Here is an excellent column by Jon Carroll on the subject of marriage. I do find it more than disappointing that Obama chose this issue to show he wants to be inclusive in this country.
Here's a lovely quote you may wish to put in your scrapbook:
"For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion - not just Christianity - has defined marriage as a contract between men and women. There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called 'gay marriage.' Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC, oppose watering down the definition of marriage. ... Of course, my longtime opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue. ... This will be a close contest, maybe even decided by a few thousand votes. I urge you to vote yes on Proposition 8 - to preserve the biblical definition of marriage. Don't forget to vote!"
There's so much wrong with that quote, I don't know where to start. Islam, a reasonably well-known religion, has defined marriage as a contract between one man and as many as four women. I note that the speaker skillfully slides over that well-known custom; would he, one wonders, support a law allowing for polygamous marriages, since it is sanctioned by a popular monotheistic religion? No, he's just cherry-picking.
Homosexuality was and is permitted in many cultures around the world. Even where it is not sanctioned, it is common and tolerated. Sometimes it is forced underground, turning gay people into criminals and making them more susceptible to both blackmail and disease. Does the speaker believe that criminalizing that private and nonviolent behavior constitutes an action of Christian charity?
The Bible also allows for slavery and the stoning of adulterous wives. Would the speaker support those holy injunctions? God has clearly spoken about them, if you believe the Bible to be the word of God. But apparently God has a kind of variable infallibility index. The speaker is cherry-picking again.
And in what sense is the definition of marriage "watered down" by allowing gays to marry? Surely legalizing same-sex unions strengthens bonds, gives gays a greater stake in a free and peaceful society and makes the care of children of gay couples more stable and more loving.
I have said most of this stuff before, as longtime readers know. The problem here is that the speaker is Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life" (clearly his purpose here is to prevent gay people from attaining equal rights) and, not incidentally, the man chosen by Barack Obama to give the invocation at his inaugural.
If Rick Warren had been a preacher who suggested that blacks not be allowed to intermarry with whites, or not allowed to vote, or not allowed to own property, he would not even be in the running for invocation giver. But somehow discrimination against gays is different. Gays must be made "different" in some way, so that the righteous will know whom to shun. Most of the ways of officially discriminating against gays and lesbians are prevented by the civil rights laws. But gay people shouldn't be first-class citizens. They shouldn't be able to marry the way "normal" people can.
Barack Obama apparently thinks that belief is OK, that people who hold it are part of his "big tent" philosophy. I agree that people of faith should be included in the administration, should be listened to and their concerns addressed. I believe in government support of faith-based charities, and oh what a terrible liberal I am. (Look at the work they did in the wake of Katrina. They're better at it than our secular government.)
We don't invite Nazis to speak at the inauguration. We don't invite Holocaust deniers. We don't invite officials of the Ku Klux Klan. There are plenty of ministers who personally oppose same-sex marriage but do not get involved in political battles, allowing their parishioners to vote their consciences as opposed to ordering them to support one side. For that matter, there are plenty of ministers who support same-sex marriage. They are men and women of God, scholars, people who minister to the sick and watch over the dying. They too have purpose-driven lives, and their purposes are rather more admirable than leading a fight to take away previously granted rights from gays and lesbians.
It was an easy trap to avoid, is what I'm saying. It was an easy statement to refrain from making. But Obama has chosen to start his administration with a bigot addressing God on behalf of the American people. Not the change I was hoping for.
There are all sorts of swell people streaming into Washington to celebrate the election of Barack Obama and to work for him. Also not swell people.