Dear Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States,
Today you begin hearing arguments on the subject of marriage equality. Perhaps I can be of service. I have been making this argument for well over a decade now, and to tell you the truth I am surprised that its cogency has not yet settled this issue once and for all. I guess that that's your job now. As an aid, in case it's needed, here is what I have argued in letters to the editor, sermons, bulletin articles, previous blog posts, and anywhere else I find an opening:
- The "sanctity" of marriage is none of the government's concern. Sanctity is a religious category and as such is irrelevant to political consideration. Religious institutions bless unions and declare them sacred; the government can only decide if they are legal.
- The government does have an interest in regulating the contractual aspect of marriage, striving to ensure that it is effective in promoting social cohesion. Denying gay and lesbian couples the opportunity to enter into marriages creates a two-tier system of unions which is a decidedly less effective approach. Bringing more people within the institution of marriage, and applying the same standards to this contract no matter the gender expression of those who enter into it, is the the most simple, and therefore most effective, approach.
- To the argument that recognizing same-gender unions will impinge on religious freedom the first point comes into play again. There currently legal marriages that have not been sanctified by a religious tradition -- many people choose to be married not in a church or other house of worship but in a courthouse. These marriages coexist with religiously blessed marriages without any infringement on a religion's ability to establish their own requirements. Nothing would be different here.
- To the argument that if the federal government were to overturn state bans they would be defying "the will of the people" who, in many cases, voted for these bans I would simply point out that if "the will of the people" was always paramount we would still have segregated drinking fountains. (And interracial marriage would still be illegal.)
- To the argument that marriage, as an institution, must be limited to heterosexual couples because its primary purpose is to create a stable environment in which to bear and raise children all that needs to be noted are the hundreds of heterosexual couples who are infertile or uninterested in raising children.
- To the argument that gay and lesbian marriages would somehow endanger "the institution of marriage," six words: Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? The current high rate of divorce, and the extent of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse within heterosexual marriages would certainly suggest that gay and lesbian marriages are not the danger facing heterosexual marriages.
As an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister I have had the pleasure of officiating at both heterosexual marriages and homosexual unions. I have seen no difference in the love, the devotion, and the commitment shown by these couples. It seems inconceivable to me that anyone can still argue that there should be a legal distinction.