Same-Sex Marriage in the U.S.
Same-Sex Marriage in the US: Not Now, But When?
by Guest Blogger Dustin Brown
–Writing in support of Queer Sense–
Recently, the Presbyterian Church of the US recognized same-sex marriage as legitimate. Presbyterian pastors across the nation are now permitted to perform marriage rites for same-sex couples.
On cue, at least one branch of the church, the Brighton Presbyterian church in Canadaigua, New York, is now looking to break away from the National Presbyterians like Luther or Calvin did from the Catholic Church. It’s a terrible comparison, since Martin Luther and Calvin split over high-level corruption and embezzlement throughout the higher ranks of the church ministry and these congregations are splitting because the national church has acknowledged the inherent discrimination of its previous stance, but the question stands for these modern Protestants: is this marriage fight still worth it?
The church’s change of heart is a continued trend in the US of religious and political leaders recognizing the legitimacy of same-sex marriages and acknowledging that giving rights to some citizens while actively denying them to others is the definition of oppression. The number of states with legalized same-sex marriages is on a sharp rise, and it’s only going to keep climbing.
Before we can talk about today, we should talk about yesteryear, all the way back to 1993 and the Hawaii Supreme Court case of Baehr v. Miike. To sum this case up, three same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses in Hawaii and were denied because they weren’t opposite-sex couples. The couples sued, and the judge actually ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, instructing the state to issue the marriage licenses. However, the judge almost immediately stayed his own decision to avoid the legal snafu that could arise from couples legally marrying, and then the Supreme Court potentially reversing his decision in an appeal case, leaving the couples in a sort of legal limbo.
In reaction, the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. This act allowed states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, and what followed was a sea of state constitutional amendments and laws banning same-sex marriages in half the nation in 1996 and 1997.
In 2003, marriage equality started to gain ground when the Massachusetts Supreme Court overturned its own ban. The court ruled the ban unconstitutional because it directly conflicted with its constitution’s clause that very explicitly prohibits the creation of second-class citizens. On May 17, 2004, Marcia Kadish and Tanya McCloskey became the first legally married same-sex couple in America.
The legal fight for marriage equality has progressively grown in size each year. Eight states legalized between 2008 and 2012. Then in 2013, the Supreme Court overruled the Defense Against Marriage Act’s Third Section, the one explicitly defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and that same year, another 8 states legalized same-sex marriage. In 2014, a whopping 19 embrace marriage equality. So far in 2015, Alaska and Florida have joined their ranks, and the year is still young for more recruits.
Unfortunately, some states that have tried to legalize have been met with opposition and bureaucracy. Michigan’s constitutional ban was overturned by a federal judge on March 21, 2014 in the case of DeBoer v. Snyder, but the court, reminiscent of Hawaii in the 90s, issued a stay on this decision the very next day, which illegalized same-sex marriage once again. However unlike Hawaii, the marriages performed during that one-day grace period are still recognized and honored by the Michigan government, which means that Michigan does not recognize same-sex marriages except those few that slipped through the loophole.
If the case in Michigan seems bizarrely contradictory, that’s because it is. The case will be reviewed by the US Supreme Court in April when the justices will rule on the validity of the constitutional bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Besides Michigan and Kentucky, 6 other states have overturned same-sex marriage bans but stayed the decision, effectively reinstating the already-ruled-unconstitutional bans.
But the future is clear. Full marriage equality in the US is merely a matter of time now.
The National Presbyterian Church recognizes it (well, most of it does), and so does the American populace.
Almost 20 years ago in 1996 when DOMA was passed and states hopped on the ban train, only 27% of Americans favored marriage equality, according to a Pew Research Study. Now in 2015, a CNN poll found 63% of Americans in favor of marriage equality3. That’s up 36% in just two decades. With almost 2/3 of the nation in favor of equal rights, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the states follow suit and repeal their bans, or a federal law does it for them.
So is this fight worth it? Are these Brighton Presbyterians separating in vain? Perhaps not, in their eyes. In an interview with Time Warner Cable News on March 23, 2015, the Pastor, Tim Luddy, says his church “takes a more traditional view of the Bible in terms of how it speaks to the hot-button social issues of today.” But is this view that same-sex marriage is un-Christian as traditional and old as these people care to believe?
There is evidence that same-sex unions were practiced as far back as Roman times. Saint Serge and Saint Bacchus—both men—are described in contemporary documents as lovers, and a monastery on Mt. Sinai shows an icon with the two getting married. In Medieval France, the ceremony of “enbrotherment” joined two men in a sort of civil union under “one bread, one wine, and one purse.”4 And remember that these were church-sanctioned unions, complete with “You may now kiss the bride” type endings and all.
So it raises a question of these people’s standpoint being valid based on tradition if, historically, same-sex unions have not been a problem. After all, where do we find tradition if not in history?
Regardless, America is (finally) moving into the 21st century. Minority sexualities are gaining acceptance, especially among the younger generation. Resources abound for LGBT+ people who are seeking help for depression or support for their lifestyles, such as the GLBT hotline or Queer Sense Theory, both of which have articles on support and help for those who need it. As we push and move forward, our stance and acceptance in the country can only get better.
Those Brighton Presbyterians may think themselves a modern Martin Luther, but I, like a more recent Martin Luther, have a dream, a dream that someday—hopefully soon—a person’s sexuality will be as inconsequential as their eye color or their height. And, unlike the Brighton Presbyterians, my dream will bring people together instead of creating more division.
Marriage equality of tomorrow is dependent on acceptance of the LGBT community. A work dedicated to building acceptance is Queer Sense, a book that teaches us how culture shapes attitudes towards queer people.
If you would like to see marriage equality come sooner than later then support QUEER SENSE today on Indiegogo (CLICK HERE).
1. “37 with Legal Gay Marriage and 13 States with Same-Sex Marriage Bans,” ProCon, last updated 4 March 2015, http://gaymarriage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004857
2. “Section 3: Attitudes Toward Social Issues,” Pew Research Center, accessed 24 March 2015, http://www.people-press.org/2011/03/03/section-3-attitudes-toward-social-issues/
3. Staff Reports, “CNN poll: 63 percent of Americans say same-sex couples have a right to marry”, LGBTQ Nation (2015), accessed 24 March 2015, http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2015/02/cnn-poll-63-percent-of-americans-say-same-sex-couples-have-a-right-to-marry/
4. “The Forgotten History of Gay Marriage,” Association for Women’s Rights in Development, last updated 17 April 2014, http://www.awid.org/Library/The-Forgotten-History-of-Gay-Marriage
Bryce Summers is the founder of Queer Sense theory that explains how culture shapes attitudes towards LGBT people. Bryce wants to produce this educational guide, Queer Sense, for parents, teachers, teens, college students, and anyone interested in queer theory. Support the making of Queer Sense today!