JONATHAN DOWNARD photograph

by Jonathan Downard

December 1, 2005

Are You Saying Gay is UnAmerican?

The institution of marriage has been going through changes and updates for centuries. A woman used to be considered a man's property. Until the Civil War, African-Americans were not allowed to marry at all. Couples of mixed race couldn't marry in the U.S. until 1967. Until 2001, same-sex couples couldn't legally be married anywhere in the entire world. But don't worry. Perfectly delusional or stupid heterosexuals can still plunge headlong into the misery of dysfunctional marriage conveniently, quickly, and sometimes even at a drive-thru.

Holland was the first to let it go, broadening their definition of marriage to allow any two committed adults. Belgium was next in 2003, followed by almost all of Canada. In 2004, Massachusetts became the only state in the Union to institute a policy of marriage equality. These are the only places in the world I'm aware of, although I hear Switzerland, Spain, and Ireland are mulling it over. This country seems to have lost sight of its global mission: to be the best and most important pantomime of a democracy in the world. Isn't something wrong with our so-called Land of the Free, beacon of democracy, being less egalitarian than Belgium? We've been one-upped in the most important civil rights dispute in decades.

Massachusetts requires that same-sex couples swear to reside within Massachusetts' borders, outside of which the marriage is unrecognized in any way. 44 U.S. States have laws or amendments that specifically prohibit same-sex marriage, whereas Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington D.C. don't actually explicitly prohibit it, at this time. And nowhere in the U.S. are foreign same-sex marriages recognized. Many States now have civil unions available to couples who seek them, but these have never equalled the 400-or-so rights, obligations, and priveledges that the union of marriage affords heterosexuals. Marriage also bestows over 1000 federal rights and priviledges that no same-sex union has yet received. So, it's obvious to me that the majority are afraid of gay marriages, but I still don't get it. What has them all so scared?

After reviewing a lot of material, I've come to the conclusion that those who oppose same-sex marriage do so because of fear of the unknown, some sort of superiority complex, or the good old, "infallible" Bible. Most seem to be more interested in attacking gay life rather than protecting something sacred. My understanding of the U.S. Constitution is that religion and government are to be kept separate and independent of each other. With that said, there is little to fear about homosexuals being married. Experts on sex offenders assert that homosexuals are no more likely to abuse or molest children or spouses than heterosexuals are. There is no forseeable increase in crime or terrorism due to same-gender marriage, either. Allowing gays to marry will in no way affect the rights or lives of heterosexual couples. Throughout history, there has never been any solid evidence that homosexuality has ever actually damaged the quality of life of any civilization. In this country, there are homosexuals among the wealthiest, best mannered, most talented, and most creative contributors to society. Do heterosexuals have some need to feel like they have more that's available to them, simply because they're not gay? Is it pure fear? Or are we allowing groups of individuals to act in direct violation of the Constitution, denying rights to another certain group of individuals based on a certain set of religious beliefs. Slave owners and wife beaters have often tried to offer religious doctrine as a justification for what they do.

It's not as if the world hasn't had a chance to get used to it. From Alexander the Great to Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman, homosexuals have been a significant part of human history. There have always been societies in the world that accepted them without such discrimination. Homosexuals have built and dismantled empires, expanded minds, and entertained. They have been with us since we began to walk erect, yet so much of the world is bent upon oppressing them.

Maybe it's just a strange love of the word "marriage" that hangs everyone up so much. You've seen how people get when they start talking about weddings and married life, not to mention the diamond commercials and other frequent flashes of misty sentimentalism. Maybe straight people are just scared to let gays join this club. Call it a mass emotional response against "the other." Nothing else makes sense.

The truth is that America is missing out on something huge.

Most of the legislators in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have been, at one time, lawyers. Most of the members of the legislatures of the fifty States are also lawyers. The rest have mostly been military veterans or public servants of some kind, receiving their pay from citizens' taxes. This illustrates an amazing irony. If same-sex marriage were legal and practiceable nationwide, there would be a huge number of new fees, marriage licenses, ceremonies, anullments, name-changes, etc; all meaning more income for the state and/or federal governments. For the lawyers, ahhhh-- prenuptual agreements, dissolutions, divorces, custody battles, alimony and child support cases, estate procedures, etc, etc, etc. In a country where capitalism almost always wins, I find it hard to believe that so many people are so vehemently against all of that extra revenue earning potential. Our people have even been sent to war often for the sake of profits. Personally, I'd rather let two men marry than make them kill each other. And I believe that a man/woman should fully possess the right to risk losing half of his/her livelihood in a divorce to either a man or a woman, his/her choice!

All of this points to people with control issues who can't embrace diversity. This is sad, as diversity is what holds the planet together, ecologically and otherwise. Is their faith so weak that they can't allow those around them to disagree? You just can't tell people how to have relationships with each other any more than you can tell people how they ought to have a relationship with God.

Priests and nuns who take a vow of chastity are considered to be something like "married to God." I am left to wonder why a gay man isn't allowed to take that vow. Ignoring the lovely bearded paintings in the Sistine Chapel and elsewhere, there has never been any proof of God's gender. Since the priest is giving himself over to God, how can it be more holy or acceptable for a heterosexual to give up his sexual urges/identity than it is for a homosexual? The church has damned them whether they have sex or not, and even if they give it up for their faith. The question definitely is, "what would Jesus do?" Usually thought of as one of the ultimate champions of love, forgiveness, and tolerance, His opinion is most likely to be contrary to that of His Holy Church-- and certainly not for the first time.

The Vatican recently published its "Instruction Concerning The Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons With Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders," which was drafted by the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education and approved by Pope Benedict on August 31, 2005. This document was simply a further reaffirmation of the Church's 1961 precedent that bars homosexuals from the priesthood. This document refers to homosexuality as a "tendency" rather than a sexual orientation and repeats themes that have angered gays in the past. It does not apply to existing priests, in no way addresses the scandals involving child molestations within the Church, and seems to serve no purpose other than discrimination. The "instruction" applies to those entering seminaries to prepare for priesthood, and says that homosexual tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years prior to admission to the deaconate, a stepping-stone to priesthood. The document says practicing homosexuals, men who support "gay culture," and men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should be banned from entering the priesthood. It stated only an exception for individuals with "homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence." I have no idea what that's supposed to mean or imply, but I can clearly see that the Catholic Church is not changing its sexist position anytime soon. I must admit I did not expect many big changes from the old Vatican or the new pope who used to be a Nazi youth..

The document calls homosexual acts "grave sins" that have no justification, whatsoever. It says, "if a candidate practices homosexuality, or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination... ...such persons find themselves in a situation that presents a grave obstacle to a correct relationship with men and women." It also says that the Church should have profound respect for homosexuals, and outward discrimination should be strictly avoided... but isn't this document a massive example of discrimination in writing?

It is unclear how the Vatican intends to apply them, and, as these definitions of "homosexual tendencies" are rather loose, anyone could possibly be accused of being gay and become the victim of a witch-hunt. As Eric Naing of The Daily Illini commented, Pope Benedict XVI could even be a suspect:

"Judging by his fashion sense, he seems to have fully embraced the concepts of high fashion and true fabulousness. Shunning the tailors who have dressed popes for more than 200 years, this chic Catholic has turned to a much younger fashion house, which, according to Newsweek, "has provided the pope with dazzling new vestments (some with shimmering, sequinlike details)"... ...The fashionista father has also been seen sporting a pair of Gucci sunglasses and bright red Prada loafers while cruising around in his popemobile."

All jokes aside, it's likely that the Catholic Church would achieve better attendance and allegiance with a policy of tolerance. Perhaps letting priests marry would finally be a step in the right direction. Better that than to scapegoat innocent homosexuals rather than actually dealing with the child molestation crisis and other real problems. This is not confined to the Catholic Church, either. On August 13, 2005, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States decided not to allow homosexuals into the clergy, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's national assembly in Orlando, Fla., also rejected a measure that would have blessed same-sex marriages. While some churches have accepted homosexuals, this debate is dividing the different denominations of most of the religions practiced in the United States and the world. Much like the marriage issue, it seems pointless to me to deny them. Gay men aren't any more likely to molest children or violate their priestly vows than straight ones.

Homosexuals bear a heavy load of prejudice and discrimination around the world. Here in the U.S, we have homosexual icons of excellence, fame, and style; we have regular gay characters on our prime time TV shows; and we have a history of contributions by homosexuals, speculatively including presidents, military men, and civil servants of all kinds. Yet, as a nation, we continue to shun gays from family lives, religions, and the common institution of marriage. An old friend of mine once remarked, "It's like gay is the new black." As long as our government continues to approve discrimination and religious intolerance, we are not living up to our American ideals of equality, freedom, and justice for all.

For your free copy of the U.S. Constitution or to respond to this column, email mark10_18@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2005, Jonathan Downard

For some humor, check out http://grove.ufl.edu/~ggsa/gaymarriage.html

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