My lovely and talented friend Choralgirl jetted me an email about a blogswarm taking place today, all of us urging you, the reader from California, to vote No on Proposition 8 next Tuesday. (See Choralgirl's piece here; gorgeous, on point, perfect as ever). I'm happy to take part.
I believe Proposition 8 does what it says: it denies gay and lesbian citizens of California a right accorded to the rest of the populace. Why our country is so in love with taking away these particular rights puzzles me: any institution that is designed, by virtue of the many rights it confers, to strengthen and undergird relationships would seem to be a no-brainer, good for society. Marriage is designed to further all sorts of good things in society: people taking care of one another, people being responsible for and to one another, people sharing the risks and benefits of things such as home ownership, parenthood, insurance policies. Marriage is a good thing for those who wish to partake, and I believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation is both unconstitutional and un-Christian.
However, I believe something else, and this something else is part of the problem with the whole rationale of those who are for Proposition 8. I believe that religious groups should be out of the marriage business altogether. If you are a Presbyterian couple, and would like to have the blessing of the church on your marriage, I am overjoyed to help you to have that. But I don't think that I, a minister, should be an agent of the state. The first year I was out of seminary I was shocked at how loosey goosey the whole thing was. I called around in vain, trying to find the place where I would register as an ordained minister, or where I would get my state credential. No such place or credential (in my part of my state) existed. I was told, "Just sign "Rev" on the license. That's it." Well, if marriage is going to be about giving rights on behalf of the state, if it is going to be about legitimizing some relationships over others, if my signature is going to be the stuff on which court cases can be decided, or wills contested, or children acknowledged... I think it should be done by officials of the state, thanks.
Then... Rick Warren and the Roman Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in America and all the other proponents of this sorry piece of legislation can withhold their blessings and approval from those they choose to exclude. And I can preside over the blessing of those unions I think have a shot in hell at succeeding, whether the organist has played Here Comes the Grooms or Here Comes the Brides or even Pachelbel's Canon.
So, No on 8, people. But... taking the longer view, let's us religious types get ourselves out of the business of working for the state in this particular way. If we are agents of the state, how can be be free to critique it... as all who stand in the shadows of the prophets must from time to time?