By Linda Boyd
Note: This op-ed was first published August 5, 2012 by Inform, the "forum of Fargo/Moorhead."
I don’t think I’m that old, but then I realize that in my lifetime I have witnessed extraordinary events in civil rights history.
Not so long ago, it was illegal for people of different races to marry. (It says so in the Bible, said the supporters of miscegenation laws.)
Not so long ago, it was proper and fitting for women to have fewer civil rights than men. (It says so in the Bible, said the foes of the women’s rights movement.)
Of course, I am not quite so old to have experienced the defense of slavery or the persecution of Galileo for proclaiming that the Earth was round and revolved around the sun.
Now we are at the very cusp of another sweeping societal change. For the first time, more than 50 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage should be legal.
Foes of gay marriage cite the Bible, of course, as their ultimate authority. “I agree with 3,000 years of recorded history. I believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman,” stated Mitt Romney. That’s a bit rich coming from a man whose own great-grandfather left the country to live in Mexico so that he could have multiple wives.
Today, many churches and people of faith are offering a different take on the matter. Two months ago more than 120 religious leaders met in Minnesota to form Clergy United for All Families to speak out against the proposed gay marriage amendment. Represented were Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Jews, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Quakers and more. “I will be voting no because of my faith, not in spite of my faith,” said the Rev. Kelly Chatman of Redeemer Lutheran Church of Minneapolis.
Marriage is a civil right, a contract offered and recognized by the state. Today, people of different races can marry. People past childbearing age can marry. People can marry, divorce and remarry. People can marry while in a drunken stupor and later have it annulled. But there is one group of people who cannot legally marry in most states: two people of the same gender.
Homosexuality is no more a sin than left-handedness (which was once considered a sin, and is the root of the word “sinister”), according to many leading theologians. There is no logical or humane reason to deny the civil right of marriage based on inborn sexual orientation. Of course, churches can, and do, set their own rules regarding the religious sacrament of marriage, and will always retain that right.
As we contemplate civil rights progress through the centuries, one thing is remarkably consistent: Those most vehemently opposed to extending civil rights to others cite biblical authority as their justification. It’s curious, though - once a civil right is granted, religious opposition fades away. Certainly, today’s churches no longer passionately defend the institution of slavery from the pulpit as God’s will. And it is my fervent hope that I will live to see the day when marriage among any and all of God’s beloved children is celebrated in our society.
Linda Boyd is a Fargo School Board member, a former city commissioner, and executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra.
See also the previous Sensus Fidelium posts:
Fr. Bob Pierson: Why Catholics Can Vote 'No'
Marriage Amendment Not In Best Interest of Children and Families
Theological Considerations Behind Opposition to the Proposed Minnesota 'Marriage Amendment'
Tide is Turning on Public Perception of Same–Sex Marriage
A Catholic Case for Same-Sex Marriage
Catholics Lead the Way! – The Latest Statistics on Religious Support for Marriage Equality
A Few Questions . . .