05 October 2005

Undermining the institution of marriage

    This is New Jersey, where people of the staunchest faith are people who want equality for all.
      Steven Goldstein, of Garden State Equality

I felt the need to comment on this article by Tom Hester in yesterday's edition of The Times of Trenton.

At a rally against gay-marriage, Len Deo called attempts to legalize gay marriage an "assault" designed to "undermine the most basic institution of our culture, marriage, which is the bedrock of a stable society." Deo is president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, yet another organization whose positive name masks their exclusionary politics. I wonder what it says about society then, if 50% of marriages fail, but I'll hold that thought for a moment. I have to ask, does Deo truly believe that there is a cabal of homosexuals intent on destroying our way of life? Yeah, he probably does, which makes it all the more sad.

Rev. David Ireland could be making a case for gay marriage when he said, "Marriage has deeply rooted civil and societal benefits that have been recognized by government spanning hundreds of generations...." He is absolutely right about that, so wouldn't it be in society's interest to extend marriage rights to all of society? Ireland doesn't think so, as he continued his comment by saying marriage "should not be redefined from a political, judicial or social perspective in this generation." If not in this generation, then when?

Clearly he believes it should be never, as he also said that the clergy in the rally will "never recognize same-sex marriages in New Jersey or agree to perform them in our churches." As religious institutions protected by the First Amendment, they are free to define marriage as it applies to their own religious beliefs. Certainly laws or court rulings granting marriage rights to gays would not mean all religious institutions have to perform these marriages. Right now clergy refuse to perform many heterosexual marriages, as is the case with Roman Catholic clergy declining to marry people who have been married previously.

In all, I think the protestors' arguments demonstrate why the right to marry should be extended to gay couples. Their arguments find their basis in views on morality that are rooted in the creed and dogma of their respective religions. The same First Amendment that allows religious institutions their own beliefs on marriage prevents them from imposing those beliefs on society as a whole. Hester's article also shows not all religious leaders share Ireland's opinions. Rev. Charles J. Stephens notes that his church, the Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing, has includes gay couples in strong relationships that are "role models for a lot of the younger heterosexual couples."

There is an important point there. I think the larger issue with the institution of marriage is its 50% failure rate. People enter into marriages they shouldn't, while marriages that might endure fall apart. Instead of focusing on how to build lasting marriages between the right people, the rally attendees want to prevent a class of people from getting married in the first place. As Rev. Stephens' congregation demonstrates, the example of these couples' commitment and dedication to one another strengthens relationships as a whole. Depriving these committed couples of the right to marry is what truly undermines the institution of marriage.

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