Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Maine Vote - Conservatives vs. Progress

I've been thinking about the vote in Maine - which overturned the law allowing same-sex marriage in that state. It was a narrow vote, but still a decisive one.

The 'will of the people' was apparently the will to take away a liberty previously granted - the antithesis of everything I believe America stands for (a nation in which liberty should only be granted, never removed.)

It's easy to be disappointed in the decision of 53% of the Maine electorate - but it shouldn't be surprising.

After all, it's worth remembering that if similar issues had been held to a general referendum - allowing the general population to decide on what was and wasn't legal - America might still have slavery (or at the very least, segregation) and interracial marriage would be as controversial today as same-sex marriage is.

The fact is, people lean towards conservatism - and to quote Edmund Burke, the Anglo-Irish political philosopher and father of modern conservatism, perhaps a certain mean-spiritedness.
I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others.
The issue of same-sex marriage is such a peculiar one. Allowing same-sex marriage hurts nobody. In doesn't diminish the 'sanctity' of 'traditional' marriage, as some activists claim. In fact, it celebrates the institutions of monogamy and commitment - something 'traditional' marriage is commonly lacking (seeing as more than half of them end in divorce.)

I am convinced that the only reason the right-wing have fought so vehemently against gay marriage - something that won't diminish their lives or beliefs in any way - is simply because they enjoy hurting other people. If they have the power to take away another person's freedom, they'll gleefully, maliciously take it.

That's not very 'Christian' of them - but then again, I've argued that not many evangelicals are very 'Christian' in their attitudes.

Yet even Edmund Burke, the man often hailed as a philosophical hero by true conservatives, saw the writing on the wall. Same-sex marriage will become legal, in state after state and in our lifetimes. It's inevitable. Burke said so:
We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation.
53% of Maine voters turned down same-sex marriage. That was fewer voters than a decade ago. In ten more years, will time and progress have tipped the scales towards marriage equality?

I can't see the answer being anything other than a resounding, unequivocal 'yes.'


Coffee Bean said...


This is a subject that I've struggled with quite a bit. As an Evangelical/Conservative I have been against allowing same sex marriage, although not for the reasons you state. It has had more to do with the litigiousness that goes along with perceived discrimination and wanting to protect the church's right to teach/preach from the Bible and the right of people to believe that homosexuality is wrong.

Having said that... I struggle greatly with issues like... hermaphrodites. I've also known people that seemed gay from early childhood. I most certainly do not believe that people that struggle with sexual identity should be ostricized. There is much about it I just do not understand. I do know that homosexuals should be seen as human beings first and foremost.

I also struggle with the fact that God has given us free will. As Christians we want the freedom to worship as we believe and the ability to live our lives as we choose. America was founded on the principles of freedom... so long as you are not infringing on the rights of others. Where ought those lines be drawn?

I have two cousins that are gay. One is female and one male. I only really know the female one as the male has moved off away from everyone and doesn't have anything to do with the family (and he hasn't even admitted to being gay, his brother told me). I treat my cousin as I would anyone else. She, of course, is aware of my beliefs (and she happens to be very political) and asked me why I still talk to her. I told her because I love her.

You know, good ole Two Dogs idea that the government get out of marriage all together is the best solution I've heard.

The thing that is very hard for me as a Christian is holding to my convictions yet remaining accessible to those that don't share them. I don't want to be holed up with only those that believe as I do. As Christians we are supposed to spread the good news of the gospel... which happens to be that we are saved by GRACE through faith in Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do to earn it... before or after accepting that gift of salvation. Self righteousness is offensive and none of us is better than the other.

This is such a sticky issue because we don't want to get to where the Bible is censored. Do you see my point? There are people that think that just saying homosexuality is wrong is a hate crime. Look at our courts... look at the stuff that has been brought forth over the last decade! This fear is not based in lunacy.

Sigh... I wish I had the answers.

Suki said...

A few questions - doesn't America have "marriage" that is secular? How do non-religious Americans get married? Do Christian marriages require the signing of papers? I am honestly completely ignorant of all this.
The main thing is - why does a government decision have to impact the workings of the Church?

India, for instance, has an "Indian marriage act" that is used for inter-religious marriages and by anyone who doesn't want to abide by the religious marriage acts(there are separate ones for Hindus, Muslims and Christians at least). When the issue of gay marriage comes up in the country, there's a clear way out right there without legally disturbing any religion's sanctity.

Eve said...

Suki, in short, yes. There is civil marriage, which is what is recognized by the state. That's the one that involves signing legal documents that make two people married in the eyes of the state, and gives them certain legal rights that cannot be duplicated any other way. Non-religious people can get married at city hall or have any kind of ceremony they want, as long as they do all the paperwork.

Then there is religious marriage, which can be dealt with by any church, temple, etc. however they wish. Religious marriage ceremonies are not recognized as legally binding by the state. Of course, priests (and pretty much anybody who wants to) can obtain authorization to perform legally binding marriages, with legal documents to sign and everything, thus combining the two. But the workings of any church are legally completely separate from civil marriage. That means that even if the state chooses to legalize same-sex marriage, it doesn't change the rules of religious marriage at all. No church or temple is forced to perform same-sex marriages (that duty would fall to city hall).

Suki said...

@Eve. Thanks. That certainly clears it up!

Susanne said...

Interesting post and comments. I learn a lot from your blog. :)

ck said...

We all discriminate in this regard. I don't see people lining up in support of polygamy (actually Biblical). I really do think its time that one of three things happen.

1. Government gets out of marriage. Political cost of this will prevent it from ever happening.
2. Government creates a new kind of marriage, either less than the current model but equal... for non-traditional marriages. Or one greater than, but equal for the religious kind. Where their marriage is still on equal footing from a Gov't perspective, but there are other guidelines on the marriage. For example, John Smith and Mary Jones get married via the super religous church of baptist faith. This church adds the stipulation that before any divorce happens the couple must go through 26 counseling sessions within a one year period. And that becomes the law around their marriage.
3. Churches get out of the business of government marriage and Christians start acting like Christians and respect their marriage vows, with or without government laws.

However what will happen is that, in time gay marriage will be legal... and this country will continue its slide toward what will be an eventual split. San Fransico values can only co-exist with Texas values for so long.

Regarding the comment it doesn't hurt others, that's rubbish.

Married folks have the right to benefits, and if I own a small business I am forced to carry insurance for what is obviously a higher risk life style.