are now considered to be full citizens but who have not always had that status? If one religion had a voting majority in a state, would the banning of rival sects be sanctioned by our federal government? I would think that most Americans would answer these questions in the negative. But it is important to examine history. The definition of what constituted an American citizen has changed over the course of time and we seem to be on the pivot-point of that happening again, with homosexual and bisexual people on the verge of attaining equal recognition under marriage laws. But, as it was in the past, there will be those who resist. I suggest that the majority of those who "dig-in their heels" will be doing so based on their "holy scriptures" and their belief that some "sky daddy says so." Welcome to the 21st century, where superstitious thinking is often still holding sway.
It is an inherent failure of democracy that it can readily allow a voting majority to dictate policies undercutting the rights of citizens in the minority. Mob rule can easily arise unhindered. However, the founders of the United States crafted a republic. They intended for sensible elected representatives to be able to circumvent poor choices made by a majority when they are somehow swayed to support ideas which undercut basic principles or are otherwise contrary to established freedoms. It is revealing that current elected officials at times decide to reject that duty by putting to a general vote any issues which could lead to legislation oppressive to some of their constituents, especially when they personally favor such oppression based on their own values. They then claim that "the people have spoken" and Pilate-like, wash their hands of the responsibility which our form of government expects of them.
I am not an idealist, and I never expect people to behave equitably regardless of the legal framework currently in force. I know the human animal far too well. And as a pragmatist, I suggest that individuals not whine about whatever situation exists, but that they take steps to ameliorate it, or find another environment more favorable to their pursuits. However, evolutionary change must be advocated and motivated if it is to occur, and I join with many other secular people in supporting the end of religious hegemony over aspects of our American society.
So pull back that curtain, Typhonian Toto, as it is important for the real issue here to be exposed: God believers are succeeding in making their faith-based beliefs the law in certain areas. In so doing they are limiting the possibilities towards personal fulfillment for those who do not share their slavery to outmoded ideas originating from primitive nomadic societies. As I've pointed out before, marriage is now the means for making a beloved partner a legally-recognized member of your family. It is no longer a "state license to breed," nor is it a commitment to the glorification of some mythical God by producing more followers for him through the fruit of your loins. If marriage was solely the purview of religions, then one could cede that to their archaic mode of thinking. However, it is also a legal contract with broad power and obligations in the secular sphere, and it is unlikely to be phased-out and left only to religious bodies as a quaint custom. No current form of civil union nor any other government-fostered means is fully equal to the power of marriage to join people as family. That is a reality that does not seem to be changing. That there could be a federally recognized form of secular marriage which all states would be required to accept may be the only way that same-sex couples can be given parity - finally equal citizens under the law of the nation.
To attain this end is a battle, and the victors will control aspects of society which can affect many people's lives. If the secular folk win, no one will force the spiritual religions to change their stultifying viewpoints. They can hold to their faith and definitions. But they would not be able to force others to comply with their dictates, and they'd simply have to buck-up and deal with the fact that there are others who do not share their point of view. If that is offensive to them, too bad. Rational, secular people are frequently offended by the nonsense promulgated by the various faiths of the world. By contrast, the limitations of many religions on their adherents would be ever more obvious and might foster an exodus of clear-thinking, equitable people from their ranks. If the bigots win now and again, then whoever does not agree with them might need to migrate to other places which do have laws promoting tolerance for different modes of living.
If those God-driven zealots keep on winning, then secular folk will run out of places of safe haven. That colorful land of Oz with its multitude of unusual customs might just be a fading dream. Fight, flee, or suffer in silence? This is a question which the North Carolina vote now makes unavoidable for its residents who support same sex unions. In time, future generations may shake their heads in wonder at this even being an issue - but in one scenario those descendants would also find it hard to imagine non-voting women and segregation based on race or religion. In another, a dystopia to those who support freedom of the pursuit of happiness, our successors would (between state-required devotions to their deity) be amazed that the world had ever been allowed such decadent barbarisms as women who weren't property, the lack of slaves, and homosexuals who, when exposed, were not being readied for public immolation. There are many other possibilities between these polar opposites, but the time has arrived when Americans must now consider if it is worth their efforts to attempt moving the world towards one destiny or the other.