Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Copyright © 2011 Sun-Sentinel
In the course of a few weeks, the argument about marriage equality has gotten very, very old.
Just moments after Gallup released, for the first time in U.S. history, data suggesting a majority of citizens believe same-sex couples should have unions recognized by our government as marriage, the New York Senate embarked on a high-profile mission to make it happen.
Thanks to one governor and a few senators, who made a public spectacle out of precisely what it takes – politically – to make marriage equality a reality for everyone who seeks it, we finally witnessed an exchange of the rings of liberty and justice while the world watched. It’s as though a small group of people have force-fed our nation a course on “American Gay Civics 101.” But don’t worry, the curriculum has larger applications for a growing group of young voters who simply don’t care about the attachments of frumpy adults.
New York’s show, not its outcome, is what we will remember as having changed and aged the marriage equality argument. Not only did it bring awareness to the absurd horse-trading we accept as the nature of American politics, ironically it also provided an opportunity for the very people who dragged their feet or stuck their heels in the ground to elevate our “state v. religion” conflict. As policymakers scrambled to protect churches from the politics of reality, America’s youth – an ever-growing melting pot of diversity – watched a minority of staid representatives fight over an issue clearly destined for antiquity.
Although I am elated the outcome has bent history in the direction toward social justice, I do hope the separation of church and state isn’t allowed to become a protected space for bigotry and hate. The religious exemptions only distracted from the fact many institutions of faith have absolutely no intention of turning away couples wanting to commit to one another, gay or not. Those institutions didn’t seem to have a strong voice in this political battle.
So I wonder, what precisely were the “religious exemptions” in the landmark interracial marriage case, Loving v. Virginia? Did society acquiesce to the social mores of 1967 to keep interracial marriage from destroying the institution of marriage? There weren’t any, and they didn’t.
What if, in God’s great design, there was an alternate proposal above the small-mindedness of human thinking of our time – that love is what matters, not gender? What if, as the great philosophers have suggested, love is either erotic (eros), brotherly (philial), spiritual (agape), or a combination of the three? And what if, heaven forbid, those who shun consensual love are the ones most in need of it themselves? Perhaps then, marriage will evolve into an institution rooted in loving commitment, not political compromise.
Tony Plakas is the CEO of Compass, the gay and lesbian community center of Lake Worth and the Palm Beaches.